Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Irish Short Story Month Year III 2013 Concluding Remarks

March 1 to April 28

To Irish Writers-I am still seeking Q and A Sessions from Irish writers of fiction or poetry.  I also would like to speak with editors, publishers, historians, librarians and others.  I will be doing Q and A sessions with Irish writers  permanently.  My interest in Irish writers is permanent.   To those still working on their Q and A Sessions, no worries send them in when done.  If you want to do a Q and A Session on The Reading Life, contact me.  I am willing to verify my claims of readership for those with a need to know.

Irish Short Story Week Year III  (ISSM3) was a wonderful experience for me and I hope it  was for my readers and above all the participants.      The biggest thing this year was the many Question and Answer Sessions with Irish writers that took place during ISSM3.   There is so much of great value and interest in these sessions, not because of me but from those that answered, that I am really amazed by them.  I asked everyone who their favorite short story writers were and just from those suggestions you could keep reading for a year. In all immodesty, I think they may turn out to be historically valuable.    The sessions participants ranged from 21 to 75, men and women were about equally matched, about half of the participants had advanced degrees, several with PhDs and two had law degrees.  Some are just at the start of their literary career and some are very well established on the literary stage.  I hope to do a follow up Q and A in March 2014 with those who
participated this year.

I asked everyone if they thought Declan Kiberd was right when he said the most important theme of modern Irish literature was the weak or missing father.  Most people said something like maybe it is one of the important themes but there are others equally as important.   I asked everyone about the huge amount of drinking one finds in Irish literature and got a wide spectrum of responses from people saying it is just  a myth to those who say it is an accurate reflection of a terrible social problem.   I was told sometime ago that I should not bring up any issues related to Irish travellers so of course I asked almost everyone if Irish Travellers should be

given some sort of special rights or protection in Irish society.  Most in fact gave a qualified yes.  ISSM3 was my first experience with literary interviews.  I know it takes good questions to get good answers and I tried to modify the questions for each person and I dropped questions that were

duds.     Every question I asked was because I wanted to hear the person's answer.  I was really amazed by how openly people were willing to be with a complete outsider to Irish literature with very little basic knowledge of Irish culture or history.  For example, I did not until recently know what Arthur day celebrates and I did not know that if you wish to ask an elderly lady if you can take her somewhere in your car you should not say "can I give you a ride?"

I also want to thank the writers who kindly allowed me to publish their stories and the poets who allowed me to publish their work.    I most especially thank Eddie Stack for allowing me to publish twenty-one of his wonderful stories.  Several authors did special posts and a number of my fellow book bloggers did posts on their blogs tied into  ISSM3.   I was really overwhelmed by the support for my event.   I never expected anything like the responses I got.  

I know I overloaded my readers during ISSM3 with over 250 posts in total.  I actually started writing posts for the event around a month before it started.   I also know a lot of my readership is not really into Irish literature.   I do plan at least six weeks for  an Indian Short Stories event some time in the second part of 2013.  I may also do a month devoted to contemporary Irish poetry, an entirely new field for me.

"See you March 1,
2014-and Carmilla,
you will see me
in your dreams"
Irish Short Story Month Year III has come to an end.  However, my interest in the Irish short story has not.  I will continue, I am repeating this on purpose, posting on Irish literature, new and old, and will hopefully do many more Q and A Sessions with Irish writers.

Irish Short Story Month  IV will, God willing, begin March 1, 2014.  It will be hard to top this year but I will try.  There is no danger of running out of stories!  Just the collected stories of William Trevor and Sean O'Faolain come to over 2500 pages.  I know many of the writers I follow will publish great new works over the next year and I will follow them as best I can.  I know there are many many more very talented emerging Irish writers of whom I have not yet heard.  One of the great things about the reading life is that if you keep yourself open the next story or novel you read by an author you never heard of the day before could turn out to be one of the best you have ever read.

