SOME UPCOMING LITERARY EVENTS IN LIMERICK

The Aug 2019 ‘On the Nail’ Literary Gathering THU 1st AUG 2019

VENUE: at Sexton’s Bar, 91 Henry St.,  Limerick. Start 8pm (note new venue)

DIRECTIONS: https://goo.gl/maps/4nqFdm5wrFbijoTL7

GUESTS: Breda Spaight and Daragh Bradish

plus OPEN-MIC

Breda Spaight’s work has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review; Southword; The Stinging Fly (featured poet); The Interpreter’s House (featured poet); Ambit; Aesthetica; The North (Irish Issue); Banshee; The Honest Ulsterman; Abridged; Crannóg, & many others. She was among the poets accepted to the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series, and the Cork Introductions Readings at the Cork International Poetry Festival 2018.

Her work has been shortlisted in numerous competitions: Cuirt New Writing Prize (2019); Doolin Poetry Prize (2018); iYeates International Poetry Prize; Dromineer Literary Festival Poetry Prize; Over the Edge New Writer of the Year (2013/2015); 3rd place winner in the Allingham Poetry Prize, & others. She was winner of the Boyle Arts Festival Poetry Prize 2016, and among the poets in the Best New British and Irish Poets (Eyewear) 2018.

Daragh Bradish was born and raised in Terenure, Dublin, spending formative years in Bray, Co. Wicklow. He was educated in TCD where he studied Fine Arts and History. In recent years he has lived part-time in Liscannor, County Clare. He has coordinated and run the ‘Soundings for Simon’ December readings in Dublin for the past five years. Published widely in Irish, UK, and European journals, Easter in March is his first collection.  He won the Trócaire Poetry Ireland Prize in 2018.

Everyone is invited to take part in the open-mic after the main event, poets, storytellers, musicians and writers. Even if you don’t write you are welcome to bring something along to read. The night begins at 8.00pm and admission is free. So join us on the night and make this event something special.

NOTE: Our special authors book table will again be in operation, so if you want your book, CD’s etc publicised make sure you are represented on the table.

Contact Dominic Taylor at 087 2996409 to make arrangements.

Writing Poetry for Children Workshop Sat 17th Aug 10.30 to 1.00pm

Think you might like to write poetry for children? Let your imagination blaze in a workshop with Alan Murphy. Alan is the Dublin-born writer and illustrator of four collections of poetry for young readers, two of which have been shortlisted for the CAP awards for independent authors. He has been featured in children’s poetry anthologies in the UK and America, and has also published poetry for adults and visual art with a number of journals. His latest book is All Gums Blazing. www.avantcardpublications.com

Workshop fee: €15.00 booking essential. Email: limerickwriterscentre@gmail.com Tel 087 2996409
Workshop takes place at the Limerick Writers’ Centre, 12 Barrington St., Limerick 10.am to 1pm  

Annual Bus Tour of West Limerick and Maigue Poets Country.

The Limerick Writers’ Centre annual bus tour of West Limerick and the Maigue Poets Country takes place Friday 16th August, departing from Dolans on the Dock Road at 11.30 pm.
Booking essential as numbers limited to 25. €15.00 per person. To book email limerickwriterscentrte@gmail.com or Tel 087 2996409.
Tour guide Micheal Liston.

This year we travel to Adare and on to Knockfierna where we visit the poets trail, then on to Kilmallock and Croom one of the must stops of our trip. The home of The Maigue Poets and their Courts of Poetry, it was here that Sean O Tuama sent out his famous Warrants calling all the poets of Munster and beyond to gather, keep alive and celebrate the ancient Gaelic culture of the fili and the bards. Here also is where he composed his famous ditty about collecting debts owed to him from his inn-keeping business and which solicited such a rancorous response from his fellow poet Aindreas Mac Craith.  

18th Century Maigue Poet Sean O Tuama to be Honoured in Limerick City.

