Wednesday 26 July 2017

New anthology showcases Irish writing

Fiction: A Blushing Object Lettertec Publishing, €10

Henrietta McKervey
Henrietta McKervey
Paula McGrath
A Blushing Object

Justine Carbery

The School of English, Film and Drama in UCD has had a bumper year, enjoying a ranking of first place in Ireland, 14th in Europe and 45th in the world.

The School's Creative Writing department, under the auspices of James Ryan, has produced a marvellous crop of young Irish writers, including Henrietta McKervey, Colin Barrett, Susan Stairs and Paula McGrath among others.

Places on the Masters in Creative Writing (MA) and the Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) are prized; each year the students produce an anthology of their work and this year's offering A Blushing Object shows how writing in Belfield goes from strength to strength.

As a creative writing lecturer there, what strikes me immediately about this anthology is the exciting range of narrative voices, from the authentic child's voice in Colm MacDermott's charming story about wishing trees, witches and visions in The Outlaw to the diverse tones of tenants in a halfway house in Eamonn McGuinness's Everyone Here Has a Story. New Irish fiction has become more outward-looking as evidenced by the diversity of settings, ranging from Calcutta in Disharee Bose's startling vignette in This Really Matters to Lorcan Byrne's unsettling story The Boar, set in Italy, about an encounter with the titular animal which foreshadows a terrible event.

Sickness and death feature as a motif, with Aedamar Kirrane's lurid description of a body's disintegration in I Am Not Me and Joe Crotty's moving piece about a father's difficulty in coming to terms with his son's cancer in Hair.

Relationships are dealt with in a realistic way in Micheline Egan's nuanced Don't Get Me Started and Anne Griffin's All That Have Been about an old man pining the loss of his wife. Lorna McMahon hints at troubled relationships in her piece about an overwhelmed mother bringing an injured cat to the vet, while David O'Dwyer succeeds in conveying the visceral terror of an old man waking to find an intruder in his house in Rosewater.

P Kearney Byrne's accomplished All The Wild Animals sings with muscular prose and sharp dialogue; Charlene Hurtubise offers an extract from her outstanding YA novel A Perpetual Rave in which she establishes a keen sense of place and plausible characters that we want to know more about. Dark comedy features in Finnbar Howell's Kafkaesque Ben Didn't Kill The Ducks and in Rory Kiberd's hilarious letter of complaint to a company who sold colonic cleansing treatments to his wife.

There was a huge variety in style, tone and voice in the poetry offerings too.

Katherine Star displays a keen eye for detail, perceptive observations and a lyrical turn of phrase and colour features strongly in the sensuous poems of Lorcan Byrne and Laura Blaise. A Blushing Object confirms the vibrant health of contemporary Irish writing. Dip into this anthology and you will be well rewarded.

Available from The Winding Stair and from The Rathgar Bookshop

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