Tuesday 24 April 2018

Third volume of eclectic arts anthology is yet another timeless treasury

Journal: Winter Papers 3 Edited by Kevin Barry and Olivia Smith, Curlew Editions, €40

Hilary A White

Ireland is becoming a haven for smartly presented literary journals that act as springboards for the careers of some of our finest writing talents. When Kevin Barry and wife Olivia Smith added Winter Pages (as it was initially called) to the mix in 2015, they went straight in at the top with a beautifully hard-bound annual edition that cherry-picked from leading figures in the arts across a number of disciplines.

It means that a third volume now arrives to a welcome audience that has been eagerly anticipating its very existence.

Winter Papers, as the name suggests, is an arts anthology that can be tucked under the arm or into a backpack and taken into the closing evenings where it makes for warming company indeed.

"Let's batten down the hatches, and dig in," Barry concludes in his foreword, as if in agreement.

As with the previous editions, the literary contributions are only part of the overall picture but an important part nonetheless. Nicole Flattery, a writer in ascent from The Stinging Fly stable, pens a white-hot meditation on sisterhood and isolation in You're Going to Forget Who I Am Before I Forget Who You Are.

When he relaxes the heavy gothic atmospherics ("The kitchen's fluorescent top light keeps at bay the dark pressing against the window, an ancient feeling of something unseen wanting to get in"), Paul Lynch's mini-saga about young men lamping deer takes off. The tale is called The Alphabet of Trees, and is one of many energies represented here.

On the other end of the tonal scale, for example, is Kevin Gildea's Guest Book of the Nation. In it, the writer and wit goes for all-out comic intrigue as a B&B owner on the west coast welcomes in two Americans late one stormy night. Another temperature altogether comes from Cristin Leach's dark domestic psychosis in Yes I Said Yes.

Bridging that world and the rest of the content in Winter Papers 3 is Barry himself, who diaries his good-old-bad-old days as a baby journalist in Limerick alongside Joanne Betty Conlon's slightly eerie black and white photos of the city taken in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

This is worth it alone for Barry's anecdote about getting a friendly lift home from the gardai while hallucinating, but the almost incidental feeling of the words alongside the imagery does have a seismic quality.

Some brilliant interviews litter the volume - just as we've come to expect - as kindred spirits are linked up by our editors to sublime effect. Author Peter Murphy's conversation with the brilliant filmmaker Pat Collins will be an engrossing portrait for anyone vaguely familiar with his work. Sara Baume and Connemara visual artist Dorothy Cross is also a match that makes perfect sense.

Elsewhere, an essay by Claire Louise-Bennett about the work of dancer Mary Nunan expands out into an examination of the artistic temperament. The View From Above is another beautifully rendered treatment, this time by Jessica Traynor and about the Blue Raincoat Theatre Company's production of Shackleton.

This is the beauty of Winter Papers - it provides a confluence for rivers such as these before binding the results in the shape of a timeless treasury.

Keep 'em coming, we say.

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