Dylan Thomas and Seamus Heaney

Tuesday 25 November

This year is the centenary of Dylan Thomas’ birth and it has generated a lot of activity and interest. Thomas is known for his poetry, drama and stories – he was multi talented – all infused with his rich, imaginative and unique use of language.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales is often read as a children’s story but its astonishing linguistic opulence appeals as much to adults and indeed there are subtle undertones in the story that take it far from reminiscence and sentiment. Swansea was Thomas’ sea-town and this week his story marks the end of the sea-related texts the group has been reading, as Reef leaves Fabrica.

The story available online here and a centenary print edition has been produced.

Project Gutenberg: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0701261h.html

Seamus Heaney’s poem North comes from a collection of the same name. Heaney is one of Ireland’s most famous poets who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. Harvard professor, playwright, translator, he won many other literary prizes. He died in 2013. His poem, North, centres on the symbolic importance of the Vikings to Ireland. In the same collection, Heaney included his famous poems about bog bodies.

Read North here:

North by Seamus Heaney http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/seamus-heaney

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Katherine Mansfield and Vicki Feaver

The Doll’s House is one of Katherine Mansfield’s classics and I was grateful to Catherine Smith for pointing out during our session that it’s part of a group of stories that use the same characters. Mansfield wrote it in 1922. Margaret Drabble identifies it as the first ‘adult’ short story she read and reads it aloud for a Guardian podcast. Drabble insists that Mansfield is far too skilful to be sentimental. http://www.theguardian.com/books/audio/2010/dec/07/margaret-drabble-katherine-mansfield

Mansfield died young – at 34 – but by then had already published five volumes of stories. Virginia Woolf wrote: “I was jealous of her writing—the only writing I have ever been jealous of.” Mansfield was born and lived in New Zealand but also lived in London. There is a lengthy biography of her on the Poetry Foundation website: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/katherine-mansfield

More on her life on the website of Kathleen Jones: http://www.kathleenjones.co.uk/kmwebsite/

Vicki Feaver was born in 1943 and is one of the UK’s foremost contemporary poets. She set up the creative writing programme at the University of Chichester. Although she has published just three collections, her impact on British poetry is profound. She draws on myth, female experience and challenges taboo.

Her writing is often disturbing, always provocative. A new collection is expected in 2015 – provisionally titled I want! I want! 

Biographical information about Feaver is available from the Scottish Poetry Library: http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/poets/vicki-feaver and British Council: http://literature.britishcouncil.org/vicki-feaver

She is interviewed about her work here: http://www.sheerpoetry.co.uk/general-reader/interviews/vicki-feaver-interview And in this interview she explores the violence in her work: http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=3900

James Lee Burke and Matthew Sweeney

James Lee Burke is well known as a crime writer. The short story, Jesus Out to Sea, was commissioned by Esquire magazine after Hurricane Katrina. Burke talks about where his inspiration comes from in a Youtube interview. Burke’s story is gruelling, politically hard-hitting and compassionate towards people forgotten by governments – the poor and voiceless.

Burke has twice been awarded an Edgar for Best Crime Novel of the Year. He has received Breadloaf and Guggenheim Fellowships. His novels have been made into films and his short stories published in journals and anthologies. His novel The Lost Get-Back Boogie was rejected 111 times but was eventually published by Louisiana State University press and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Read Jesus Out to Sea:
http://www.esquire.com/fiction/fiction/jesus-out-to-sea-james-lee-burke-0406

About James Lee Burke: http://www.jamesleeburke.com

Youtube interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GvaNnhqYkg

Guardian interview:
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/nov/17/featuresreviews.guardianreview14

Matthew Sweeney is a surrealist, a playful and witty poet whose strange narratives are a particular trademark. His work draws on a wide range of imagery but he often brings animals, odd journeys and strange situations into his work. He is a prolific poet, writing for adults and children. He has also published fiction. This poem, A couple waiting, is not available online but is available in his Selected Poems. His most recent collection is Horse Music (Bloodaxe Books). Sweeney has been publishing for more than four decades – his first collection was published in 1981. He has won several awards, is an editor, anthologist and his work has been widely translated. He is writer in residence at University College, Cork and a member of Aosdana. Sweeney was born in Ireland in 1952 and has lived in London, Berlin and Timisoara.

Biographical information and poems at the Poetry Archive: http://www.poetryarchive.org/poet/matthew-sweeney

Read other poems: http://www.manifold.group.shef.ac.uk/issue6/MatthewSweeney6.html

An interview with Matthew Sweeney: http://www.3ammagazine.com/litarchives/nov2001/sweeney_interview.html

Youtube interview and reading: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzVAEg6lNxc

Rose Tremain, Eavan Boland and Gillian Allnutt

Rose Tremain is a novelist and short story writer, born in 1943. She has won the Orange Prize, Whitbread Award and Sunday Times Book of the Year award, among others, for her novels. She has written four collections of short stories. ‘The Captive’ was commissioned by The Guardian newspaper for a series about oil. Her novel, The Road Home, was chosen for world book night 2013: http://www.worldbooknight.org/books/item/10006-the-road-home

Tremain lives in Norfolk and has taught creative writing at UEA where she is now chancellor. She talks about writing to the Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/9512390/Rose-Tremain-Interview.html

Eavan Boland is an Irish poet, born just a year later than Tremain. She is one of the leading voices in Irish literature, a committed teacher and feminist. She has written about her experience of being a woman poet and with Mark Strand, co-edited The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms. She has won many awards and currently teaches in the USA. Read an interview with Boland here: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/where-poetry-begins-eavan-boland-conversation

Gillian Allnutt is the youngest of the three writers featured this week, born in 1949, she lives in County Durham. A winner of the Northern Rock Foundation Writer’s Award, her poetry is admired for its concentrated lyricism and spareness. A review of her work is featured on the Cambridge University Orlando Project: http://orlando.cambridge.org/public/svPeople?person_id=allngi

Her work is not always easy and Allnutt challenges the idea of narrative. She has recently released a new chapbook, icumenhttp://literalfish.co.uk/news/

More information about Tremain, Boland and Allnut is available on the Texts page.

George Mackay Brown and Michael Longley

The Wireless set by George Mackay Brown comes from his collection of short stories, A Time to Keep. He was a prolific poet, a short story writer and novelist who spent his life on Stromness in the Orkney Islands – born in 1921, he died in 1996. The Orkneys provide his subjects and his images.

Mackay Brown collaborated with composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. His fiction is available here: http://www.birlinn.co.uk/George-Mackay-Brown/ and while it’s rare to find his poems online, a poem about Hamnavoe is here: http://www.scapaflow.co/index.php/activities/places1/stromness/hamnavoe and a selection is available at the Scottish Poetry Library: http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/poets/george-mackay-brown

Michael Longley is a multi-prize winning poet, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He is a contemporary of Seamus Heaney and has earned a worldwide reputation as a poet of nature and war, in the tradition of Edward Thomas, whose work he admires greatly.

Longley has used classical texts to draw comparisons with the impact of war in Belfast and elsewhere. He has also charted the landscape – birds, flowers, animals – of county Mayo where he also spends his time.

Three poems from his new collection, The Stairwell (Cape) were featured in the London Review of Books: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n20/michael-longley/three-poems

Read an interview with him here: http://www.culturenorthernireland.org/article/2831/my-cultural-life-michael-longley