The spirit of literary free enterprise

THE NEWBIE writers of Galway are an enterprising lot. Not for them the hours we spent gazing into tepid cappuccinos and complaining about what Cúirt or Poetry Ireland were not doing for us.

That was, until the announcement, by the grizzled fake bohemian in the seat opposite, that s/he had always been secretly in favour of hanging and/or Saddam Hussein, clarified the choice before us: either go home and actually write something or die talking to a gobsh**e such as this.

There are no doubt still a few youngish literary genii who prefer the talk to the walk, and would surely benefit from a spell slopping out hogs or a term in one of the Free German Youth movement’s re-education camps, but these are rare and extreme cases and not at all representative of a group of writers, most of whom already appear to own alarm clocks.

Such writers are found in three professionally produced and finely edited books Wayword Tuesdays – An anthology by the Tuesday Knights, Abandoned Darlings – An anthology by the NUIG MA in writing class of 2011-12, and Infusions – An Anthology by Java Writers, which are a tribute to this new found spirit of literary free enterprise.

Wayword Tuesdays includes poems by Breege Wardein, Bernie Ashe, Ruth Quinlan, Stephen Byrne, Eileen Ní Shuilleabháin, Dave Donovan, and Anne Irwin, who met at the Tuesday evening poetry workshops at Galway Arts Centre.

The book is self-published, yes, but each poet submitted a large number of poems and then left it to their class-mates to choose which poems would actually feature. That Wayword Tuesdays is so edited shines through. Stephen Byrne’s intriguingly titled ‘I Want to Strangle Mick Jagger’ opens with a rare and beautiful directness: “for his song ‘Time Is On My Side’ when it so clearly isn’t.” In the second stanza of ‘Anniversary’ – with its more than ominous last two lines: “Daddy polished the barrel of a gun/religiously” - Eileen Ní Shuilleabháin gives a hint of the fine poet she is becoming. Each poet offers the reader similarly perfect moments.

Abandoned Darlings is guest-edited by local poet, Moya Cannon. It includes fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction by 13 writers who were students on the MA in Writing at NUIG. An absolute highlight is the non-fiction piece ‘The Missing Button’ by Texas born writer, Christian Wallace. It’s the place where The Grapes of Wrath meets a sharp little song by Woody Guthrie. Despite these obvious influences it is, at the same time, absolutely its own thing. Helena Kilty’s brave and quietly tragic poem, ‘Rupture’, demands to be quoted: “It’s shocking to see the red/appear, again, many weeks late./Today, another first birthday party./I sit with enchanted mothers,/who speak to me as though without you/I have not fully entered the world.”

The excellent last stanza of Laura Caffrey’s ‘Death by Misadventure’ is similarly stark.

Infusions is published by the Java Writers who first met in a creative writing class at Galway Technical Institute. It is predominantly fiction, though there is poetry here too. Evelyn Parson is one of the funniest writers I have read in a long time. The delicious opening paragraph of her ‘God’s Gift’ is, on its own, worth the cover price.

Phillipa Maguire’s story is a full of the brooding romanticism of life lived dangerously: “We stand there amidst the prostitutes and vomit, in the quiet of the Sunday morning, inhaling deeply into our young lungs.”

Fiona Scoble’s ‘Redeeming Jesus’ is up there with the early work of Ian McEwan or Julian Barnes. From the opening two short sentences - “Lawrence Wilkins was not a good man. In fact he was terrific at being not a good man.” – she’s in control of her story and we are listening. Infusions is a fine gathering together of good new writers.

Each of the three anthologies costs €10.

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