Last night Columbia University was treated to a visit by five Dublin writers and the literary magazine The Stinging Fly in honor of their latest issue, which has a New York twist.
Emer Martin began the reading with a darkly funny excerpt from her latest novel, Baby Zero, showcasing her punchy dialogue and distinct characters. I enjoyed her reading style as well -- she really inhabited her characters with her voice and facial expressions. I definitely plan on picking up a copy of her book.
Sean O'Reilly read next, a piece whose name I sadly didn't catch (the room the reading took place in had the windows wide open and the street noise from Broadway occasionally interfered), but the piece was a tense dialogue between a man and woman having relationship problems who cross over from Northern Ireland into Donegal. I enjoyed the realism of his dialogue, and the anger that bubbled underneath the words. (If anyone knows the name of the piece he read, please inform me!)
Aifric Mac Aodha, the literary editor of the Irish language magazine Comhar and Irish language poetry editor of The Stinging Fly, read poems in Irish and in English. I loved hearing both the original and the translation. I've been to many readings in that room (Dodge Hall 501) and I wondered if anyone had ever spoken Irish in that room. Aifric had a very soft voice, but her poetry had a quality of violence, even sharpness, and I enjoyed the contrast. She also read a poem about a pilgrimage to an island -- I particularly enjoyed that one, for obvious reasons!
Keith Ridgway read an excerpt from a short story that was fiction-but-based-on-true-events, about a young man over from Ireland living in New York. One line that I liked in particular was something like, "I'm twenty and stupid. The two don't necessarily go together but I happen to be both."
Max McGuinness finished up the reading with part of his short story "The Great Irish Novel" about a man who is challenged to write the so-called great Irish novel. He read in a booming, dramatic voice that echoed through the room. The dialogue was snappy and funny, and I could definitely see his theatre roots (his first play, Up the Republic!, was performed in Oxford and Edinburgh in 2007-8).
It was an extremely enjoyable night, and I felt inspired by the writers who read their work. Many thanks to The Stinging Fly for making the trip to New York, and the Columbia Journal for putting the evening together.
Tonight (Thursday) at 7pm there will be a launch party for this issue of the Stinging Fly at Swift Hibernian Lounge at 34 East 4th Street. Readers will include Ciaran Berry, Tim Dwyer, Martín Espada, Emer Martin, David McLoghlin, Idra Novey, Jana Prikryl, Mark SaFranko, and more. Go hear some fantastic Irish literature!!!