The Irish Itinerary Podcast is the latest innovation to our longstanding Irish Itinerary circuit which organizes live events with Irish authors and artists in university cities and towns all over Europe. To meet the challenges of the Corona pandemic, we’ll go digital for now. The Irish Itinerary Podcast will allow Irish authors and artists active on the island of Ireland to present their work online. Hosted by leading Irish Studies scholars from across the expansive European network of EFACIS, the readings and performances of Irish authors and artists will be integrated into interviews. This approach will reaffirm and further our EFACIS commitment to marrying Irish culture and scholarship in the field of Irish Studies.
We believe that in times of Corona and other forms of retrenchment in Europe, the role of the arts and the role of scholarship in the humanities to excite, delight, enlighten and connect people as well as to scrutinize, broaden and challenge our experiences, is more vital than ever. In this spirit, the Irish Itinerary Podcast seeks to contribute to transnational dialogues, conversations and discussions.
We thank Gerry Smyth for allowing us to use his tune 'Coming Through Sligo' as jingle and want to express our sincere gratitude to Culture Ireland, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Irish College Leuven for their continued and generous support of EFACIS and all formats of the Irish Itinerary.
In her conversation with M. Teresa Caneda-Cabrera, Evelyn Conlon discusses the impact of the lockdowns and her aversion to ‘doomscrolling’; being a writer who is a feminist and being political by engaging in stories that are not considered the norm; using literature to dip into the corridors of truth while history sticks to the facts; reworking Joyce’s story ‘Two Gallants’; and being more Irish when you are away from Ireland. The author also reads two excerpts from her work.
In this special Bloomsday conversation with Carolina P. Amador-Moreno, Nuala O’Connor discusses the research for her novel Nora (2021); her rewritings of Joyce's letters; her search for Nora Barnacle’s voice; the difficulty of finding a balance between the flavour and authenticity of a language and just too many convoluted constructions; the beauty of Irish prose and how it is perceived in the US; and the language of her childhood and how she co-opts it in her fiction as a way to honour that language and her parents. Nuala O'Connor also reads a short excerpt from her novel Nora and introduces us to her new project about a historic maverick woman from Cork.
In her conversation with Alessandra Boller, Mary Morrissy discusses the elasticity of short story fiction; her recent turn to flash fiction; the differences between her ‘exploded novel’ Prosperity Drive (2016) and her upcoming short story cycle 20/20 Vision; her new speculative historical novel on Nora Barnacle, whom she describes as a prisoner of Joyce’s fiction; and she ponders whether writing means plundering other people’s lives. Mary Morrissy also reads the story ‘Girls in Trouble’ from her unpublished collection 20/20 Vision and an extract from her new novel Penelope Unbound.
In her conversation with Chris Cusack, Caoilinn Hughes reads her poem ‘The Party Faithful’ and discusses being a slow reader and a monotasker and how this has influenced her journey from poetry to prose and makes her a writer of sentences, who favours participation and reciprocity in her relationship to the reader. Among other things, she talks about the similarities in the work of scientists and artists; the themes of family and love that pervade her work; the mislabelling of her first, picaresque, novel Orchid & the Wasp (2018); her tragic, very good-looking characters; the ending of The Wild Laughter (2020); the importance of the setting in a novel; and her identity as an Irish author.
In her conversation with Radvan Markus, Kateřina García discusses growing up in a multilingual space, surrounded by the work of her great-grandfather Alphonse Mucha; singing in multiple languages and especially Irish; capturing fragile and fleeting moments in her songs; working with various talented musicians; bringing the cultural and literary aspect into her linguistic research on Judeo-Spanish through her interest for traditional Sephardic music and its links with identity; and the journey behind some of her music, of which we hear three examples in this episode.
In his conversation with Caroline Lusin, Michael Hughes reads from his novel Country (2018) and discusses his journey from actor to writer; the ludic element in his writing; his relationship to Northern Ireland and its authors; the link between the intangible Irish border and mime in his short story "Marcel Marceau"; as well as the Illiadic structure, lingo, distinct narrative voice, and the representation of power structures and violence in his novel Country.
