Tuesday 23 January 2018

Let the judging begin for the 40th New Irish Writing

Ciaran Carty

The 40th anniversary Hennessy Literary Awards, to be announced on April 12, will be judged by a novelist who runs the oldest literary agency in the world and a poet whose first poems were published by David Marcus in the early months of New Irish Writing in 1968. The judges, who held their first session in Dublin on Monday, are Derek Johns and Paul Durcan.

Johns, author of the autobiographical The Billy Palmer Chronicles, is managing director of AP Watts, which was founded in 1875 at the recommendation of Rudyard Kipling who wrote to all the writers he knew urging them to entrust their affairs to Watt "if they wanted to make a fortune and lose all their headaches."

The agency, which over the years represented HW Wells, PG Wodehouse and various winners of the Nobel, Booker, Orange, Whitbread and Hennessy awards, today includes among its writers Philip Pullman, Zadie Smith, Yann Martel, and a number of Irish writers, including Deirdre Madden, Sebastian Barry, Dermot Bolger, Paul Murray and Fintan O'Toole.

"Paul Durcan,with a micro-phone for a lute, can, like Orpheus, charm the birds from the trees," according to fellow poet Derek Mahon.

In countless collections since O Westport in the Light of Asia Minor in 1975, he has engaged with his own and the nation's ups and downs in a compelling but conversational style that is at once satirical and compassionate, lacing anguish with a laugh. His most recent work is Life is a Dream: 40 Years Reading Poems 1967-2007. "All good poetry strives to be prose," he says. "All good prose strives to be poetry."

Johns, whose first job at 17 was as a sheep shearer in the Australian outback, and who subsequently worked as a bookseller, an editor and a publisher before publishing his first novel, Wintering, in 2007, says, "Most published authors have to stick to the day job. I would never advise any writer to set out to make a living from writing. You should assume that you are going to have to do other things. Any money you earn from writing is a bonus."

Since their establishment in 1971, the Hennessy Literary Awards have been a platform for an exciting new generation of first-time and emerging writers in fiction poetry. Awards are made in three categories -- first fiction, emerging fiction and emerging poetry -- based on work published in 2010 in the New Irish Writing Page of the Irish Independent.

There is also an overall award for the New Writer of the Year and since 2003 Hall of Fame Awards have been made in recognition of the achievements of writers whose early work was published in New Irish Writing -- the winners to date are Dermot Bolger, Joseph O'Connor, Patrick McCabe, Colum McCann, Frank McGuinness, Anne Enright, Hugo Hamilton and Neil Jordan.

Shortlists for the 2010 awards will be published in the Irish Independent on April 2 and the winners will be announced at a gala dinner at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on April 12. The awards are sponsored by Hennessy Cognac in association with the Irish Independent.

The New Writing Page, edited by Ciaran Carty, appears in Weekend Review in the Irish Independent on the last Saturday of each month and is open to writers who are Irish or who are resident in Ireland. Entries may be submitted (with a SAE) to: New Irish Writing, The Irish Independent, 27/32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. Stories should not exceed 2,200 words.

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