Saturday 6 April 2013

Highly Recommended: 7th April, 2013.


Strumpet City
James Plunkett

James Plunkett's epic novel Strumpet City is the 
Dublin: One City, One Book 
for the month of April.

Gill and Macmillan have issued a new edition with an extensive Introduction by Fintan O'Toole. A link to part of this  Introduction, which appeared in the Irish Times is provided below.

Strumpet City is also read by Barry McGovern on RTE every weekday, and can be listened to here:

James Plunkett author of Strumpet City
" To say, … that James Plunkett’s Strumpet City , first published in 1969, is the greatest Irish historical novel is to risk damning it with faint praise. Ireland has no Walter Scott, no War and Peace . Plunkett may have learned from both, but he essentially had to invent the Irish epic for himself. To think of the most famous fictional depictions of Dublin is to be confronted with a brilliant minimalism: the tiny lives of Joyce’s Dubliners ; the single day of Ulysses . Strumpet City unfolds over seven years. It deals not with isolated lives but with the way in which large events connect the most disparate of people. It encompasses a wide sweep of city life, from the destitution of Rashers Tierney to the precarious existence of Hennessy, the solid, aspirant respectability of Fitz and Mary, the priestly life of Fathers Giffley and O’Connor, and the upper-class world of Yearling and the Bradshaws.

Strumpet City does have a relationship to Joyce’s Dubliners , a book that is an obvious influence on Plunkett’s fine short-story collection The Trusting and the Maimed . But Plunkett also moves beyond that influence. Joyce saw Dubliners as an anatomy of the city as “the centre of paralysis”. This might very well be a description of the city in the first part of Plunkett’s epic. But in Plunkett’s case the paralysis is convulsed by the shock of James Larkin’s arrival."

                                   - Fintan O'Toole, extract from his Introduction to the new Gill and Macmillan
                                                               edition of Strumpet City.  
A more extended extract from the Irish Times piece on the novel is found here:


2012 is now officially recognised as the Year of the MOOC. Massive Online Open Courses are offered on subjects as diverse as Computational Neuroscience from the University of Washington, to Business Ethics for the Real World from Santa Clara, to Observing and Analysing Performance in Sport at OpenLearning. The Seamus Heaney Lecture Series in St. Patrick's College opened with an excellent lecture by Professor Brian MacCraith on the future of education in the light of such profound changes and a podcast can be found here at the end of this brief report:
Ruari Quinn, Minister for Education, Professor Brian MacCraith, Seamus Heaney and Dr. Tara Shine
at the first of the Seamus Heaney Lectures in St. Patrick's College, DCU.

One of the many questions raised at the end of the lecture concerned what benefits there could be to larger colleges for offering these courses to such large numbers of people, for no financial gain. At present MOOC's offer a way of showcasing the particular areas of excellence within universities, and are also capable of identifying individuals around the world who excel in the courses, and of drawing in those students.

However, despite the reports of huge numbers of students taking up the courses there is also an indication that many do not actually complete final exams. Reasons offered for non-completion range from bad course design, an over reliance on traditional lecture formats and poor reviewing of work by peers.  Open Culture have circulated results from educational researcher Katy Jordan which indicates that the typical completion rate is below 10% of students.
Visualization of MOOC Completion Rates . If you click the image above, you can see interactive data points for 27 courses.
Further information on why students drop out of these courses can be found here:


Street Art or Graffiti?  A report by Jonathan Jones of the Guardian Newspaper shows how 'deeply uncomfortable the cultural relationship between' London, a capital 'that happens to be best at improvisation, dirty realism, punk aesthetics and low art' and the 'hyper-organisation and culture superimposed by the Olympics,  really was. ( )

Officials in London went as far as banning known street artists from a specific radius of the centre of the games and yet, just a few months after the Olympics the owners of the building on which a Banksy mural was painted, seem to have had the mural removed and placed for sale at an art auction in Florida. The piece was subsequently withdrawn from sale at the 11th hour, but only following an extensive campaign for its return to the UK.
'Slave Labour' by Banksy. 