In his conversation with Lance Pettitt, Visiting Professor in Irish Studies at the University of Wuppertal, Lenny Abrahamson explores the challenges of creating dramatic stories for television, showing how - in his view - the aesthetics, structures and intimacy of film and TV intersect in the compelling viewing experience that is the hallmark of a hit show. He talks about the upcoming series Conversations with Friends and about how we can recognize the themes, form and patterns of Normal People, while at the same time Conversations with Friends pushes further and strives to be a more polyphonic story. Lenny discusses working in a creative and generous environment with, among others, writer Alice Birch and director Leanne Welham; trying to render the characters’ experiences in a truthful way; giving the audience the feeling of being inside the frame; and thinking of episodes as small films. He also lifts the veil on some of the projects he is currently working on.
In his conversation with Jessica Bundschuh, Stephen Sexton reads from Cheryl's Destinies (2021) and discusses tensions in post-Brexit Belfast and during the pandemic; Golden Age philosophies; borderlines between the absurd and the tragically real; the significance of graveyards in Cheryl's Destinies; twinnings in poetry and history; the Romantic, Romances, and Keats and Shelley in Italy; as well as the functions of poetic communication, in general, and metaphors, in particular.
In her discussion with Rania M Rafik Khalil, award winning playwright Marina Carr discusses the trait of transgression in her female characters, its imperative within her writing, and its recurrence across various literary styles and contexts. Expanding on this theme, she elaborates on the challenge of adapting characters from literary history to address contemporary themes and subjects while retaining those components essential to their original creation. She also reads from her 2015 version of Hecuba.
In this anniversary episode of the Irish Itinerary Podcast Jan Carson and Katharina Rennhak take up their conversation where it all started a year ago in June 2020. Jan Carson looks back on one year of “writing and being a writer” in lockdown and reads from the works that were published during the last 12 months: Postcard Stories 2 (2020) and The Last Resort (2021). She reflects on the recurring phenomenon in her stories of characters who prefer books to people, on the effects of first-person and you-narrations, and on the historical significance of the textile industry in Northern Ireland. She talks about writing a radio drama, about the setting of The Last Resort as a microcosm of the Protestant Community in Northern Ireland, and about the magical and the real in fiction.
In her conversation with Jessica Small, Nigerian-born Irish writer Melatu Uche Okorie discusses the character-driven nature of her writing and exploring personality as a basis for narrative. She also goes into detail on the universality of themes such as motherhood and its centrality to her work and personal life, as well as the capacity for cultural transfer in her work in the face of potentially damaging social norms, while reading from her short-story collection This Hostel Life.
In her discussion with Claire Lynch, Helen Cullen reads from her 2018 debut novel The Lost Words of William Wolf and from her latest novel The Dazzling Truth (2020), she discusses her contrasting responses to the ongoing pandemic, and its impact on her work. She offers her opinion on being grouped within the ‘Up Lit’ genre of contemporary fiction and emphasises the emotional catharsis that comes with exploring subjects of melancholia in her writing. She discusses how far her novels can be situation in the Irish literary tradition and comments on her representation of motherhood and on the significance of mother-daughter relationships.
In her conversation with Marie Mianowski, Ruth Gilligan reads from Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan (2016) and discusses her representation of the Irish-Jewish community. She also reads from her latest historical novel The Butchers (2020) and reflects on parallels between the BSE scandal that enveloped British and Irish farming during the 1990s and the current post-Brexit border issues and Covid19, as well as on the tensions - between the modern and the traditional, different generations, and men and women - that drive her narratives. She also talks about her departure from autobiographical fiction and her research practices as an author of historical fiction.
In her conversation with Elke D’hoker, Sara Baume talks about her life as an author and artist in times of Covid19, the significance of daily routines, the migration of birds, differences between writing fiction and memoirs, truth(s) in novels and non-fiction, art and death, folk art, climate change and inequality, and her reluctance to see herself as an activist. Sara Baume also reads from her non-fictional narrative Handiwork (2020).
