Tag Archives: Irish PEN Award

Eavan Boland 1944-2020

Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann is deeply saddened by the passing of Eavan Boland. One of Ireland’s greatest poets, Eavan had been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Contribution to Irish Literature.

She was due to receive this award on the 22nd March of this year, surrounded by her peers and admirers. We should have had the opportunity to celebrate her in person, to acknowledge her achievements both as a poet and fearless champion of women writers. But Covid19 intervened and the Award event had to be postponed. We planned that our Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann celebration would instead take place to coincide with Eavan’s forthcoming publication, The Historians, scheduled for September 2020. (WW Norton and Carcanet Press) Her untimely death is a source of deep sadness to us all and we offer our sincere condolences to her family, friends and colleagues around the world.

Eavan Boland was the recipient of numerous accolades throughout her long career, among them a Lannan Foundation Award, the PEN Award for creative non-fiction for A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet, the Corrington Medal for Literary Excellence and the Bucknell Medal of Distinction. She held honorary degrees from, among others, University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, and Strathclyde University Scotland. In 2016, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2017, she was elected an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy.

Those who knew Eavan Boland personally speak of a brilliant teacher, a rigorous one.

Eilís Ní Dhuibhne, playwright, short story writer and novelist, remembers the workshops that Eavan Boland facilitated in the mid-1980s. She remembers her as brave, outspoken, passionate. ‘She was also intelligent enough, confident enough, and articulate enough to promote the idea that women should write poetry and literature. In her own poetry, she was  revolutionary: she wrote about her domestic and maternal life and confirmed that feeding a baby, putting out milk bottles, living ‘in the suburbs’ could be the stuff of poetry.’

Lia Mills – novelist, short story writer, essayist –  remembers A Kind of Scar: The Woman Poet in a National Tradition. ‘One of the seminal LIP pamphlets published by Attic press in the 1980s [in which] Boland challenges some of the sacred cows of Irish poetry using her own experience as a lens. It was a daring, radical thing to write and it predates by a long shot the explosion of fine personal essay and memoir writing that Irish literature enjoys now.’ Lia Mills also recalls the way Eavan Boland ‘had a way of drilling deeper into the core of words and shifting our angle of perception. These shifts were not always comfortable, but they were effective. She had such a strong mind.’

Eavan Boland loved teaching. She believed that workshops ‘generated oxygen’ – literary oxygen. According to Eilís Ní Dhuibhne, Eavan loved to quote an anonymous workshop participant, a woman, who declared: ‘If they knew I wrote poetry people would think I didn’t wash my windows.’  In so many ways, Eavan Boland ‘was the champion of women in the home, of women who longed to be poets and writers, but were hemmed in by society. Locked down in domesticity.’

Trailblazing. Daring. Committed. Fearless. Eavan Boland was not afraid to excoriate the editors of Field Day in the late 1980s, those who ‘forgot’ to include so many Irish women in their Anthology of Irish writing. Eavan herself was included – but that did not stop her protesting angrily at the exclusion of her female peers.

Mary Robinson recently spoke of Eavan Boland, her close friend, as a very ‘practical’ poet, one who knew, even early on, how to use a computer. In contrast, Mary Robinson was, she said, the ‘dreamy lawyer’.

Liz McManus remembers, in particular, the poem Our Future Will Become the Past of Other Women, written by Eavan Boland to celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage in Ireland. Eavan read her poem at a special event at the UN, organised by the Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN, Geraldine Byrne Nason, MRIA. Liz McManus also recalls that ‘Eavan Boland’s workshops in the mid 1980s were the springboard for the formation of WEB, possibly the longest-lasting women’s writing group in Ireland.’

Maria McManus, a poet from the north of Ireland, expresses for all of us that which we have lost in Eavan Boland’s passing, and all that we have gained from her life among us and her work: ‘We will receive sustenance from the work of Eavan Boland for a long time yet to come. The ‘long tail’ of her work and the resultant gift to us, is that she shared the deep truths of ‘dailiness’ – an  unflinching intelligence of the relational, an acute eye on the tyranny of the insular and the colonial, and the richness of the every-day. We see ourselves more clearly, we are better people and we are more daring because of her.’

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam dílís.

