books & reading

If ever you go - Katherine Tynan 'Sheep and lambs'

Sheep and lambs by Katharine Tynan'Sheep and lambs', this charming poem always cheers me up because spring is my favourite time of year, and Easter is my favourite festival, and when I read this poem, or hear it being sung or recited, it brings to my mind a time of beauty, hope and renewal.

It also transports me back to a sunlit classroom, the day before I was to go home for my Easter holidays, when one of my teachers read this poem to the class. It was the first time I had ever heard it and so, for me, it will always be associated with thoughts of home, family and childhood Easters.

If ever you go - Dublinesque by Philip Larkin

Postcard of O'Connell Street DublinIn the early 1950s (1950-1955) the English poet Philip Larkin lived in Belfast, where he was working as Librarian in Queen’s University. While there he made a number of visits to Dublin.

During this time he wrote many of the poems which made up his first major collection The Less Deceived (1955). The proposed collection was rejected by several English publishers, leading Larkin to submit it to the Dublin based Dolmen Press in 1954. But they also declined to publish it. Despite this rejection and a generally negative view of Dublin, expressed on a number of occasions to friends (“I prefer Belfast to Dublin - not architecturally of course, but architecture isn’t everything.” Selected Letters of Philip Larkin, P182), he retained enough memories of the place to evoke it in a later poem ‘Dublinesque’.

If ever you go - Grafton Street 1772

Rocque's Map of 1765, showing Grafton StreetSamuel Whyte founded the English Grammar School at 75 Grafton Street in 1758 and he became one of the most influential teachers of 18th-century Dublin. His plan of education was inclusive: he aimed to give the best education to both boys and girls, Catholics and Protestants. Related by marriage to Thomas Sheridan, poet and theatre manager, Whyte benefited from Sheridan’s patronage and his network of friends when he first set up his academy. Whyte put special emphasis on poetry and public speaking, his students were required to perform in a play as part of their annual examinations. His success can be measured in the careers of his students, he was the teacher of Thomas Moore, the poet, John O’Keeffe, the actor and dramatist, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the dramatist, and Robert Emmet, the patriot, renowned for the eloquence of his speech from the dock.

If Ever You Go...to Louis MacNeice's Dublin

Book cover: Collected Poems by Louis MacNeiceI was delighted to discover that this year's One City, One Book, If Ever You Go, A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song, includes one of my favourite poems, entitled Dublin by Louis MacNeice. This poem may seem like an odd choice, as MacNeice paints a picture of a city in decline, however, Dublin at this time, with 'her seedy elegance', (p. 8) holds a great fascination for me.

Anyone with an interest in genealogy, who has used census returns or street directories such as Thoms, will immediately recognise MacNeice’s Dublin. His description of a Dublin tenement with its,

…bare bones of a fanlight,
over a hungry door
. (p. 7)

If ever you go - Francis Ledwidge

 If Ever You Go...A map of Dublin in poetry and songIf ever you should go in search of a song or a poem it is incredible for such a small nation how rich and diverse and consistently good Irish output has been and thus, it is fitting that 2014’s Dublin: One City, One Book title is devoted to celebrating that rich heritage. Available in all Public Libraries and good book shops it is called If Ever You Go – A Map of Dublin in Poetry & Song after the poem by Patrick Kavanagh.

From Dean Swift to W.B. Yeats to J.M. Synge and James Joyce and Patrick Kavanagh to Brendan Kennelly, Dermot Bolger to Eavan Boland, the variety and sensitivity of the Irish poets’ voices have inspired many even beyond our shores. Anyone who has ever heard the late Seamus Heaney reading his poetry can only ever hear his voice reciting thereafter.

If Ever You Go...My Map of Dublin in Song

Bookcover: Noel Purcell: a biography by Philip BryanWhen I think of Dublin in song, the popular ballads that were the soundtrack to my childhood, spring to my mind, the songs I would have heard adults around me singing as they went about their work.

My favourite is The Dublin Saunter. I think of my parents, in their courting days on Grafton Street, when they had less cares in the world. This song was written by a Dublin man for a Dublin man. Leo Maguire (1903 –1985), a Radio Éireann broadcaster who ran weekly radio show, the Walton's Programme for thirty years.  He wrote over one hundred songs, including this one for Noel Purcell (1900–1985).  Noel is fondly remembered for his variations of the role of old sailor with a long white beard, in over fifty Hollywood films in 1950s and 1960s. He was given the Freedom of the city of Dublin where there is a road named in his honour.

If ever you go - My Daddy likes the Dubs

Dublin: One City, One book logoDublin’s Lord Mayor is called Carmencita,
Whose favourite food is tomato pizza.

So wrote Sarah Fallon from Malahide in 1988, in a poem included in an anthology called My Daddy likes the Dubs.  It is one of a number of collections of poetry written by Dublin children which are held in the Special Collections of Dublin City Library and Archive. As this year’s One City, One Book selection highlights poetry based on the theme of Dublin and Dubliners, we took a look at some of these child’s eye views of the city.

My Daddy likes the DubsMy Daddy Likes the Dubs is a collection of children’s verse compiled during the Dublin Millennium by Dublin Public Libraries. During 1988, the city celebrated its 1,000th birthday with a year-long programme of cultural events. At that time the Public Library Service encompassed all the Dublin regions, so the selection – chosen from over 3,500 submissions – includes the work of children from all over Dublin City and County. What is striking about the poems is the delight the children take in their city and their keen observations of their localities. It would be interesting to see if a collection like this, written today, would demonstrate this same knowledge of the geography of Dublin and the same pride in their local area.

Shortlist announced for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2014

Novels by Irish author Donal Ryan and David Park from Northern Ireland have been shortlisted for the 2014 International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award, which was announced today, 9 April. The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan has been described as the definitive novel of the downturn. Ryan perfectly inhabits each of a range of characters, capturing their voices and in doing so, expertly delineates life in small town rural Ireland.  In Light of Amsterdam David Park takes three pairs of characters to Amsterdam, where he gradually weaves their stories toward moments of epiphany. It is another great read from the author of The Truth Commissioner, which was longlisted for the award in 2010.

Also on the list is previous winner Gerbrand Bakker. Bakker won the award in 2010 for his beautifully understated yet moving novel, The Twin, which was also translated from Dutch by David Colmer.

Books shortlisted for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Two Irish Authors on Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Shortlist

Baileys Women's Prize for FictionTwo Irish authors, Eimear McBride and Audrey Magee have been shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction for their debut novels, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing and The Undertaking.

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride is a highly original novel that navigates complicated family relationships and memories using stream of consciousness. It was recently shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize and won the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize 2013, a literary award for fiction that "opens up new possibilities for the novel form". Audrey Magee's The Undertaking, a powerful first novel set in Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II, is an intense portrayal of ordinary people pushed to do extraordinary things, setting in motion events that will have horrific consequences.

Also on the shortlist is Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche who won the award in 2007 for Half of a Yellow Sun.

Here's the full shortlist (with links to library catalogue):

If Ever You Go This April!

TTRSThe Central Library, Ilac Centre, is currently offering Touch-type Read and Spell (TTRS), a free online computer course. As well as developing typing skills, TTRS is designed to benefit students of all ages who experience spelling, reading or writing difficulties. Students with dyslexia or literacy issues have found it helpful. This is a multisensory, structured, online course which assists students to learn at their own pace either in the library or at home. The Central Library has a number of licences available to library users.

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