"Thanks to all those who
participated, it was fun
especially when I was in charge"
Carmilla "And I am here full time now"

"I am here to stay"

Mel u 

Linda Ibbotson Poet and Photographer

This is Irish Short Story Month Year III.  Do you have anything like a favorite short story?  Who are some contemporary short story writers you admire?
March 1 to April 28


Author Supplied Bio

I was born in Sheffield, England, lived in Switzerland and Germany, traveled extensively throughout Europe and Morocco, spent a month in India and finally settling on Co Cork S Ireland 17 years ago.
I am a poet, artist and photographer. My poems have been published in the Blue Max, the Mad Swirl and the Porter Gulch Review.2013. I have had 3 poems read on Phoenix fm radio in Australia and have been invited to write a regular poetry feature in an on line Musicians Together magazine.

My life story would read this way.

As above ..but some life story added here ..Born in Sheffield, worked at British Telecom Sheffield  ,I left and went abroad  to live in Switzerlland and Germany but ended up back at Telecom due to an ice skating accident. I then bought a country cottage I renovated, and subsequently moved to a joint property (with husband)   again renovating,  prior to moving to Ireland.. 

I always loved reading, music and art and all things creative .. I took my  redundancy  from Telecom in 1995 and moved to S Ireland buying a cottage in Co Cork on a one acre live the "good life"growing our own produce and cultivating our plot. Built a house , had a child who is now 14 ( but no mention please of husband or my son respecting their privacy)..Then I burnt out.physically.. My energies totally depleted so I could barely walk for some years.I now have Chronic Fatigue. My system was telling my it needed to rest.. I am still recovering. It is that illness that helped me to just watch the world around me ..propped up by pillows and by being able to do very little its all I could do.taking something positive each day into my thoughts.I began to read when I had the energy.
Gradually strength began to return enough for me to pick up a paintbrush and express on canvas what my eye was seeing. I wrote poems alongside my paintings hoping the onlooker would contemplate about what they were seeing.. My paintings and were exhibited in a local art exhibition (.My travels throughout Europe took me to , Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, Greece, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Poland Czechoslovakia,Holland, and of course Morocco and India as mentioned above). I also play piano having done exams to grade 5 and guitar  ( mediocre) 

Because of my love for words, and having had an eye operation to remove a cataract last February  2012 left me in recovery again.I started to write seriously .I joined the local poetry group in Fermoy , made contacts and am now attending O Bheal in Cork, the weekly poetry event, when I feel energy permits ..  and read a poem when I attend..I attended Louis Mulcahys festival in October at Ballyferriter and have attended a number of can see all the photos on my facebook albums.

Now I am honored to have been asked to write the poetry feature as mentioned in the on line musicians journal..
I have also recently been asked by local radio they can interview me..

I also love photography and enjoy photographing particularly musicians and any gigs or events I attend.. I am starting a project " Peeling paint and antiquities" where I am photographing old property  with atmosphere and character. A very recent idea as I just got a new photo editing system.. this week !!. I want to work on improving my photography skills with the thought of exhibiting in the future..  

"White Muslin"

My tears
I thread
onto white muslin,
once draped
over our 
virginal limbs
that entwined
with the roots
of pink almond blossom.
Elderflower champagne
and strawberries
chilled our
opiate lips
while strains 
of Debussy
and croquet
beneath a canopy
of white muslin
I now thread
with my tears
as I mourn
the stillness 
of your 
absent breath

This poem is under protected under international copyright laws and cannot be published in any medium without the approval of the author.

Linda Ibbotson

Who are some of your favorite Authors?

 Henry Miller, Jane Austin, Thomas Hardy, D H Lawrence,John Steinbeck. 
My favorite is Gerald Durrell, My Family and Other Animals.a book studied at school and still love to reread.
Contemporary would be Herman Hesse ,Jack Kerouac, Elizabeth Bowen ,  Leonard Cohen, Simone Felice. Dervla Murphy,  Dai Sijie

I recently read Strumpet City by James Plunkett (the 2013 Dublin One City One Book Selection).  It presents a culture whose very life blood seems to be whiskey.   Drinking seems much more a factor in Irish literature than Indian, Japanese or even American.  There are rude sayings like “God Created Whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world” and “Without Guinness the birth rate in Ireland would be near zero”.  What do you think are some of the causes of this or is it just a myth?.   It seems to me from my reading of Irish short stories that few important conversations or events happen without drinking.   Do you think, based on your travels and times spent living outside of Ireland, that there are unique pathologies to the role of alcohol in Irish society?

