Patrick Kavanagh Memorial Lecture

patrick kavanagh

It is hard to believe that it is 50 years since Monaghan born poet Patrick Kavanagh died.  He was remembered and honoured at a very special Memorial Lecture held in The Institute of Education in Leeson Street, with Poet Paul Durcan providing a wonderful insight in the life and work of this very special Irish poet in a night of words and music.

As a young new poet, Durcan met Patrick Kavanagh who, though he seemed very gruff   welcomed him in to his circle and encouraged him to keep writing. Kavanaghs poetry of his rural childhood in Inniskeen  and his life in Dublin are reflective of the huge  change that so many Irish people experienced leaving their home place and moving to the city.

Kavanagh often struggled to fit in, living in Dublin of the 1940’, 50’s and 60’s. His poems echoed this and had an honesty and intensity unlike any other poetry of the time.

Most of us were first introduced to his ‘Stony Grey Soil of Monaghan’ while we were in school but have come over time to know and appreciate his work.

‘On Raglan Road’ is perhaps one of his most popular and enduring poems and John Coll’s statue of Patrick Kavanagh sitting in one of his favourite spots overlooking Dublin’s Grand Canal is a fitting tribute to this special poet.

On Thursday 30th November there was a special tribute and ceremony with readings of his work by a number of poets at his graveside in Inniskeen, Co Monaghan.

Readers Day in Clones Library in Monaghan

22489760_1109224142443141_5271740234397733242_nI was delighted to come along to Readers Day in Clones Library in Monaghan to meet so many great readers, many who were also interested in writing.


I had a wonderful conversation about my writing with Irish Times journalist Frank McNally, who later talked with Alison Jameson and Liz Nugent about their work. The wonderful Ally Bunbury told us out her Monaghan childhood, getting published and her ‘big house’ novel ‘The Inheritance’.

RTE’s Sean Rocks remembered poet Patrick Kavanagh’ with Kavanagh expert Art Agnew who also treated us to some of the poets work.

After a lovely lunch in the library Sean talked with Fermanagh born actor/writer Ciaran McMenamin about writing Skintown. The audience was riveted as Ciaran read from his first novel about the life of a young man growing up in the divided border counties.

We finished up with all of us picking a favourite book we’d recommend to our fellow readers.

Thanks to all the librarians in Clones for organising such a great event!

A Sailor Went to Sea… Sea…. Sea…


What a fitting place to launch former  Dun Laoghaire Writer- in Residence Sarah Webb and illustrator Steve McCarthy’s fabulous new collection of rhymes but  in The Lexicon Library overlooking  the sea and Dun Laoghaire’s harbour and boats.

Designer Emma Byrne, artist Steve and Sarah discussed the genesis of this beautifully produced book with Elaina Ryan of Children’s Books Ireland. The art work is stunning and there are lots and new rhymes for everyone to enjoy. Definitely this is a book to treasure!


‘Irish Women in Literature’

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It was lovely to revisit Strokestown Park House to participate in their two day Irish Women in Literature Symposium which was opened by Councillor Orla Leden, Cathaoirleach of Roscommon and had a special focus on the forgotten women of Irish Literature

Professor Christine Kinealy of Quinnipac University gave us a fascinating account of the life of Fanny Parnell and her writing and immense contribution to Irish Nationalism.

Professor Luke Gibbons of Maynooth University, provided an absorbing insight into the world of Irish Women Writers some who hailed from Roscommon. He talked about the huge success enjoyed  by the work of Charlotte O Connor Eccles, , Grace Little Rhys, and the  prolific Bitha May Croker who  wrote 50 novels and had ‘The Road to Mandalay’ filmed. Much of their work is unfortunately now out of print but certainly these women deserve to be remembered for their contribution to Irish literature.

Nuala O’Connor talked about her work and read from ‘Miss Emily’ and a wonderful short story that has just been published in her new collection ‘Joyride to Jupiter ‘.

On Friday Dr Margaret Corporaal, Assoc Professor of Radboud University, Holland  gave us an in depth  talk about the life and work of Mary Anne Sadlier , who emigrated to Canada in 1844 and with her writing came to represent  the voice of the Irish Catholic Diaspora.

Strokestown Poetry presented a talented group of Roscommon Poets Reading from their work with Jessamine O’Connor finishing up a wonderful few days by reading from The Hermit Collective.

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 Jason King, Mary Butler, Nuala O’Connor, Orla Leden, Caroilin Callery, Christine Kinealy & Marita Conlon-McKenna

Children’s Book’s Ireland Celebrates 20 Years!


Kate Di Camillo  & Marita Conlon-McKenna

Culture Night 2017 was such a balmy evening, that Dublin was packed with culture lovers of all ages keen to enjoy the events and to explore some of the great buildings that were open to the public.

I was one of the writers in the big glass shop window of ‘Dubray Books’ on Grafton Street  reading  for the charity ‘Aware’, to  the passing crowds all about. It was a bit strange at first standing there with a microphone that could be heard out on the busy street but we all soon got used to it.

I was delighted to meet one of my all- time favourite American authors Kate Di Camillo, who was also taking part and reading from her new book ‘Raymie Nightingale’.

Saturday was the annual Children’s Book’s Ireland Conference at The Lighthouse Cinema.  It is hard to believe that CBI is celebrating 20 years!!

It was a privilege to listen to the wonderful Lucy Cousins, creator of the much loved Maisie books talk about her work and even see some of her early childhood drawings.

Illustrators Chris Judge and Rob Biddulph chatted about the life of an illustrator as they showed us some of their work, followed by   Anna Carey and Lucy Adlington talking about writing history, and the importance of research and detail. Shane Hegarty , John Boyne and Cecelia Ahearne discussed the difference between writing for adults and children.

However the highlight for me was the wonderful Kate di Camillo, who talked about her childhood and growing up and the importance of learning to look at the world.

A reserved child, she discovered this after a trip in a glass bottom boat, when the old lady sitting beside her touched  her arm when she saw the silver swish of a big fish below them.  The shy, Kate looked down and seeing a turtle, told the stranger.

Oh my…This world.’ the old lady said.

‘Oh my…This world’….. One for all of us to remember…


Anna Carey, Marita Conlon-McKenna and Alan Nolan