Day Two at Listowel Writer’s Week and a day of birds, boats and colours, poets and circles:
The poets first, hypnotic readings in a hushed hall, with only the bark of the Harnett hound.
Richard Skinner’s ‘red streak in the west’, Parma violets (a squeal in the audience for a fertility symbol)
Kerrie O’Brien’s Rothko, waking in glorious colours in Paris and her grandfather pouring out his heart in a cup of tea
Kestrels and stoats in the verse of Thomas McCarthy and Molly Keane eating lobster and sipping peach champagne
Next, to the novelists, MJ Hyland and Ruth Gilligan
MJ Hyland took us from the claustrophobia of the seaside boarding house, where everyone breathes each other’s breath to Strangeways and inmates salivating over ironed cheese toasties:
‘Make it up from scratch, imagine. Don’t have facts interfere.’
‘I aim to write in a way that the reader has complete access to the mind of another.’
‘I write in a way to make pathology, categorisation and moral judgement impossible.’
Ruth Gillian recounted the story, often told, by the Irish-Jewish community of the boat that was sailing to America and docked in Cork, where lots of Jewish migrants at the turn of the twentieth century disembarked thinking it was New York. I smiled as a year ago I heard David Markus’ wife tell this exact story, here in Listowel, of how David’s family came to be in Cork. A year turns full circle.
‘You have to trust that your obsessions will interest others.’
‘As a writer you always have something percolating – you don’t have a choice.’
And then the day ended with MJ Hyland and Ruth, with the audience, singing ‘A hungry feelin’, and I leave Listowel, as always myself, with the very same feeling. Until another year…and another turn of the circle.