I feel no more so than Yorkshire ( before I left 17 years ago ) with the steel industry and mines where a drink and relaxing in the pub after a hard days "graft" is common.
Guiness too is one of the most popular brands of beer world wide so there is a marketing image of Ireland that is sold along with the brew. 
The pub historically plays a central role in Irish life , especially in rural communities where. music, storytelling, a game of rings or simply the craic was a place to meet and socialize away from the home particularly when there was no TV or radio.Weddings , funerals , sports events are huge occasions celebrated here and the whisky or guinness fuels the occasion.   

3. Declan Kiberd has said the dominant theme of modern Irish literature is that of the weak or missing father?   Do you think he is right?  Is this a factor at all in your work?

No , this is not in my work. We are all unique. Our personality, genetics, upbringing and circumstances, how we react to pressures of life,  and what society  expects of us is so diverse. I think there are weak or missing fathers/mothers throughout other cultures in the world. We are all human.

I was reading recently an article about Jack Kerouac and how, when he was aged 4 his brother died aged 9 . His mother sought solace in her faith and his father abandoned it to drink and gambling.. He had an unbreakable bond with his mother. 

4.  Who are some contemporary poets you admire?  If you could hear three dead poets read their work who would you pick?

Bradley Strahan, Michelle Vassal, Derek Mahon, Alan Jude Moore, Paul Casey to name but a few.
Dead poets Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath, 

5.   Your bio indicates you have lived in Switzerland and Germany-please tell us a bit about your experiences there-why did you go there and why did you leave?

i worked in hotels .I always wanted to travel and this was a great adventure, to live and work in another country.I loved Switzerland ,and worked in  Interlaken with the beauty of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, overlooked by the Eiger ( ogre) Jungfrau ( young maiden) and Monch ( monk)

I came back to visit family. I had secured a job in Germany  but another dream presented itself to me. a potential career in ice skating which i chose to pursue. It sadly ended when I had an ice skating accident and almost  lost the sight in one eye.

I then pursued another dream and bought a quintessential country cottage in Derbyshire.and went back to work at British Telecom where I had previously been employed on leaving school.   

6.   A while ago i read and posted on a long biography of Hart
Crane, author of the Bridge-few read it but many know of his life style as one of the first Gay poets living out a life of rough trade and wealthy older benefactors-he lived a very chaotic life and died young from suicide by jumping off a cruise ship. His father invented Life Saver Candy and wanted Hart to go in the Candy business with him-so if he Hart had done this and died at 75 rich living in ohio fat bald and married would he still be even much thought about let alone read?  One of the most referenced poets is Arthur Rimbaud who likewise had a short and chaotic life.   Does a poet need or naturally tend to a chaotic life?      (I know this is long, please just respond to it as you will.)
Hart was obviously in touch with his authentic self.which is a sign of honesty and strength. I recently wrote a poem inspired by my visit to Pompeii Italy.. One of the  houses .obviously in ruins, was the House of the Tragic Poet I assume that poets had traumatic lives then too.
.I feel a sensitivity and intensity in poets and creative people that may very well lead to chaotic or dramatic lives.I don't think you need a life filled with trauma to be a great poet.and i know non writers that have chaotic lives. However the best poetry seems to come from the deepest pain and tragedy.  Herman Hesse was continually searching for the ultimate peace and self fulfillment in his art and writing.and suffered major depression and nervous breakdown in 1917.

7.   Tell us about your educational background? 

 I left school at 16 after the o level exams. The English and Art teachers implored me to stay on and do A Levels ( the educational exam as it was called then). I had itchy feet ( not athletes foot !! ) and I wanted to be free to explore the world.

The first job I applied for was on a ship, and then child Mauritius, then grape picking in Greece and i always fancied a stint on the yachts at Juan Le Pain the French Riviera... I never did any of these..but there is still time... and my dreams. Maybe I will go to university now as a "mature student" and study creative writing and journalism.

