Random thoughts from Listowel Writers’ Week opening night

Richard Ford, in his opening speech, spoke about second acts – the writer’s desire to improve on his first work. Ford has just completed his 12th ‘second act’ (his 13th novel). He claims that he advises students who want to write to try their hardest to talk themselves out of it. He gives the same advice to those planning to marry.

There were awards galore, many of them for young writers from county Kerry. A life time achievement award was presented to the poet Brendan Kennelly by Colm Toibin. The award is named after Listowel born writer John.B Keane and Kennelly regaled us with anecdotes about the late playwright and novelist whom he knew and admired. Apparently Keane was persuaded by his wife to give up alcohol. After six weeks she persuaded him to start drinking again – he was insufferable. This struck me as a very Irish writer’s foible.

Kennelly went on to read from Keane’s work, to sing one of the songs from Keane’s play ‘Sive’ and to recite his own poem ‘Begin‘ which he claimed came to him when he regained consciousness after heart by-pass surgery. It is a poem full of hope in this troubled world.

The major award of the evening was for the Kerry Group Irish Book of the Year. This went to Kit De Waal for ‘My Name is Leon’. Also short listed for this award was Emma Donoghue who will be answering questions about her writing life later this morning. I’m looking forward to that and to meeting Colm Toibin later in the day.

The night concluded with a stunning performance by young Irish poet Stephen Murphy.

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