Catherine Dunne, on behalf of the Board of Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann

Nominations Closed for Irish PEN Award 2010

Nominations have now closed for the Irish PEN Award. Thanks to all of you who took the time to nominate authors for the prestigious award to an author chosen by their peers, previous recipients of which include John B. Keane, Brian Friel, Edna O’Brien, William Trevor, John McGahern, Neil Jordan, Seamus Heaney, Jennifer Johnston, Maeve Binchy, Thomas Kilroy, Roddy Doyle and Brendan Kennelly. We are particularly gratified by the number of former recipients of the award who proposed nominations this year. The person chosen will be announced before Christmas and the award presented at the Irish PEN annual dinner early in 2011.

Spring Newsletter, 2010


Newsletter, Spring 2010


irishpen.com.  Tel:  087-966 0770 email: info@irishpen.com  

Irish PEN acknowledges the ongoing support of The Arts Council and Dublin City Council’s Arts Office.




When we emerged out of hibernation from the early January snow, it was great to have such a range of social events lined up.

January went out with a memorable bang, with the Annual Irish PEN dinner and presentation of The Irish PEN Award for Literature 2010 to Brendan Kennelly held on Friday 29that the Royal St George Yacht Club, Dun Laoghaire.   The magical tone of the evening was set by the glorious full moon, which bathed the harbour and moored yachts in a glorious light, and ever the poet, Brendan Kennelly commented on the beauty of the setting, as he made his way out from Trinity to join us. 

It wasn’t long before the room filled with well-wishers, colleagues and members, some of them old friends of Brendan’s.  To those of us privileged to be there, the note of sincerity in all the accolades was set when our Chair, Anne Le Marquand Hartigan, introduced Brendan and his achievements to the gathering in warm and affectionate terms.  Presenting the award, former TCD colleague and close friend, Senator David Norris was his usual effusive self and regaled us with tales of Brendan grading his essays, when the senator was an undergraduate and the poet his ‘prof’.  In his usual extraordinary and humble way, Brendan Kennelly expressed his delight at being honoured by Irish PENand then to everyone’s delight recited several poems from memory, some by Patrick Kavanagh, followed by lines of his own.  The hearty applause which ensued was prolonged and genuine and as several members commented, it was a ‘vintage’ evening, a privilege to share. 

See Photos on irishpen.com.

 In February,Our President, Brian Friel, saw his ‘Faith Healer’ back at the Gate and Edna O’Brien’s play ‘Haunted’ starring Brenda Blethyn, had a run at the Gaiety.  Friel fans won’t have long to wait until that theatre lifts the curtain on ‘Philadelphia Here I come’, directed by Dominic Dromgoole, which will run from March 9th – April 10th.

Down the road at the National Library, Kildare Street, novelist and elegant octogenarian, Jennifer Johnston co-launched the exhibition of the original Lifelines’ letters, to mark the 25th anniversary of the project.  The Library has purchased the collection and they make interesting reading.


‘Finding a Home for your Writing’ – our Associate Member night this year was held on February 11th   2010 in the United Arts Club.

Our expert panel included, Eoghan Corry, editor of Travel Extra and travel correspondent to the Pat Kenny Radio show, Aine Toner, editor of Woman’s Way, and Sue Leonard, freelance journalist and author.

An informative and interesting evening, this helped members, in very practical terms with regards to how to submit articles to both Eoghan and Aine.   From her experience as a journalist, Sue gave a realistic account from the other side of the submission process of how to find an idea, hone it, build business relationships and eventually get your pieces published.  The wide-ranging experience of our panellists made the road home for your writing seem that little bit straighter.


Observant members will have noticed that our website, irishpen.com, has undergone something of a facelift.  We are very keen to post information of interest to writers and members and keep it as live and up-to-date as possible.  Log on to see news of recent events.  Sincere thanks to Joe Armstrong for his work on the revamp.  The really sharp among you will have also noticed a changed email address.  The new address is: info@irishpen.com. Over the coming months, we hope to use this address exclusively.  For the purposes of database management, this is an impassioned plea to members to send us mail to our NEW address above, confirming their email, and postal addresses, marking the subject line ‘Full Member database’ or ‘Associate Member database’ as appropriate.  In this way, we hope to be able to communicate more effectively with you all.

Please remember to renew your membership as we depend on the support of our members.  Any outstanding memberships for 2010 may be paid by following the links on the website, irishpen.com.  

Full Membership: €40.00        Associate Membership: €30 .00

There is a PayPal facility available.




