Spring Newsletter

APRIL 2008

As we draw to the end of another year, we on the committee of Irish Pen would like to say a heartfelt thanks to all our members and associate members, who have supported the organization throughout the year. We would also like to thank our many guest-speakers, who have given of their time and talent for our monthly events. As usual, we have had many stimulating and enjoyable evenings, mostly extremely well attended, in the United Arts Club. And we will have more, before the year is out. So please keep attending!

Irish Pen is run by a voluntary committee. We are very lucky indeed to have the use of the United Arts Club, a lovely venue, full of charm and character (and with a bar!) in which to hold our meetings. But we have no secretariat and no office – the committee handles everything. For the Chairperson, in particular – Catherine Daly – Pen is a demanding commitment. We all owe Catherine a huge debt of gratitude for her sterling work during the past year. And thanks to all the committee members who have, in many different ways, kept Irish PEN going all year.

Irish PEN organizes a series of events which take place, usually on the first Thursday of every month, from September to May, in the United Arts Club. These events take the form of discussions about writing, advice sessions on publishing, readings, and interviews with celebrated writers. This year, for instance, we have had great evenings with Roddy Doyle and John Boyne, an evening on ‘how to get published’, a discussion on ‘Why Write in Irish’, among others. On 10th April we will have a panel discussion on the topic ‘What Readers Want’, with four exciting speakers. Our guest speaker at the AGM in May will be one of our most celebrated novelists, Colm Toibin.

Irish PEN in collaboration with sponsors AT CROSS also organizes the annual Irish Pen A T Cross Award for Irish Literature. This prestigious award is made to an Irish writer in recognition of a major contribution to Irish literature. It is presented at a gala dinner, held for the past several years in the Royal St George Yacht Club, Dun Laoghaire. This is an important prize and a popular event, which Irish literary life would be the poorer without.

Irish PEN has many other responsibilities. We are in liaison with International PEN, and participate occasionally in international projects – for instance, the PEN Poem Relay, about which you can read more in this Newsletter. We are also invited annually to nominate an Irish writer for consideration by the Swedish Academy (which awards of the Nobel Prize of Literature).

Our AGM is coming up in May. If you have a little time to spare, and are interested in helping PEN, please consider putting your name forward for the committee. Don’t take Irish PEN for granted. It is an active organization which has achieved a lot over the past few years – and it has been in existence since the 1920s when Lady Gregory founded the branch. Ireland still needs Irish PEN – indeed, it would be shameful if we did not have a branch of PEN in this country. But without active members and a dedicated committee, it can’t do much. Consider becoming involved, if only for a year or two! Don’t take it easy and let someone else do the work – believe us, we would all rather write our novels and poems than write newsletters, stuff envelopes, and organize campaigns and dinners. But somebody has to do it. It could be you!

The Pen Cross Award for 2008 was made to the playwright Thomas Kilroy. A special Irish PEN award, in recognition of his unique contribution to Irish literary life, was made to David Marcus. Thomas Kilroy and his wife, Julie, and David Marcus and his wife, Ita Daly, attended the dinner to receive their awards. The citations were made by Jennifer Johnston, for Thomas Kilroy, and William Wall, for David Marcus. Very special guests included Seamus and Marie Heaney, as well as Caroline Walsh and her husband James Ryan, Gerald and Dorothea Dawe, Ciaran Carty of the Sunday Tribune. Many PEN members attended event which is the highlight of the PEN year.
It received considerable publicity in the media.

FORTHCOMING EVENTS- click here for details

It is time to start thinking about the PEN CROSS award for 2009, which will be presented early in 2009.
We are now inviting nominations.

The PEN CROSS award is made to a writer of strong reputation in recognition of an outstanding contribution to Irish literature.
Previous winners have been: William Trevor, Seamus Heaney, Edna O’Brien, Jennifer Johston, Neil Jordan, Brian Friel, Maeve Binchy and Thomas Kilroy.
(So do not nominate one of them). All nominations will be very much appreciated and considered by the executive committee.
NB. This is a golden opportunity for you to express your admiration for an Irish writer. You won’t be asked for suggestions for the Booker Prize, or any of the other big literary prizes, but we are inviting you to tell us who you think should win the PEN CROSS award. Why not respond to the invitation? All it takes is some enjoyable musing, and a stamp (there will be a nomination form in your posted newsletter) or an email to irishpen@ireland.com.

As you know, this year the Olympic Games are to be held in Beijing, in China, a country which has a record of serious human rights abuses. The freedom of expression which Irish writers take for granted is not enjoyed by Chinese writers. In a project known as the Poem Relay, spearheaded by the Australian branch of PEN, PEN seeks to raise awareness about lack of freedom of expression in China in a uniquely PEN way – using poetry.
PEN centres around the world have translated one short poem, ‘June’ (Liuyue) by the Chinese journalist and poet Shi Tao, who has been imprisoned for ten years for a minor charge related to alleged release of ‘state secrets’.
This poem will be sent around the world, on a journey which parallels the journey of the Olympic torch, beginning on the 30th March, the day on which the Olympic torch was lit, and ending in Beijing in June, when the Games begin. New translations, in the various languages of the world, including many of its threatened minority languages, will be added as the poem makes its journey, virtually, from country to country. The translations can be viewed and the progress of the poem followed on this website:

Shi Tao’s poem has been translated to Irish for Irish PEN by Celia de Freine. We are most grateful to Celia for completing this beautiful translation at very short notice for us. Celia’s version of the Chinese poem will go online on the 6th April, as the contribution of our Irish branch of PEN to this project.

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