Samantha Riley’s study abroad voyage takes her to the Cúirt International Literature Festival in Galway to watch and listen to 3 of Ireland’s most exciting fiction authors.
Short story writing in Ireland first became recognized when works like “The Dead” by James Joyce and “The Lonely Voice” by Frank O’Connor were published. Over time though, rather than finding a balance of emphasizing its current authors and the renowned ones of its past, Ireland has mainly done the latter. That was until recently, when a movement began to equalize the focus, occurring through the establishment of events like the Cúirt International Literature Festival, held in Galway. I recently attended the “Into the Void, Into Being, Into Feeling” exhibit at the Nun’s Island Theatre at the Galway Arts Center — and was in awe of all that I saw and heard.
The theatre was cloaked in midnight black fabric, closed off from the world, except for what was about to occur on the illuminated stage below. It was a subtle and plain backdrop for the colorful words of wisdom the three renowned writers were about to bestow upon the attendees. The air inside was thick with an artistic vibe steadily emanating from the honored guests and the aspirants seeking similar eminence. Suddenly, Rob Doyle, Sarah Maria Griffin and Thomas Morris entered and the whispers gradually dulled to a deafening silence.
The host raised thoughtful questions during a panel discussion that provided the attendees a glimpse into the mind of an author. From there, the 3 were given the opportunity to share an excerpt from their newest publication, exposing the book, an extension of themselves, to the elements.
Robert Doyle was the first to step onto the podium and the understated baritone of a man combined with the slight inflection of a native Welsh accent held the audience under his spell for the duration of the reading. His writing seemed to match his personality: a dry sense of humor, philosophical content, a scholarly vocabulary and (most notably), the talent to transform mere words into a world for a reader to become lost within.
Sarah Maria Griffin, on the other hand, had more a flair to her reading, fluctuating between the voice of formidable force and a gentle current. She used the intonations and stream-of-consciousness writing style to steadily build on the proceedings transpiring in the book, leaving the viewers entirely captivated. Concluding the readings was Thomas Morris, who did not possess the properness or drama as his predecessors, but rather shared his story as if reading to longtime friends. It was raw and successful.
Despite not sharing reading approaches, the books all did seem to contain a form of desperate energy. It is a reflection on the type of writing that is being done now in Ireland. Authors are penning honest works that show true human nature, works that are filled with emotions and do not always provide a happily-ever-after, much like life. Those works, the 3 authors included, share a commonality of themes about relationships, personal struggles, new experiences and most importantly, the dauntless undertaking of discovering the meaning of life.