In their conversation, Belinda McKeon and Kate Costello-Sullivan situate the rich spareness and reticence in McKeon’s fiction in its socio-cultural Irish context. They talk about navigating the balance between continuing literary traditions and creating innovative narratives; about the influence that settling down in the United States has had on McKeon’s style; about writing male characters and shifting to focus unapologetically on female characters; about motherhood and writing; and about the psyche and the body in her canon. McKeon also reads from her short story "Privacy" from the collection Being Various.
In his conversation with Jonathan McCreedy Jack Harte talks about narrow definitions of the short story that limit the genre’s potential, about the emotional force of the aisling, the influence of the Catholic church and of economic migration to the Irish midlands in the 1950s as represented in his novel In the Wake of the Bagger; as well as his literary connections to Bulgaria and writing out a contract on a serviette. The conversation also revolves around the difficulties of staging plays during lockdown, Killing Grandad and Jack Harte’s new play The Laughing Boy, Brendan Behan, Michael Collins and Greece; as well as the trilogy of novels he is currently writing.
In her conversation with Christoph Reinfandt, Mary O'Donnell reads from her most recent publications in the fields of poetry, short fiction, and the novel. She talks about metapoetic meditations, travel vignettes, autobiographical reflections, and political interventions in Massacre of the Birds (2020); Christoph and Mary also reflect on the narrative representation of the Easter Rising and female emancipation in Empire (2018) as well as on the success of the contemporary Irish short story. Zooming in on Where They Lie (2014), they discuss the implications of writing about the Northern Irish conflict and its aftermath from the perspective of an author from Monaghan.
In her conversation with Hedwig Schwall Lucy Caldwell talks about narrative perspective in general and you-narrations in particular, about the influence of James Joyce and Lucia Berlin on her short story collections Multitudes and Intimacies and about family dynamics. She reflects on motherhood and autobiographical writing, on the act of choosing love over fear, and on the power of literature to hold a space for its readers. She also discusses the Belfast author C.S. Lewis and lipstick, the Northern Irish community in London and the importance of diversity; last not least, she thinks about what it means to be European in times of Brexit.
In her conversation with Krisztina Kodó, Lisa McInerney discusses forms of heritage and its impact on multicultural, modern Ireland; questions of identity at the intersection of age, nationality, gender and religion; as well as the theme of exile as presented through the eyes of her fictional characters and its relevance in contemporary Irish society . The interview also offers some first glimpses into the as yet unpublished third novel of Lisa McInerney’s Cork trilogy, The Rules of Revelation, and reflects on its creative genesis.
In their conversation with Ondřej Pilný, Kevin Barry and Olivia Smith discuss their conception and development of the literary and artistic journal The Winter Papers, addressing the challenges of introducing a physical form periodical into a marketplace dominated by digital publishing. Kevin also reads from his latest short story collection, That Old Country Music, while explaining the difficulties of developing and maintaining thematic constants within the short story form, while also elaborating on tropes of residual folk beliefs in the West of Ireland.
In his conversation with Frank Shovlin, poet Seán Hewitt reads from his debut collection Tongues of Fire. He discusses the significance of birds and observance of the natural world in his work, elaborates on his poetic influences, stresses the importance of musicality and rhythm and emphasises the need for poetry to retain clarity in meaning. Seán Hewitt also highlights the subtle interplay of British-Irish cultural dynamics in his work, drawing on his own experience as a member of the diaspora in the North-West of England.
In her discussion with Rióna Ní Fhrighil, English and Irish language poet, playwright, screenwriter and librettist Celia de Fréine discusses the challenging dynamic of literary bilingualism, the process of translation as a creative act, and the imperative of writing to matters of public consciousness.
In her conversation with Daniela Theinová, Irish language poet Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh reads from her poetry, discusses the socio-geographical situatedness of her work, talks about her experiences as an ERASMUS student and the pleasures of anonymity in big continental cities, the challenges of going with and against literary traditions, the difficulty of translating one’s own poetry, the dangers of taking a Utilitarian approach to language, and about writing routines and motherhood.
In his conversation with Michal Lachman, Irish filmmaker and author Maurice Fitzpatrick discusses his documentary In The Name of Peace, which considers the late nationalist politician John Hume and his lasting impact on the political and cultural makeup of contemporary Ireland.