CONGRATULATIONS to Leland Bardwell on being the first recipient of

The Dede Korkut Literary Award’, from Turkish PEN for her collection of short stories ‘Different Kinds of Love’, translated into Turkish.


Sarah Webb’s ‘The Loving Kind’has recently been published by Pan & MacMillan (see irishpen.com.)  Marita Conlon-McKenna’s new book ‘Mother of the Bride’ about a big family Wedding was published on March 4th

‘City Pick’ Oxygen Books will feature Dublinlater this month with an introduction to the fifty writers, who bring Dublin to life by Orna Ross.  

Orna may also be found on The Creative Intelligence Blog. 


Patricia O’Reilly’s latest novel ‘A Type of Beauty, the story of Kathleen Newton (1854-1882)’ will be launched at Listowel Writers’ Week, 2010.

About the complications of love, it is set in Victorian era London, Agra and Paris.


Shelley Goodman’s extensive work ‘Volf Roitman: The Wizard of Madi’, a long illustrated biography of her late husband, Roitman, a novelist, playwright, cineaste and master sculptor, will be published by Red Swan Press in the USA and in Italian, by the University of Florence.



Dublin Book Festival: Over 40 free events, 100 writers and three days of fun for all the family, Dublin City Hall, March 6th– 8thwww.dublinbookfestival.com

Inkwell Workshop:  Writing for Children Workshop, facilitated by best-selling

authors Sarah Webb and Oisin McGann, March 20th, Fitzpatrick’s Castle Hotel, Killiney, Co Dublin.  9 – 4.30pm, includes lunch, writers’ tips information pack. €175.  For further information:  Contact Vanessa O’Loughlin at vol@esatclear.ie.

'I see you dancing, Brendan'

Words by Joe Armstrong, Photo by Caroline Brady

Senator David Norris, Anne Hartigan and Brendan Kennelly, recipient of the Irish PEN lifetime achievement award for literature

Senator David Norris, Anne Hartigan and Brendan Kennelly, recipient of the Irish PEN lifetime achievement award for literature

Brendan Kennelly is probably the best-loved figure in Irish public life, said Senator David Norris, speaking at the Irish PEN award ceremony on Friday 29th January 2010.  He described Kennelly as one of the world’s greatest teachers. In a funny and entertaining speech that had the captive audience at the Royal St George Yacht Club laugh loud and often, he revered Kennelly for imagining himself in poetic form inside the mind of Cromwell, his nation’s bitterest enemy, and Judas. To the appreciation of those gathered, he quoted from one of Brendan’s acclaimed poems ‘I See You Dancing, Father’ which ends: ‘Whatever happens or cannot happen/In the time I have to spare/I see you dancing, father.’

He thanked Brendan on behalf of Irish PEN for all that he has done to enrich our lives. ‘You have been my teacher, my mentor, my advisor. It is a great privilege to be here presenting this award, in this most distinguished company of your peers, your fellow artists. It is appropriate that you should receive this. You are a brilliant poet.’

‘I can’t say how honoured I am. It’s an amazing award,’ said Brendan Kennelly of the Irish PEN accolade. He peppered his softly lilted twenty-minute speech with several recitations of poetry in English and Irish. He recited poems from memory, such as Kavanagh’s ‘The Dawning of the Day’ first in Irish and then in English. He recounted a tale of Kavanagh asking someone for a large whiskey and then a fiver. He then asked for another large whiskey and another fiver. He continued in this vein, requesting whiskey and fivers until eventually the other man said No and Kavanagh, twinkle in eye, called him stingy. All who heard Brendan speak and recite felt honoured to be there, privileged to share the moment. It was like what a sacrament is meant to be: a recreation anew of eternal truths of humanity. The priest: Kennelly. The liturgy: the poetry.

Irish PEN Annual Award & Dinner

The Irish PEN Award for Contribution to Irish Literature 2009

It is with great pleasure that we announce that the winner of the 2009 Irish PEN Award for Contribution to Irish Literature is Brendan Kennelly.

The Award will be presented at The Irish Pen Annual Dinner on Friday 29th January 2010 at The Royal St George Yacht Club, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

Writer, broadcaster and Joyce expert, former TCD colleague Senator David Norris will make the presentation to Brendan.

Download, print and return the booking form to reserve your place.