8.    What are some of your favorite movies?  What was the last movie you saw, the last novel you read?  Do you watch much TV or have favorite programs?

Favorite movies. Reds. Henry Miller was filmed in the introduction to this film talking about Jack reed and Louise Bryant. ,Chocolat, Enchanted April, Pride and Prejudice.Il Postino, Jean de Florette, Far From The Madding Crowd,Les Mains a short film featuring Ivan Ilic , international pianist whom I met locally when he was on tour playing his studies of Chopin with only his left hand as did Godowsky who inspired this challenge..  

Last novel is Jack Kerouac. Lonesome Traveler

TV. Occasionally I watch period dramas, documentries on the arts. Chelsea Flower Show a must,once yearly.!!

9. Why have the Irish produced such a disproportional to their population number of great writers?  Or is this a myth?

I think writing and storytelling is in the genes of the Irish.

Ireland being full of legends and myths. The Children of Lir, Cuchulainn.. Storytelling around the fireside was a regular event and the tradition still remains and encouraged and very much the roots of this culture..
10. (This may seem like a silly question but I pose it anyway-do you believe in Fairies?-this quote from Declain Kiberd sort of explains why I am asking this:

" One 1916 veteran recalled, in old age, his youthful conviction that the rebellion would “put an end to the rule of the fairies in Ireland”. In this it was notably unsuccessful: during the 1920s, a young student named Samuel Beckett reported seeing a fairy-man in the New Square of Trinity College Dublin; and two decades later a Galway woman, when asked by an American anthropologist whether she really believed in the “little people”, replied with terse sophistication: “I do not, sir – but they’re there."

Logically, I would say no. However I would not totally disregard the existence of fairies either.What do I know ?

11.   Your bio indicates you have suffered in the past from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome-what do you think brought this about?  Has your work as an artist and writer helped you cope?

I am still recovering from chronic fatigue after burning out my energies 9 years ago.Bought on by an imbalance of too much work and little relaxation, putting others needs before my own. I am also a high achiever. anxiety and excitement too all taxing my system. 
It was only in the last year my strength has returned enough to enable me to start leading a more 'normal' life though I have to pace myself.The first few years were spent being so debilitated most days were spent lying and watching the trees sway in the breeze. I wanted to capture my feelings on canvas i started to paint and attach a poem to each painting. These were exhibited locally. I remember being so depleted I was propped up with cushions.. a shower was an all day event..I could go on and on.. My art and writing and photography now help me to live my dreams yet unfulfilled , and cathartic too and gives me a reason to live each day with passion, a pen and paper.

12.  Do you ever feel  a sense of prejudice against you in Ireland because you were born and raised in the UK?  what drew you to Cork, Ireland?

I never personally experienced prejudice. However I have felt on occasion (as the Irish have extended families)   a sense of isolation and loneliness.

I live in a small village approx 40 minutes from Cork city. I love the countryside , it is incredibly pretty where I live .yet within easy access to 3 towns , Cork City and the airport, Dublin 2.30 hours and the ocean is within 50 minutes. the land is wonderful agricultural land which I was attracted to for vegetable growing.

13.  what are the last five books you read?  
   Herman Hesse  . The Fairytales of Herman Hesse ( Did someone mention fairies?)!!
Dai Sijie. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress 
Jerome K Jerome. Three Men in a Boat
Jack Kerouac Lonesome Traveler
Henry Miller The Colossus of Maroussi

14.   What is your reaction to these lines from Susan Cahill about the beauty of Ireland-”There is a hopelessness that a glut of natural beauty can create when there is a cultural and intellectual morass”.  Is the beauty of Ireland is two edged comes from nowhere and changes everything be over because of this?  

Ireland is undoubtedly beautiful physically.However we all need intellectual stimulation too.

It can be a lonely place with feelings of isolation particularly but not exclusively in remote areas and this is challenging. Creativity provides a platform for growth and interaction. I hope this will continue to grow and connect people in a way that beauty can .  All I have read about Ireland and all the images I have seen on the net present a country of amazing beauty.  How much does this saturation in natural beauty impact the writing of the country   Does it inspire and defeat at the same time?  