 Sean O Tuama one of the two chief poets of the Maigue Poets in Croom is to be honoured in Limerick, in the part of town he lived for the final six years of his life, Mungret Street – once the hub of commercial life in the city. The Limerick Writers’ Centre will unveil a heritage plague honouring the poet at Milk Market House, Mungret Street on Fri 16th Aug at 6pm. The mayor Cllr Michael Sheahan will officially unveil the plaque.

In tandem with the unveiling of the plaque Dr Matthew Potter of Limerick Museum will launch the 3rd edition of his definitive book on the limerick verse The Curious Story of the Limerick.

Bring Your Limericks to Limerick Competition Final 2019 Saturday 7.30pm 17th Aug in Dolans Music Venue, Dock Road, Limerick.

Up for grabs is the chance to become this year’s champion limerick writer and walk away with a cheque for €500, not bad for a five line poem. The event now in its seventh year has attracted entries from all over the world from fans of the funny (though often ribald, irreverent, and sometimes vulgar) five line poem. Again this year the organisers stress the connection between the verse and the place. For further information contact, Lisa Gibbons at limericksfest@gmail.com or Dominic Taylor at limerickwriterscentre@gmail.com

Creative Writing Course for Older People 2019

A SIX WEEK COURSE IN CREATIVE WRITING

A Limerick Writers’ Centre Community Project.

Dates:

Sat 7th – 14th – 21st September

Sat 5th -12th -19th October

Times -10.30am to 12:30pm and 1.00pm to 3.00pm

Award winning poet Ron Carey is back with a new writing course for experienced and beginners in fiction, non-fiction and poetry.  After the success of last year’s course, Ron will again guide participants from initial ideas to completed work, and will give friendly and personal support to each participant. Participants will be encouraged to work between workshops and present their work to the group. Support from the facilitator to achieve individual writing goals will be ongoing. The course is geared toward older people but not exclusively so, everyone is welcome to participate. At the end of the course Limerick Writers’ Centre will give consideration to publishing a book featuring the work produced.

The workshops will be held at the Limerick Writers’ Centre, 12 Barrington Street, Limerick.

Fees for the 6-week course are €90. Booking essential as places will be limited.

Details: limerickwriterscentre@gmail.com or Tel 087 2996409

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A People’s Poem for Limerick

From left Poet John W. Sexton, Mayor Michael Sheahan (Limerick) and Oran Ryan

A poem written by Limerick people and made up of words, phrases and lines submitted during the Limerick Writers’ Centre’s  recent poetry festival ‘April is Poetry Month in Limerick 2019’, was this week unveiled and presented to the mayor of Limerick Cllr. Michael Sheahan. 

The poem called ‘Limerick Is’ was unveiled at a ceremony in City Hall by John W. Sexton, an tOllamh (Poet Laureate) for Limerick during the festival, along with members of the Limerick Writers’ Centre. After the presentation of the framed poem Sexton recited it to those present. 

John W Sexton compiled the full length poem from over 10 A4 pages of submissions received during April this year. Sexton admitted that it was much harder to compile than he first imagined but was at pains to point out that every word in the poem was written by the people of Limerick.

As well as gracing the wall of the mayor’s office the poem has also been turned into a postcard, with the help of Limerick City and County Council’s tourism unit, and 5000 postcards will now be distributed to hotels and tourist spots in the region, where visitors can pick them up free of charge and use to send greetings from Limerick all over the world.  

The project is the brainchild of the Limerick Writers’ Centre, a voluntary not for profit organization, dedicated to promoting the literary and artistic heritage of Limerick.  Speaking at the unveiling Mr. Oran Ryan from the Centre, said that  there were over 1000 words, lines and phrases sent in covering every  aspect of Limerick from the  Treaty of Limerick to Ronan O’Gara and everything in between.  Some were funny, some vulgar others were just images or childhood memories. He congratulated poet John W. Sexton on his fantastic achievement of compiling the poem into a coordinated whole that is both poetic and makes sense. He went on to say that “there was something very moving about a poem written by so many people, as Limerick City is made up of so many voices with so many stories to tell, the poem reflects that diversity all within one memorable poem.”

