“A great wave of salty, sustaining literary fare” was how guest speaker Vincent Woods vividly described the joys of Cúirt at the launch of this year’s programme, at the House Hotel on Tuesday evening. The venue was thronged as Galway’s readers and writers turned out in force for the occasion.
The line-up for the 20187 festival sees some of the most exciting authors, poets, performers, and artists featuring at more than 70 events, many of them free, across poetry, prose, music, and spoken word. The programme also includes theatre, talks, masterclasses, family events, and exhibitions.
Writers from America, Austria, Canada, Catalonia, Britain, France, Mexico, and Norway will feature alongside Irish authors. Featured writers include acclaimed American novelist and Winter’s Bone author, Daniel Woodrell; Bernard MacLaverty, winner of the ‘Novel of the Year’ prize (for Midwinter Break ) at the 2017 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards; renowned Mexican writer Juan Pablo Villalobos; leading Catalan writer, Eduard Márquez; Pakistani-born British poet and artist, Imtiaz Dharker, who was also a winner of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry; and Irish writer, scholar, and leading international authority on Irish literature, Declan Kiberd.
A commitment to Irish-language writers is a significant feature of the festival, with readings from Marcus MacConghail, Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, and Simon Ó Faoláin; Darach Ó Séaghdha will lead a discussion about the work of Flann O’Brien; and Mick Óg McGee will present excerpts from his newly published play, Aislingí Grádha Oídhche Lughnasa.
A spotlight on digital literature will examine the intersection of literature, digital, non-digital, mixed media, and other art forms with JR Carpenter, Jason Nelson, Alinta Krauth, Álvaro Seiça, and Justin Tonra, who all work across digital and non-digital domains. They will examine the exchanges between print and digital with one particular session drawing on encounters with printed books through augmented reality technologies.
“I feel a sense of privilege and responsibility and I have been mindful of that over the last 10 months since I was appointed,” new Cúirt director Emily Cullen told me. “I also feel I am very blessed and fortunate to be able to spread joy and a love of ideas and great writing, and to connect people. and bring them together. I think that is so important in our digitally saturated world that people engage with each other and new ideas and perspectives and like minded readers and writers. I see myself as a very fortunate conduit to bring people together.”
The programme’s strong international presence and showcasing of different forms of writing reflect Cullen’s view of Cúirt; “Common humanity underpins my vision for the festival and a lot of the international writers were deliberate choices,” she reveals. “I wanted to amplify and give a platform to the Catalan voice which I have not heard much from, and Eduard Marquez is a leading Catalan writer. I am also excited about Juan Pablo Villalobos from Mexico. think his reading, alongside Pat McCabe, will blend the macabre of rural Ireland with the macabre of rural Mexico, his reading will be exciting."
"Kazuo Ishiguro last year exhorted us to get rid of borders and boundaries and genres in literature, and that is something that is a challenge for us as human beings, and for readers and the publishing industry. We like to put things in boxes but it is something to consider; to think about how we categorise things in these neat genres. I’m interested in diversity, in diverse genres, and a wide geographic spread and hearing many fresh perspectives and voices and connecting them with the people of Galway and Ireland.”