Yes ,its inspiring for writers. the natural beauty and so peaceful There are a number of writers and artists retreats in various idyllic locations to escape from the hubbub of daily life ..But Ireland also can be isolating . Your world can shrink around you and loneliness can easily be prevalent. 

15. William Butler Yeats said in "The Literary Movement"-- "“The popular
poetry of England celebrates her victories, but the popular poetry of Ireland remembers only defeats and defeated persons”. I see a similarity of this to the heroes of the Philippines. American heroes were all victors, they won wars and achieved independence. The national heroes of the Philippines were almost all ultimately failures, most executed by the Spanish or American rulers. How do you think the fact Yeats is alluding too, assuming you agree, has shaped Irish literature.   It is interesting to me that the American short story writers most admired by Irish writers, like Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty and Katherine Anne Porter all came from the American south, the only part of American to be crushed in a war.   Does defeat bring wisdom more than victory?

16.  What, besides friends and family, do you most like about living in Ireland?   what could you frankly live without?
I have no relations here. i love the peaceful relaxed way of living  and the friendliness and helpfulness of people always ready to stop for a chat. The love of arts and culture and being an island being surrounded by the ocean .  
  The smell of slurry and mud that seems to get everywhere I can live without !!

17. Do you think poets have a social role to play in contemporary Ireland or are they pure artists writing for themselves and a few peers.    I sometimes think poets can be seen as like the canaries in the coal mines of society, they feel the dangers first.  Are poets kind of like your early warning signals?

I feel that many poets are honest at expressing their feelings and this often includes social issues and acts of injustice. 

18. "To creative artists may have fallen the task of explaining what no historian has fully illuminated – the reason why the English came to regard the Irish as inferior and barbarous, on the one hand, and, on the other, poetic and magical."-is this right? Kiberd, Declan (2009-05-04). Inventing Ireland (p. 646).   It is interesting to me in that not to long ago many white Americans viewed African Americans as very skilled at music and dancing but otherwise inferior and barbaric.  Is there any sense which this is still part of the attitude of the English.  Does every culture seem to have other groups they look down on based on your travels and experiences?

Yes i believe there is that "looking down" on other cultures in every country. I know from experience this is so , particularly focusing on immigrant workers and more than often sadly they can be the butt of comedians jokes. I can never personally understand why people think this way towards fellow human beings.

19.  Does living in Cork with its wonderful festivals tend to really inspire you to want to write?
Yes , the Cork Guiness Jazz festival being my favorite in October., Yes full of festivals, arts festivals , . writing . music all throughout the year.
20.  In his book The Commitments Roddy Doyle has a main character say, as if it were something commonly seen as true, “The Irish are the niggers of Europe and Dubliners are the niggers of Ireland”.  There is a lot of self loathing expressed in Irish literary works from Joyce on down to Doyle.  Is this just a family fight where one might say something terrible about a father, mother or brother or wife and kill an outsider who says the same thing or is it really how people feel?  I do not see this level of self hate in other literatures.   There is nothing like it, for example, in the literature of the Philippines.  Talk a bit about how you feel or think about this.  

There are obviously feuds and fights in families here as there are in many throughout other cultures and then yes , defend each other from outsiders harsh comments !!. this is family life at times ....everywhere

21.   Tell us a bit about your time in India?  and Morocco?
I spent a  month in India. Flying to Delhi and travelling around on buses and trains to Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh and the Himalayas. Srinagar and staying on a houseboat on Lake Dal was wonderful as too Kulu Valley, Mandi, Manali Dharamsala ,nestling in a mountain region where the Dalai Lama spends part of the year. India touched my heart and I loved the people and the incredible culture and beauty despite extreme poverty and on occasion leprosy. 
Morocco, a land of diversity. Travelled around again backpacking,trains, buses , packed with people ,chickens and market produce  Its  the way to get to see the true flavor (and smells) of the country. I visited or passed through such places as Tangier, Marakkech. Essaouira on the coastline, Rabat ,Casablanca but my favorite was Fez There was a tree outside our room in the medina and the birds used to sing throughout the night, along with the call to prayer , heat and spices this was a package to treasure in my memory..along with the mint tea...