In response Mayor Sheahan said it was “a brilliant and original idea and something he had not seen anywhere before.”  He praised the Limerick Writers’ Centre for their continuing contribution to the cultural life of the city, especially their literary activities and wished them success in securing funding for their nonstop good work in the future. 

Before reading the poem John W Sexton explained his rational and method he used to write the final poem: “Success in creating a crowd-sourced poem will always depend on the quality of the source material, but the problem for me was that there was so much material to choose from and only room for a fraction of it. Once I made my final choices, which still amounted to several pages more than I could use, I then went about finding connections between phrases so that I could order the lines into coherent verses. What resulted is, I think, a very good poem. Through the voices of Limerick’s people, the city found its own voice. The final poem, in my view, really is the city telling us who and what it is.”

Further Details: Dominic Taylor Mobile 087 2996409 limerickwriterscentre@gmail.com

Literary Style

  1. What is literary style?

Literary style is what you see before you when you open the first page of a book, particularly a literary work. Literary style (or ‘writing style’ or ‘literary voice’ or the ‘writer’s voice’) is the way a writer uses words in sentences.

2. Why do writers employ a literary style?

Style is the fundamental way any writer expresses themselves. In order to express oneself, one has to choose ones words. in choosing certain words over other words one is employing a style. One’s style makes one unique. Style is a literary fingerprint, a verbal DNA. Stlye describes a writer’s individual use of sentences, what words they choose and how they choose to use them. A writer’s style is how their particular choice of words flows in their sentences. It’s pretty easy to see the differing styles in different writers. Choose your favourite writer and look and see whether or not their sentences are on average short or long, whether they use a lot of allusions or metaphors or external historical or scientific data or not, whether they use a lot of local colour, whether their work is filled with precise emotional or external factual data or not, whether their language is complex or not, whether they use a lot of irony or wit or not. Writers make these many word choices in order to tell their individual stories to best effect, to most powerfully depict their characters, to drive their plots on, to inform, challenge, educate, entertain, mystify and impress their readers. Writers strive towards developing their own unique style for several reasons. The most obvious reason might be their desire not to sound like other writers, but the main one is to properly express their own unique voice, what exactly is happening and how exactly it is happening in the lives and minds and hearts of the people in the worlds they are describing and in the stories they are telling. All the other aspects of writing: character, plot, sense of place, time, pacing – all these form the threads that make up the unique fabric of a writer’s style.

3. How important is literary style?

From what we have been talking about it’s clear that style is not some superficial aspect to writing. Style is substance when it comes to writing. It is the most immediate, most accessible part of any book, article, poem, play, or script. It’s what greets you when you start to read. It is that aspect of the writer’s art that takes you through a book of 100 thousand words or an article of 500 words. Thus it’s critically important to develop your style. You cannot write without style. You develop your plot through using literary devices delivered through your style. You describe your characters through style. You hold the reader’s attention by showing that here is a writer like no other, and your individual voice is a voice  that the reader wants to listen to as they tell a story in a way that holds their attention through good or bad, through triumph or disaster, through suffering or joy. All of the above is achieved by the use of style.

4. How do I develop my style?

You develop your literary voice by practising and listening to your own inner voice. You also develop your voice, and by this I am speaking of your writing style, by being clear on what you have to say, by developing the story you want to tell, by carefully researching your subject, by making careful notes, by working out plot, characterization, pacing, by making a plan that works and sticking to it. It takes time and it takes patience.

5. Okay, but is there a method for developing style?

Other than a willingness to work at it, and seek to continually to improve your work, working towards perfecting the various aspects of story, plot, finding the right word in the right place and building from there, reading and learning, there is no known methodology for creating one’s own unique style. It can be said that one’s style finds you, rather than the reverse. The only way this can happen is by writing, and, as has been said before, writing is largely rewriting.

