PoetryFest at the Irish Arts Center

PoetryFest: Irish Arts Center
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New York’s Irish Arts Center hosts a wide variety of literary events, with writers like Eimear McBride, Mary Gordon, Paul Muldoon, Kevin Barry, Mary Higgins Clark, Pete Hamill, and Meghan O’Rourke (among many others); they’ve also been known to give away thousands of books by Irish and Irish-American writers across the city to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The IAC recently celebrated its sixth annual PoetryFest, and Louise Crawford, the curator of the Brooklyn Reading Works series at The Old Stone House in Park Slope, was on hand for the opening night festivities. She sent this report, along with several photos by Amanda Gentile.

Perhaps the best way to get to know a poet, aside from reading their poetry, is to hear them recite their favorite poem. That is precisely what happened on the opening night of PoetryFest, Irish Arts Center’s 6th annual 3-day celebration of poetry from both sides of the Atlantic, on a recent Friday night in November in Manhattan. The evening was a veritable lesson in classic and contemporary Irish poetry.

Tara Bergin, this year’s winner of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize, opened the reading with “Donal Og” (Young Donald), an Irish ballad possibly from the 8th century and translated by Lady Augusta Gregory. Miriam Gamble, the winner of the Eric Gregory award and a 2011 Somerset Maugham Award, read “Dancers at the Moy” by Paul Muldoon, expressing amazement that the poet was only 23 when he wrote this brilliant and sophisticated poem.

Adam Fitzgerald, author of the debut collection The Late Parade, explained that the copy of The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats he held in his hand was the first book of poetry he’d ever read cover to cover. “Attempting to read ‘Adam’s Curse’ by Yeats is like doing a cover of a Beatles songs at a rock concert,” he told the crowd. Comedian Maeve Higgins lit the stage with her radiant smile and sly wit. She apologized for selecting an example of Gaelic spirituality by best selling author John O’Donohue but proceeded to read “Beannacht / Blessing” with great power.


26 November 2014 | events |

Jillian Medoff at Greenlight Bookstore

Last night, as part of the author/blogger series I curate at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, I invited Jillian Medoff to come talk about her new novel, I Couldn’t Love You More. As I mentioned in my introduction to the audience, this novel has one of the most deeply embedded “fakeouts” I’ve seen in a long while. You spend half the novel thinking that the story is going to follow one path, and suddenly something happens that sends it caroming off in a completely different direction (although there’s still plenty of aftershocks from that first setup. And then you realize, over time, that scenes you thought were peripheral to the story you thought Jillian was telling you are actually integral to the real narrative.

When I was looking for Jillian’s conversational partner, the first and only person I invited was my friend Gretl Claggett, who’s recently published a poetry collection (Monsoon Solo) but whom I also know as a blogger for SheWrites.com and as a frequent guest contributor at Head Butler. In fact, they did a preview of the bookstore event on Head Butler with a Q&A that digs into some of the book’s themes—and the ways in which readers have reacted to them:

“This is a novel, not a memoir, and it’s certainly not a novel or a memoir about these readers’ lives. The question isn’t whether a reader would or wouldn’t act a certain way; the question is whether or not Eliot is behaving in a way that’s true to, or consistent with, her character… I’m just surprised, I guess, by how virulent people have been about it. On the other hand, I love that readers are having such visceral reactions. It means I’ve done my job.”

Here’s another part of the conversation, in which Jillian explains why she steers clear of much of the argument surrounding the amount of coverage women, especially those writing commercial fiction, get in the book sections of American newspapers and magazines. For her, it’s about a choice to focus on making herself a better writer…

(Sorry about the handheld shakiness in spots…)

17 July 2012 | events |

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