In her discussion with Marisol Morales-Ladrón, Irish-Canadian writer Emma Donoghue reads from her latest novel The Pull of the Stars (2020) and explores its themes of childbirth, motherhood, and lesbian love set against the backdrop of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. They also discuss the setting in a maternity ward in Dublin, the challenge of examining and presenting Irish national history from a female perspective and trace some autobiographical references in the novel.
In her discussion with James Gallacher, Belfast playwright and short story writer Rosemary Jenkinson discusses her time in Europe, the continuing visibility of Northern Irish writers within European literature amidst the saga of Brexit, and gives her perspective on COVID 19’s impact on the arts in Ireland. She also discusses themes of poverty, death, and sex trafficking in her latest short story collection Lifestyle Choice 10mg, while also reflecting on the legacy of conflict and residual paramilitarism in contemporary Belfast.
In his conversation with Michael Lydon, Oein DeBhairduin reveals the pleasure of writing, explains the process of collating and transcribing folk tales, discusses the challenges and excitements of transmitting oral literature to paper, and comments on contemporary Irish Traveller identity, while also reading from his latest work, Why the Moon Travels.
In his conversation with Síle Ní Choincheannain, Irish novelist, playwright and translator Darach Ó Scolaí compares the contemporary Anglo-Irish novel and the Irish language novel; reflects on the European tradition of Irish writing and on his fascination for dark works and for historical novels; talks about his translations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and other English classics into Irish; and reads from his award-winning historical novel An Cléireach.
In his conversation with James Little, Irish drummer and composer Matthew Jacobson discusses his new album Mere Nation, the plans for new-music label Diatribe Records, the evolving interrelationship between education and music performance in Ireland as well as the origins of his slightly weird obsession with palindromes.
In their conversation with Katarzyna Ojrzyńska, Petal Pillar and Charlene Kelly talk about the history of the Blue Teapot Theatre Company and the Blue Teapot Performing Arts School, about synergistic prompting and the Meisner technique, the arts and the decriminalisation of sex with people with intellectual disability in Ireland, challenges of performing on stage and in front of a camera for actors with ID, and Blue Teapot’s involvement with the European project "Crossing the Line". The conversation also revolves around Charlene Kelly's play Into the Dark Woods, the postponed premiere at the Abbey Theatre and other difficulties related to Covid-19.
A transcript of this episode is available here
In his conversation with Pilar Villar-Argáiz poet, translator and novelist Theo Dorgan reads from his work and talks about the mysteries of love poetry, his translations of Frederico García Lorca’s poetry, the power of the Irish language with international audiences and about writing in Irish English, the figure of the rebel and class injustice, ways of transcending European borders, the abiding influence of Greek mythology in his work, Cork winters and feeling at home in Athens, as well as gestures in the imagination that can bring about political change.
In his discussion with Laoighseach Ní Choistealbha, Alan Titley talks about the significance of the Irish language in contemporary Ireland, takes a critical stance towards Europe, reflects on his experiences in Africa, on writing in different genres, an author’s inspirations, and the joys of writing provocative texts; he also discusses the longevity and social relevance of Irish language literature and the challenges that Irish language authors face on the book market today.
In his conversation with Sylvie Mikowski, Paul Lynch discusses the significance of his childhood in County Donegal and how aspects of it resurface throughout his literary career, the use of historical material to comment on the present, the significance of plot and the depiction of character psychologies, philosophical novels and reader satisfactions, his reference to the Zen tradition in Beyond the Sea, and on the intersection of style, rhythm and his aspiration to represent “the feeling of the present.”
In her conversation with Hedwig Schwall, Belfast artist Rita Duffy discusses art as a means of cultural and political expression in the age of Brexit and Trump, the significance of textiles, flags and home, the end of capitalism as we knew it, the intersection of art, poetry, and literature, and the importance of humour in art as a means of conflict transformation in Northern Ireland
Belfast writer Jan Carson discusses art and politics, narrative and empathy, magic realism, masculinity and fatherhood in her novel The Fire Starters with EFACIS President, Katharina Rennhak of the University of Wuppertal.