12 Rules For Writers

Writing is difficult, but its also something so basic to who we are as intelligent beings, that despite its difficulty, its something literally anyone and everyone can grasp. Art happens when the writer expresses something unique that emerges from the self and says something more than the contents and the tropes and methods learned from the craft. A craft on the other hand is a series of techniques to efficiently and easily perform a task, in this case the ancient art of writing. This being said, it is imperative that any aspiring writer learn the craft of writing. Just as potential martial artist must learn their craft in a dojo, or a potential musician study their instrument of choice and learn from mistresses and masters of the art, so too a potential writer needs to learn about how to write in order to write well. This tiny primer will help one take the first steps.

  1. What is Creative Writing?

Creative Writing has its origins in our ancient practise of storytelling and poetry recitation. Creative Writing communicates what it means to live in the world in all varieties and forms. Creative writing helps us understand the world and it helps us describe our own and others experiences of living in the world. Its useful and life enhancing and good for us all.

2. Writing is for everyone.

Writing and storytelling is an art and a craft that has been practised for millennia. It can be practised by anyone who wants to be a writer. Writing is both an art and a craft. In other words, if you are interested in getting to know the world of writing a little better and try it out, there are certain skills one can learn and develop that will help one to express oneself more clearly and easily. Developing these skills takes time and practise, like any craft.  From the craft of writing we can then work at developing our artistic gifts.

3. Find your space. 

Have some place where you can write in peace and quiet. It’s difficult to work in a place with lots of distractions. Once you find your space, work out a schedule you can live with, and stick to it.

4. Schedule time.

Writing takes time and effort. Writing is often re-writing. Because it takes time and patience to grow your art, it’s important to schedule quality time outside our busy lives to make time for ourselves to be creative.

5. Get a Notebook.

Bring your notebook everywhere. What we write is a record of our lives, our thoughts, our hopes and our dreams, and starting with a notebook we can build these stories. A notebook is the indispensable tool for every writer.  Write down thoughts, impressions, dreams, useful facts, memories, ideas for stories, poems, screenplays, theatre pieces. Remember that your notebook is your own and keep it private.

6. Go to open-mics, gigs, and writing groups.

Meet and associate with other writers and artists. Don’t isolate. You learn quickly from the example of others, also there are many courses and regular readings out there to test your work and see how it is received by an audience. Take your time and go to a few, and when you feel ready go up and read a poem or a short piece of fiction in front of a group.

7. Read.

Every great writer is a great reader. Use your local library. Read often and for long periods. Familiarize yourself with as many writers, thinkers, muses, as you can. This experience will deepen your knowledge not only of the world (which is important for your writing) but will show you how other writers approached various subjects, and help you avoid pitfalls.

8. Keep a healthy work life-balance.

If you take to writing, it can be a fascinating, fulfilling, and a demanding occupation. Remember to keep a good balance between your social and private life.  Stay healthy, sleep lots, eat well, and avoid unhealthy lifestyles.

9.  Write a certain amount you have already decided upon each day, and then stop.

It’s best to stop each day at a high point. Make a note of where you stopped, date it and continue from that point the next day, or when you decide to.

10. Take regular breaks from your writing.

It’s healthy and good for your work to take a break. Then, after the break, go back to the manuscript with fresh eyes, and, most importantly, a refreshed brain and body.

11. Take Writing Courses.

It’s a good idea to do writing courses; many are excellent and helpful.  The important thing to always remember is to develop your own style. The only way to develop your own style is to write, and keep writing, and not give up.

12. Have fun.

Writing is probably one of the most fulfilling, delightful, mysterious, fascinating, and educational of occupations.  Never stop enjoying it.

The Poetry Circle Limerick – a reading with 3 poets – plus music

The Poetry Circle in association with Salmon Poetry present
A reading with three poets plus music from Three Women Sing.
Mon 27th May 7.30pm Nelly’s Corner, Nicholas St., Limerick (see below for google maps link)

Hosted by Oran Ryan

https://goo.gl/maps/vXfbsMWJAEf1tTZJ9

The Poetry Circle, a new series brought to you by the Limerick Writers’ Centre. This series is called The Poetry Circle in honour of the Great Limerick Poet, Desmond O Grady, who first formed and read his work at a reading, also called The Poetry Circle, in 1954 at the White House Bar on O Connell St, in Limerick.

