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The Power of Language


Tess Gallagher and Melatu Uche

Tess Gallagher pictured with Melatu Uche Okorie at the opening of the 2018 Iron Mountain Literature Festival.

Migration, displacement, farming, forestry and the power of language in translation were themes at the heart of the 2018 Iron Mountain Literature Festival in Co. Leitrim which featured the 2018 Dublin Literary prize winner Mike McCormack (Solar Bones), renowned U.S. poet Tess Gallagher, the Irish language publishing sensation Darach Ó Séaghdha, ‘The Cow Book’ author John Connell, acclaimed New York writer Kathleen Hill, Enniskillen-born actor and novelist Ciaran McMenamin and Irish-Nigerian author Melatu Uche Okorie.  A new performance piece ‘Open Room’ with composer and fiddle player Danny Diamond, dancer Edwina Guckian and writer Vincent Woods was first staged at the Dock Arts Centre as part of the weekend festival.

The 220th anniversary of the 1798 Rebellion (The Year of Liberty) and its particular Leitrim connections in history and literature were be explored by writer and historian Thomas Pakenham, who will also discussed the sometimes contentious Leitrim issue of trees and afforestation. Enniskillen-born actor and novelist Ciaran McMenamin  (‘Silent Witness’, ‘David Copperfield’) read from his novel ‘Skintown’ which has been compared to Irvine Welsh’s ‘Trainspotting’; and writer and journalist Susan McKay launched ‘Borderlines’, by Henry Glassie and Vincent Woods. The writer, journalist and historian Maurice Walsh read from his book ‘Bitter Freedom: Ireland in a Revolutionary World 1918-1923’ and with panelists Carole Coleman, Bryan Dobson and Susan McKay discussed journalism, truth and ethics in the era of Donald Trump.

The festival reading by Kathleen Hill marked something of a homecoming for the New York author, whose great grandmother emigrated to the U.S. from Hillstreet, near Carrick-on-Shannon shortly after the Great Famine. Kathleen has written about this family history and the deep bonds and painful separations of Irish-American experience in her novel ‘Who Occupies This House’. Another of her novels ‘Still Waters in Niger’ considers links between famine experience in West Africa and Ireland. Kathleen’s most recent book ‘She Read to Us in the Late Afternoons:  A life in Novels’  has been praised by Colm Tóibín as ‘a multi-faceted gem of a book’, and by the Paris Review as ‘spellbinding…Hill writes with great elegance, clarity and soul.’

Kathleen read from her work at the Dock Arts Centre on Friday October 5th with acclaimed American poet Tess Gallagher. Widely acknowledged as one of America’s leading contemporary poets, with collections such as ‘Moon Crossing Bridge’ and ‘Dear Ghosts’ praised for their clarity and originality, Tess Gallagher has also published three collections of short stories, a form she was inspired to take up after her marriage to Raymond Carver. Tess is a part-time resident of County Sligo and with her companion, the late Josie Gray she published ‘Barnacle Soup and Other Stories from the West of Ireland. Tess Gallagher is a powerful reader of her own work and this is a rare opportunity to hear one of the finest English language contemporary poets.

Weekend music featured Seamie O’Dowd, and Mohill singer Alan Woods and a whole host of musicians at the Iron Mountain Session in Mulvey's Bar, Ballinglera on Sunday 7th.

The Iron Mountain Literature Festival was established in 2016 and has been described by American writer Annie Proulx as “one of the most interesting and varied literary festivals I have seen... every minute was filled with memorable and engaging people - a genuinely remarkable literary experience.”  


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