'Slave Labour', which shows a young boy hunched over a sewing machine making Union Jack bunting, appeared on the wall in Wood Green, north London, last May, just before the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

It disappeared from the side of the Poundland store  and was due to be auctioned thousands of miles away in Miami  with Fine Art Auctions (FAA) expecting it to reach between $500,000 (£328,063) and $700,000 (£459,288).

But Haringey Council said it had been told the sale was halted at the last minute, with no explanation given from the auction house.  Haringey Council Leader Claire Kober said: "It's a true credit to the community that their campaigning appears to have helped to stop the sale of this artwork from going ahead.

"We will continue to explore all options to bring back Banksy to the community where it belongs."The FAA website still featured the mural as lot six in its Modern, Contemporary and Street Art sale tonight.

At the heart of the debate is the question of ownership, of it's entitlements and its duties and the issues which John Rawls raises in his Theory of Justice. Does ownership of a building also confer responsibility towards the community, or are owners entitled to remove public works of art? Poundland, the building which 'Slave Labour' was painted seems to be an independent and definable space  and yet it relies for its water and power system, workers and customers from the surrounding infrastructure and community. Such interaction with the wider infrastructure and community should confer responsibilities, such as not depleting the water supply, not causing the power supply to cut out, not endangering the health of its workers and customers. Surely it is a simple step from this kind of responsibility to one in which a site specific work of art, not commissioned by the owners but recognised as valuable to the community, is also protected for the community for which it was painted?
If that community is extended, as this one seems to have been by the artist, to the community of slaves who work to produce goods for shops such as Poundland, then even the local community must recognise our wider responsibilities. You can see a report on the still unresolved matter from the Telegraph here:


Although there have been at least five collections of critical essays on J M Synge published since 2000 'it is striking how few single authored critical monographs there have been on his work'. In Synge and the Making of Modern Irish Drama, Anthony Roche draws on twenty-five years of engagement with Synge's plays to present ten chapters on the unfolding of a double narrative. The first argues the extent and ways in which John Millington Synge self-consciously undertook to become the founding playwright of an Irish national theatre. Synge's rapid development as a playwright is examined in relation to Yeats and Joyce. His love affair with Abbey Theatre actress Máire O'Neill (Molly Allgood) is treated in depth, both in terms of their troubled life together and the vibrant roles he wrote for her. The book's second narrative moves from Synge's historical time to the present day, to consider what subsequent Irish playwrights have made of his dramatic legacy. Samuel Beckett, asked by his biographer to name the dramatists whose plays had meant the most to him, uttered only the name of Synge in reply. This study also traces in illuminating detail the impact of Synge's revolutionary plays on a range of contemporary playwrights: Brian Friel, Stewart Parker, Marina Carr and Martin McDonagh, to examine how this influence and recent productions of Synge's work have enabled him to remain our contemporary. It will be of considerable interest to students of Irish drama both in Ireland and worldwide.


The programme for the 2013 Synge Summer School is now available. Speakers include:

Dermot Bolger; Rita Ann Higgins; Mark O'Rowe; 
Marina Carr;  Stuart Carolan; Declan Hughes; 
Deirdre Kinahan and; Owen MCafferty.

The school will run from the 27th to the 30th June and the theme this year is Irish Dramatists in Conversation. Application forms for the school should be returned as early as possible and by the 16th June at the latest. There is a limited number of places still available.


Poet, essayist, theorist, and scholar Charles Bernstein was born in New York City in 1950 and is a foundational member and leading practitioner of Language poetry. Educated at the Bronx High School of Science and at Harvard University, where he studied philosophy with Stanley Cavell and wrote his final thesis on Gertrude Stein and Ludwig Wittgenstein. In the mid-1970s he became active in the experimental poetry scenes in New York and San Francisco. Between 1978-1981, with fellow poet Bruce Andrews, he published L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine, which became a forum for writing that blurred, confused, and denied the boundary between poetry and critical writing about poetry. His own poetic work explores the wide-ranging uses of language within diverse social contexts. His poetry combines the language of politics, popular culture, advertising, literary jargon, corporate-speak, and myriad others to show the ways in which language and culture are mutually constructive and interdependent. As Bernstein says in an interview with Bradford Senning: 
“I want to engage the materials of the culture, derange them as they have deranged me, sound them out, as they sound me out.” 