Jo Slade‘s 5th poetry collection ‘Cycles & Lost Monkeys’ was published by Salmon Poetry in March, 2019. She has published 4 previous collections with Salmon, including ‘The Painter’s House’ (Salmon Poetry, 2013) which was joint recipient of the Michael Hartnett Poetry Prize in 2014. Her poems have been translated into French, Spanish, Romanian, Norwegian, Russian, Italian & Slovenian; published in literary journals and broadsheets in, Northern Ireland, UK, USA, Canada, Russia, France, Slovenia, Spain, the Channel Islands & Italy. She was Writer-in-Residence for Limerick County Council in 2006 and Writer-in-Residence at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris in 2007. She has received Literature Bursary & Travel Grants from The Arts Council of Ireland, Culture Ireland & Limerick City Council.

Richard Peabody ‘s most recent poetry collection ‘Guinness on the Quay’ was published by Salmon Poetry in March, 2019.Earlier poetry collections include ‘I’m in Love with the Morton Salt Girl’, ‘Sad Fashions’, ‘Mood Vertigo’, and ‘Speed Enforced by Aircraft’. He is the remaining founding editor of Gargoyle Magazine (established in 1976) and editor (or co-editor) of 20+ anthologies including ‘Mondo Barbie’, ‘Mondo Elvi’s, ‘Conversations with Gore Vidal’, and ‘A Different Beat: Writings by Women of the Beat Generation’. The author of a novella and three short story collections, he taught graduate fiction writing at Johns Hopkins University for 15 years. His most recent book is ‘The Richard Peabody Reader’ (Alan Squire Publishers, 2015). Anthology credits include: ‘Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology’ (Salmon Poetry), ‘Short Fuse: The Global Anthology of New Fusion Poetry’ (Ratapallax Press), ‘100 Poets Against the War ‘(Salt Publishing), ‘Poetic Voices Without Borders’ (Gival Press), ‘Working Words: A Working Class and Labor Literature Reader’ (Coffeehouse), ‘In the Criminal’s Cabinet’ (nthposition), ‘Stories of Our Landmined World’ (EJP), and ‘The Incredible Sestina Anthology’ (Write Bloody Publishing).

Su Love‘s ‘The Memoir of Mona Lisa and Other Poems’ was published by Salmon Poetry in March, 2019. She is the author of seven earlier collections of poetry. Her work has been recognized with, notably, the Jane Kenyon Poetry Prize and residencies with the St. Croix Watershed Research Station and Tofte Lake Center in Minnesota and the Unamuno Author Series in Madrid. She is a 2019 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Three Women Sing are three women who between them have eight children, four grandchildren and three fine men! Their collective ages make them 155 years old! So go figure!

Shona Blake is an Irish singer songwriter living in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare. Her thoughtful prose has a haunting honesty and meaning drawing from her life experiences. She plays as part of a duo along side her husband Paul McCabe an accomplished musician.

Claire Watts is an all round musician who plays traditional Irish music on flute, is a singer-songwriter and guitar player. She teaches music and recently released her second album. The Irish singer – songwriter John Spillane commented on Claire’s EP as follows; “Claire Watts is a lovely singer with a clear, honest and beautiful voice. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by these songs.”

Richard, Jo and Sue

Anne Rynne has only lately come into the whole music scene after rearing herfamily and most importantly finding her voice. From a family of singers, Anne was always a reluctant singer. About four years ago her brother loaned her a guitar – “for 50 years on condition you play it every day”, and she does and says it has utterly changed her life. She released her ‘debut’ album last year.

