Out of the blue, my life turned upside down. Writing helped me to process all the confusion I felt, and in I published a "slim volume of verse", Turas Ailse. I've been writing ever since, blogging and developing work for publication. Even now, if some stories start with a few sentences in English, I find that I turn to Irish at a very early stage. Every language has its own set of nuances, and if we change the language we change the piece. Most of the stories are based in and around Belfast during the troubles.
Did that have an influence on her approach?
This allows every reader to approach each piece with a different possible interpretation. I was also trying to burrow underneath the story, to the people inside it. But childer still had to be reared, nappies changed, dinners put on tables, love encountered. Mundane, everyday life still had to be negotiated. In both cases, we cling desperately to whatever it is that defines us, even once it becomes the nightmare version of itself.
Because when you remove yourself from all of the accepted groups, even the smaller groups in society, you risk being ignored by everyone. And they agree because their irregular, ellipsoid orbits are perfect circles too. At the same time place — and the concreteness of it — is central to this book — the city, the land and, at the heart, structures that symbolise achievements, and celebrate understanding of the larger questions of life and our world.
As the narrator says in Everything Under The Sunsphere:. Heat sickness. Heat delirium. The inflamed, demented, diseased city runs wild. Careens down streets whose names change so often they have no names at all. Seeing history imbedded in place like this connects us to the past, but also forces us to deal with change since this too shall pass.
In other words, by paying attention to the history found in place, I discovered something new to think about even though it was actually something old. Obviously not, since in there was still an advertisement for brand new Philco TVs right in downtown Knoxville. I was actually thinking of civil war politics, race, and gender but you make link how things are placed around us to how we identify in time and history through objects, what we own and how we project those identities to the world. Can you comment on how this collection speaks to the busyness and depersonalisation of our society?
Occasionally, characters figure out what they need to do is less, not more, but nobody is willing to interrupt their busy schedules to listen to them. Only simple commands can be comprehended, but with no context the simple commands end up leading to absurd ends. But how do I play with form and content? I then ask what kind of story should I write using these ideas. After I asked that question, I began imagining the pulsar slowed way down, almost like a rotating spotlight that briefly illuminates different parts of Knoxville. In print, I decided extremely detailed descriptions of each part of the city would be best.
That then reminded me of the way Alain Robbe-Grillet describes the banana plantation in Jealousy and the grounds of the resort in Last Year at Marienbad , so reserved and meticulous.tranrameluti.ga
Walk the Blue Fields
Consequently, I ended up with a Robbe-Grillet inspired science fiction story. Now, in the collection as a whole, I did require that all except one of the stories had to have some version of the Sunsphere and that all of the stories had to use concepts connected to energy, but otherwise the form came from the content of each piece. Meaning the stories in Sunsphere have thematic connections, but no stylistic or generic restrictions. SG: So, does your work as a professor in a university speak to your work as a writer?
And do you believe that all writing is creative academic and otherwise. Not to mention the fact that my students keep me updated either purposely or otherwise on what is going on in the world. And, yes, I do believe that all writing is creative. I wish we saw it that way more. Instead, we tend to approach critical papers like math problems and try to grade them accordingly.
I feel like creative writers understand that. I also think that and find, like you, that teaching is wonderful engagement with writing and reading in ways that feed into my own practice. Speaking of practice, what, if any, is your writing ritual? Not only am I an Indoorsman, I am also a night person. I do my best thinking and writing after the sun goes down.
So, I usually have a floor fan buzzing monotonously or one of those background noise generators going. The most difficult thing for me is to look at a blank page. But, yeah, at night, fan buzzing, pacing, note-taking, occasionally typing, and as the typing increases, the pacing decreases. I love how we all find our own spaces and paces.
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I wish you all the very best with your many publications and I will look out for your novel The Big Red Herring later this year. He holds a Ph. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas. This follows on from your poetry collection Inside the Wolf and your debut novel The Herbalist Penguin, which we talked about at our last Writers Chat republished at the end of this chat!
SG: I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in 14 th Century Kilkennie.
Can you tell us a little about your research — how you came to evoke —what feels so accurately to me — the land, the society, the politics, the divisions, the lives of the women and girls in this place, at this time? The quotations that start each chapter, are there to indicate the era without hitting the reader over the head with history. I wanted the unfolding story of the sorcery trial to feel immediate and vivid — so research wise, I was seeking out the micro-history — the textures, taste and atmosphere of that time, as much as the politics.
The research took a few years — I took a bee keeping course, studied effigies from the 14 th century, reading archaeological reports, researched food, wolves, Brehon law, common law, the ancient custom rolls, translations of ancient manuscripts and spent a lot of time in Kilkenny itself. SG: Such solid research, Niamh. Following on from this, the city of Kilkenny and its surrounds are drawn out beautifully in Her Kind. Just like Hightown and Irishtown, the cathedral itself was behind walls. Kilkennie, it seemed, was a riddle of walls, a stone honeycomb.
We climbed steps to yet another archway and entered the grounds. Its door was set off the ground, with no stairs or ladder to reach it. The cathedral huddled behind it, like a giant child. I walked towards the church, taking in the coloured-glass windows and enormous oak door. Heads were carved above it, watchful monkish faces, peering down.
You also help place the reader right in-situ through snappy dialogue. The shambles was rowdy with pigs, sheep and chickens, penned or tethered. A pup lapped a pool of blood. Shit spilt from the haunches of frightened beasts. The air was full of flies and feathers. He was a winky smiler. Helene elbowed me and grinned.
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We came then to a wide road where houses stood shoulder to shoulder. Shutters were propped like tables beneath each window, laden with bolts of cloth, medicines and bright spices. It strikes me that you might have enjoyed re-visiting Kilkenny and perhaps took many a stroll through the city to help you?
I spent a lot of time in Kilkenny, especially during the first three years of writing the book. I walked the city, following in the footsteps of my characters as I wrote their scenes.
It was he who instigated the trial against Alice for Sorcery. Her hands are held in old style prayer position, palm facing outwards rather than palms together. When I placed my palms over her stone ones, I felt a strange sensation, close to the one that Petronelle describes in Her Kind , that of an old truth pushing back — that day the character of Agnes the anchoress came to life. SG: Oh how wonderfully eerie.
The picture of your palms over her stone ones made the hair on my arms stand on edge! I was particularly taken by the portrayal of the inequality based on gender, language, looks, and, of course, wealth. Did our faces tell on us, too? What a last line! Can you talk a little about this mother-daughter relationship coupled with the power of speech — what people say, or do not say, and the role of the act of naming and re-naming in Her Kind.
I enjoyed writing the soothsayer Lithgen most of all, probably because she predates contemporary assumptions about motherhood. She does not follow her daughter Petronelle when she is driven from Flemingstown. She does not even consider doing so. Lithgen however, is herself, first and foremost.
It is she who recognises that Basilia uses silence as a weapon. Basilia who becomes mute after a trauma, soon realises she might not even want to start speaking again. It becomes a way of punishing her mother. She has very little leverage, so withholding her voice becomes a sort of power. Gaels were not welcome in Hightown, which was also known as Englishtown. Claire Keegan lives in County Wexford, Ireland. Find out more about our upcoming events with Simon Armitage, Hanif Kureishi, Lavinia Greenlaw and other leading literary voices.
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Already a Member? Sign in here. Walk the Blue Fields. Claire Keegan. Read more. Claire Keegan Claire Keegan was born in and grew up on a farm in Wicklow. Related Articles. Books by this Author Foster Claire Keegan.
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