22.     What did you do at British Telecom-are you glad to be out of the corporate world?
I worked in Sales and Accounts.The bills had to be paid but it left little time or energy to pursue what was really important to me I took the redundancy offered in 1995 and was released, an escape from the rat race .!!. Yes I am glad to be away from that life.I came to Ireland, to another country cottage with land to grow vegetables and to be as self sufficient as possible.  

24.    make up a question in which you talk about workshops and poetry groups, please, and answer it.
What were the benefits of being in a poetry group and what did I gain from workshops ?

I am glad I was part of a poetry group for a while . It gave me the confidence to believe in myself , to learn from others experience and to share on an emotional level and encourage others too to believe in their own unique work I made many friends and contacts with people whom I gelled with creatively.

The workshops, also a good experience to learn, to leave all your troubles behind and focus on writing in an environment of mutual respect. to learn that we are all unique but each persons work is equally as important as his neighbors.

25.  Please make up a question and then answer it. giving you two questions!
What inspires me to write?  
My travels primarily , music, art ,nature and love of the land and passion for words and the feelings they produce in me.How do i see my future as a poet?  I will continue writing and take every opportunity that is presented to me if it is within my physical capabilities.
My favorite quote ?
"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved,desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn...." Jack Kerouac  On the Road .  

26.   Irish government aid to writers-how essential is it?  is it a way of getting writers to sort of be quiet about social conditions in Ireland?  Besides giving you money to write and me to blog about Irish literature what are some ways in the harsh times of today in Ireland that perhaps things could be changed.  If the government were to cut aid to zero (in fact it seems to me Irish writers are very blessed even now with generous support) how big an impact would this have in ten years.  Would those really committed keep writing?   your reaction to this joke I saw on an Irish literary webpage-two men meet in a pub, one tells the other, “I am a poet”-the other says “I am on the dole too”?   -OK if too rude or just stupid ignore that!-  
I wish I got paid for writing ! Its hard work ! For most I am sure that writing is in their head and has to come out whether they get paid or not. I don't know any rich poets !

27.  Why do you think you are drawn to photographing old and decaying properties?
I love architecture and design. Georgian,Victorian. Art Deco, Art Nouveau , William Morris, Arts and Crafts movement, Mackintosh Lutyens .and Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson for their innovative garden design.
I am drawn to photographing old buildings to preserve the memory of such before decay or necessity to demolish such craftsmanship become necessary or altered by property developers. They also make intriguing and atmospheric photos that capture a bygone era .   

28.  I want to get much more into contemporary Irish poetry, I have read nearly nothing beyond Yeats, where do I start?  who are five essential modern poets?   Who are five poets who have moved beyond the tradition of academic poetry in Ireland?  are wild performance poets simply letting the poem speak through them or are they posers, putting on a show?

I know personally one slam poet Miceal Kearney and hope to meet and experience more. . I think it is the spoken word rather than the written word that has the appeal.I remember seeing John Cooper Clarke and loved the delivery. the rhythm and beat. Beasley Street an all time great.It depends on your personal taste.     

29. Quick Pick Questions
a.  tablets or laptops?

b. dogs or cats

c.  best way for you personally to relax when stressed?

warm bath with aromatherapy oils

d.  favorite meal to eat out-breakfast, lunch or dinner?

e. RTE or BBC


f. Yeats or Whitman

g.  Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC-great for a quick break or American corruption?

Never eat at these places
h. night or day

i  Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights?

Jane Eyre
j-best way to experience a new poem-hear the author read it or read it in a quiet
undisturbed place?

Author read it

k.  music-rock, country, slow love song, opera or it just depends the kind of mood i am in

Depends on mood
l.   Cameras-Canon or Nikon or?

m.  Auden or Eliot or neither


n.  eating out with somebody else paying-fanciest restaurant in Ireland or the UK?

The Ritz for afternoon tea. U K .Indulge my fantasy.!!

I offer my great thanks to Linda Ibbotson for providing us with such interesting and thought provoking answers.