Details: limerickwriterscentre@gmail.com

Let the Good Times Roll

 

But when people say,
Did you always want to be a writer?,
I have to say no!
I always was a writer

Ursula le Guin

When I ask people ‘So, what’s your image of a writer?’, usually they talk about a guy. Even the women I ask, they tend to talk about a man. I don’t comment as it ruins the experiment, but blogging about it here, I guess that’s the image that gets grandfathered into our brains in a male-centric culture when we are young and impressionable. But that’s not all. If you do an internet search for ‘writer images’, they are mostly male. Then, I ask ‘So what else comes to mind?’

They usually report their writer-image is a kind of intense tweedy type. They see him wearing a jacket with elbow patches, or with swept back greyflecked distinguished hair, writing at a desk. Oh, also our literary type is also usually an academic working on a university campus teaching literature, not working in a bar or stacking shelves in your local Tesco.

I don’t buy this description. Firstly, I know as many women as men who are writers. Also my image of a writer is not so high profile. Maybe she’s out of shape from poor diet and zero exercise. Maybe my imaginary writer drinks too much and is stressed out from all the hours hunched in front of a computer working with little return. Maybe some of my imaginary writers are loners, starving and depressed in a windy garret tapping out another tome, perhaps. Or, addicted, perhaps heavily so.

Another writerly image that crops up is that of the performing artist. If you attend open mics or literary evenings, (which can be really good if you get good writers onstage), your image is of a writer is one standing up in front of a audience of forty or fifty in some back room of a bar or club performing.

Then we come to images of the mature and accomplished artists, also and very importantly, they are being paid for what they do. They have published well. Good times. Every artist worth their salt deserves this. But does that happen? Does every accomplished artist who produces good work get paid what they deserve? Of course not, and for a reason. I mean we think of art in terms of every other item produced in society. It is generally held that the laws of supply and demand determine quality. In other words, if you are a crappy writer, people won’t read you or publish you and thus, in true Darwinian mode, you get cut from the herd and become an editor. If you are hot (in the sense of being modern and contemporary and zeitgeisty and talented), then talent will out. Right? Well, I don’t think so. A twenty or thirty minute perusal of the quality of writing in a typical bookstore or library anywhere, will quash any such ideals. The rules of market economics do not apply when it comes to art, as opposed to in life.

So I moved from bookstores to the internet in my search for an answer to the

le guin
URSULA LE GUIN

question of what happens to literary talent. I read forums and Wikipedia and blogposts and in the end just for giggles I did a random google search for ‘literary rejection letters’, and one of the first that popped out was a letter Ursula K le Guin got back in ’68. Here it is:

Ursula K Le guin rejection letter

Now I am a fan of this writer. This particular novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, which found a home elsewhere, is now regarded as a masterpiece, a trailblazer of feminist writing, a work which made a real contribution to the SF genre. It wound up winning the Nebula award, selling over a million copies and establishing Le Guin’s reputation. Reading this letter, and a few others, as well as considering the cloud of negativity surrounding writers beginning and trying to develop their careers, at this stage I confess I began to think a bit negatively about the struggles of newbie writers.

By this I mean – consider if Le Guin had given up with her novel after such a rejection. left hand darknessImagine if she decided instead to quit and run a pub in Lesser Chipping Buckworth (no such place), or took to the countryside in married dejection. Consider all the people she inspired, all the changes she wrought to peoples minds and hearts. I mean, we are talking here of a serious loss. But it didn’t happen, which is good news. On the contrary, millions of people are glad she went on and became the icon of SF writing she remained her entire life, and thereafter.

 

My point is, its easier, so far easier if we had a society that valued and nurtured new writers and artists instead of regarding them as dropouts or lazy or damaged dreamers, people who do not ‘pull their weight’. Having a really good writer in the family should be seen as like having a doctor or a politician or a business person in the family. How many aspiring writers have had to face the ire and disapproval of families and friends and the weight of societal judgement because they wanted to do something creative with their lives? The effects of such disapproval can be overwhelming.

