A large crowd turned out at Galway City Museum on Tuesday for the launch of this year’s Cúirt International Festival of Literature which runs until Sunday.
The festival was officially opened by eminent author Thomas Kilroy who delivered a thoughtful speech on the particular appeal that the west of Ireland has long held for writers and artists.
“There is this extraordinary attachment for writers and artists from this part of the world, it goes far beyond the natural beauty of the place,” Kilroy observed.
“It has to do with language, with storytelling, with singing and music, but particularly language and the way in which the Irish language stands at the shoulder of the English language, jostling it and knocking some of the rigidity out of English, getting the English language to throw off its clothes and run around all over the place naked.
“And this is enormously attractive for writers and every writer in English who has had a connection with the west of Ireland remarks upon this amazing verbal richness.”
Kilroy continued: “But it goes beyond language into something much more mysterious and maybe something that’s finally inexpressible; something to do with the way in which the imagination and the soul is drawn into another dimension.
“The most beautiful rendering of this is to be found in the final paragraphs of Joyce’s short story The Dead where Gabriel Conroy makes his journey westward, across the midlands, across the River Shannon, to Galway, and Joyce chooses a particular state of consciousness to capture this.
“It’s one that he was very drawn to and that he returned to again and again, massively in Finnegans Wake, and this is the state of consciousness between sleep and wakefulness where language begins to dissolve, begins to lose the regimentation of syntax and language escapes from the finality of the full stop. And Joyce found there a way of capturing this mysterious allure of the west of Ireland, the way in which it draws the imagination as it drew his.”
The formalities concluded with the announcement of the winners of the Cúirt New Writing Prizes, sponsored by Tigh Neachtain. The three winners were from Galway; Heidi Gibbons, winner of the non-fiction/memoir category, Celeste Auge for fiction, and Marie Cadden for poetry. Each received a cheque for €500.