Voices from Ireland

Wake Forest University Press, the premier publisher of Irish poetry in America, has published a new contemporary anthology of women’s poetry, unlike any previously released collection of Irish poems.

Women’s Voices From Ireland: The Wake Forest Women’s Anthology Tour 2011,” which will launch the publication in five cities, begins in the Kulynych Auditorium in the Wake Forest Welcome Center on Monday, Oct. 24.

Women’s Anthology Tour 2011

  • Attend the national launch of the women’s poetry anthology on Monday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. in Kulynych Auditorium in the Wake Forest Welcome Center. The free event features readings by four of the published Irish poets and music by the Belfast Boys.

The tour features readings by four of Ireland’s leading poets whose works appear in the new anthology — Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Caitríona O’Reilly, Rita Ann Higgins and Leontia Flynn.

Candide Jones, assistant director and manager of the Wake Forest Press answers questions about the new publication and why it matters.

With so much vying for our attention each day, does poetry matter?
Some people think of poetry as peripheral to life or inaccessible to all but a few select readers. But for really important events, weddings and funerals for example, where do people always turn? To poetry. What we hope at the Wake Forest University Press is that people realize that poetry  has a deep importance to our lives every day. Poetry is how the soul speaks.

Tell us about the reach of this tour.
The national tour is, in part, sponsored by Culture Ireland through their “Imagine Ireland” program—a year-long arts outreach in the U.S. involving all facets of Irish arts including music, drama, visual arts and poetry. Our five-city tour is a major publishing event. For example, the Poetry Foundation in Chicago is the locus for poetry in this country, and this is the first time we’ve had a Wake Forest publication showcased there. The Unterberg Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y in New York is one of the major reading locations in the world. The two other tour stops are also very important: The City of Asylum in Pittsburgh, Pa., and the University of California, Berkeley. The book and the four visiting poets for the tour are already helping us expand our reach throughout the country.

What makes this anthology different from others?
There are 16 poets included in the book, all women, with very deep selections for each. There are few Irish women’s anthologies, and most of them offer just a few poems for each of many different writers. This anthology has the finest collection, in our opinion, of poems by Irish women writing today. The poets’ ages span from the mid 30s to 70 so there is a wide variety of experiences and viewpoints included. Also, at 660 pages, our book costs under $20, making it extremely affordable—just figure the per page cost!— and it includes an introduction that is helpful to the general reader as well as scholar.

Audio Excerpts (mp3s)

  • “Oranges” (0:53) — written and read by Poet-in-Residence Vona Groarke »
  • “Studying the Language” (1:31) — written by EilÈan NÌ Chuilleanáin; read by Provost Emeritus and former English Professor Edwin G. Wilson (’43) »

For people who may be intimidated by poetry, what tips can you offer?
For someone relatively new to poetry, my best advice is to go to a poetry reading. The emphasis, clear oral delivery and explanations given by the authors are like keys that literally open the door. One other helpful thing is to slow down a bit when reading poetry. It’s a concentrated use of language, so you can’t really read it as you read a blog post. Take some time, slow down, read it a few times, and all of a sudden, you’re in there. The poet needs the reader as her partner in bringing the poem to life. Try it with this poem reprinted from the anthology.

Pygmalion’s Image
by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Not only her stone face, laid back staring in the ferns,
But everything the scoop of the valley contains begins to move
(And beyond the horizon the trucks beat the highway.)
A tree inflates gently on the curve of the hill;
An insect crashes on the carved eyelid;
Grass blows westward from the roots,
As the wind knifes under her skin and ruffles it like a book.
The crisp hair is real, wriggling like snakes;
A rustle of veins, tick of blood in the throat;
The lines of the face tangle and catch, and
A green leaf of language comes twisting out of her mouth.

(reprinted courtesy of Wake Forest University Press)

Wake Forest University Press was established in 1976 by Dillon Johnston.

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