Take disapproval. I mean, its such an innocuous sounding word, ‘disapproval’.  It whips up images of ones sainted great aunt clattering teacups and shaking her head as she tut tuts ones use of bad language or smoking weed out the back garden. This is different, though. Here I mean the kind of life altering cultural disapproval which though all pervasive, can be rather hard to pin down. Its the disapproval you get when turning up in church drunk or your mobile phone going off during a production of Hamlet, except much, much worse.  This is how one gets cut from the herd. You know they don’t want you yet you don’t know how you know that, or indeed what to do. For writers, type of disapproval can last a lifetime. It leads to deep self doubt. That in turn leads to a negative self image, which leads to depression which leads to self destructive behaviours. This is where the trouble starts. Self destructive behaviours borne of depression and self doubt are very painful indeed. Depression has certainly a marked chemical or genetic component, but it also has a societal aspect, a marked societal aspect. Our pain is framed by our world. If this pain goes on long enough, it naturally leads to one seeking relief. I’m talking here medicating such pain with drugs and alcohol. Too much medicating psychic pain with D. and A. often (not always though) leads to addiction. After that there’s nowhere to go but down. It can start a negative toxic spiral downwards into the kinds of dark places I have seen the finest talents dissolve.

So to go back to Le Guin for a moment. Ursula Le Guin getting those Novels published, especially The Left Hand of Darkness, was good for her and good for us all on levels we can begin to fathom anew. She had a brilliant career, and that brilliance shone long after she left us. In contrast I think here of other writers and artists who needed to get the good news of acceptance, not simply a publishing deal but the good word from society at large that what they were doing had value, yet didn’t. Their story did not end with good news. It was sad, bad news.

So we here not talking about simply giving our writers an encouraging hug. This is more like a ideological endorsement of the profound value of our creative communities, a value that includes a monetary value (sometimes very substantial) but an educational, political, and entertainment value. Books and art itself start conversations that change things, sometimes forever. Wherever we see repression of art we see the beginnings of a repressive society that kills the spirit of humanity and produces only propaganda and junk thinking. I am thinking of Donald Trumps killing off major arts grants at the beginning of his benighted presidency.

But here in Ireland the government, the Arts Council, and the Irish Writers Centre have a new initiative for established writers, whereby they can access social welfare payments and don’t have to hide the fact they are writers, or any other types of subterfuge. The full text of the pilot initiative is here. Its been taken up and established now a year later.
Now there are a few problems with this initiative. For instance the text states one has to be ‘genuinely seeking work’ in order to avail of the scheme. Does this mean the work of being a writer is not genuine work? What if you need something like the dole to finish a work that is of the quality of The Left hand of Darkness? Are we seeing shades of the old prejudice against the struggling writer, seen as a kind of layabout who will eventually shape up and see that real work lies elsewhere? Its one of those subtle indicators that might be worth looking at down the line.

Another problem with this otherwise laudatory scheme which is far sighted and worthy of promotion is the very questionable criterion of having to demonstrate that you earned half of last years income from writing. I doubt if there are many writers who need the dole to finish their books will be able to show that. In fact in Ireland unless you work round the clock doing gigs and writers in residence contracts as well as whatever royalties you earn will be able to demonstrate that level of income.
But those caveats aside, its good news. Its a sign, as the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar said:
“Ireland is world-famous as a haven for art and artists who are central to our culture. This reputation for artistic achievement is part of our global USP. Promoting Ireland as a home for art and artists is central to my plans to double our global footprint in the years ahead. I believe it is only right that we allow for some flexibility within the social welfare system to allow artists to access social welfare supports when they need them. Up to now, artists have found it difficult to access social welfare and of course many artists take on extra jobs to support their livelihoods.

“Following extensive work between both Departments, with input from the Arts Council, this new mechanism will allow artists to be classified as self-employed for the purposes of accessing social welfare supports. The normal checks and balances will apply to ensure the initiative is not open to abuse, but my hope is that this will make it much easier for professional artists to access social welfare supports when they need them.”

(See here for further context) There is information on the scheme here and further information here.