Bernstein’s writing is serious, engaging, and critical, while also being playful, irreverent and deeply humorous. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2006. The following two articles give an indication of his work and the development of Language poetry. The first comes from the Parnassus Review, and the second from Rob McLennan. 

Words Fail Him: The Poetry of Charles Bernstein

Charles Bernstein, Recalculating


Finally got a chance to listen to the entire CD from Poetry Bus 4. It's such a pleasure to have authors perform their work and I enjoyed each of the tracks.   James Yorkston's fiction piece Woozy with Cider was particularly good. A slight drawback was that the backing track occassionally competed a little with his soft voice, but the story itself was gripping and I listened to it all the more carefully for that. I think I had read P C Vandall's poem Watermelons in Winter, and liked it in the reading and even more so when she read it here. Fiona Bolger's In and Out of Never Never Land was particularly good and Dimitra Xidous's Sweetness is for the Bees was beautifully performed.

I loved the changing accents from Irish to English to American - and all of the variations on these and the combination of fiction, poetry and music seemed completely natural, probably due to some innate musical sense from editor Peadar O'Donoghue. The contributors to the Poetry Bus 4 CD are:

Afric McGlinchey         Brendan Hickey.                   Dimitra Xidous
Fiona Bolger                 James Yorkston                     John Prior
Korliss Sewer                Laura Moody                        Mike Alexander
PC Vandall                    Rachel Fox                           Stuart Wilde

Poetry Bus 5 is still accepting submissions so take a look at their group page and jump onboard.


Some interesting magazines and pages this week:

A New Ulster is free to download here
and features the work of
Amy Barry, Neil Ellman, Oonah V Joslin, Michael Loughran, David McLean,
Maire Morrissey-Cummins, Chris Murray,
Felino A. Soriano, Rachel Sutcliffe,
Rachael Stanley, Brigid Walshe
and Adrian Fox.
I took a quick look through this and particularly enjoyed Amy Barry's 'Causatum' and Oonah v Joslin's Love to the Power π. The layout makes this particularly easy to read and while it is free to read online, print copies can also be purchased for £5. from the website.

PoetrySalzburg Review is also published this week and features Poetry from:

Ally Acker; Brian W. Aldiss; Sally Bayley; Ronda Broatch;
Nicholas Campbell; Scott Andrew Christensen; David Cooke;
Claire Crowther; John f. DeCarlo; Darren C. Demaree; Lenny Emmanuel; Blair Ewing; Kate Foley; Cristina Godoroja; Kevin Graham, David Greenslade; Matt Haw; A. J. Huffman; Antony Johae; Marian Kilcoyne; Ayala Kingsley; Irene McKinney; George Messo; Kobus Moolman; Daniel Thomas Moran; Abegail Morley; Caroline Natzler; William Oxley; Bethany W. Pope; David Romanda; Lesley Saunders; E. M. Schorb; Hilda Sheehan; Robert Sheppard; Pnina Shinebourne; D. Neil Simmers; Robert Vas Dias; Wynn Wheldon; Anne Harding Woodworth.


Alexander Pushkin

I loved you, and perhaps that adoration
Has not yet died entirely in my heart;
But let it not be reason for vexation:
I would not wish to sadden you with that.
I loved you silently, and hopelessly,
First shy and then inflamed with jealous pain;
I loved so sincerely, selflessly,
As may God grant you might be loved again.


Translated by Philip Nikolayev

Given the standard of the translations which Philip Nikolayev has been producing over the last few months, I was not surprised to see that his new page Russian Poetry in Translation became instantly popular with over 350 followers in the first week.  

The short poem above, by Alexander Pushkin will give you an indication of the kind of work you will find on Philip's page. It's such a boon to have translations of this standard available to the public.

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