Annemarie Ní Churreáin is a poet from Donegal. Her publications include Bloodroot (Doire Press, 2017) and Town (The Salvage Press, 2018). Her new collection will be published by The Gallery Press in Autumn 2021.

She recently unveiled A Blessing Of The Boats By The Village Mothers, a new video collaboration with artist Laura Sheeran and curator Dani Gill for The Lighthouse Project.

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We asked Annemarie for her choice cultural picks...

FILM

I’m never not amazed by the poetic sensitivity of filmmaker Pat Collins. Among his films you’ll find gorgeous meditations on Irish landscape and community, and a mesmerizing documentary titled Song of Granite which explores the life of sean-nós singer Joe Heaney who left Connemara and rose to fame during the American folk music revival of the 1960’s. It’s a magical film about song, place, roots and Irish identity. I was spellbound by the long-held camera shots. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Gaelic culture.

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MUSIC

A welcome gift of last year was the launch of The Irish National Opera’s 20 Shots of Opera. Conceived, composed, recorded and filmed in just six months, the programme features a glittering line-up of artists who collaborated on twenty mini-operas. Included in the programme is a stylish piece titled Verballing by composer David Coonan and writer Dylan Coburn Gray. The full 20 Shots are now available to access online.

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Also, I’ve been very excited to spent time with the much-awaited, haunting eight-track album The Black Hill by singer/composer Belinda Quirke.

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BOOK

Two special, landmark books launched recently that celebrate some of the best voices in Irish literature include Look! It’s a Woman Writer!: Irish Literary Feminisms, 1970-2020 (Arlen House) and A History of Irish Women’s Poetry (Cambridge University Press). And, if you’re looking for a new stand-out poetry collection that is guaranteed to thrill, I urge you to read Victoria Kennefick’s daring debut titled Eat or We Both Starve (Carcanet Press).

THEATRE

In my own work I'm often obsessed with the theme of family rupture, particularly ruptures to the mother-child relationship. It's a concern that runs deep in Irish history and culture. Naturally, I'm a big fan of award-winning playwright Marina Carr, and of her exploration of Greek mythology and of women's voices. Of her own play In The Bog of Cats, she has said "The rage in women is terrifying. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. It comes out of being said no to just one time too many, where you should have been said yes to, if the world was fair. How wonderful to be able to burn down the whole world. Even if it is only a stage. Revenge." I'm looking forward to the next Marina Carr play, whenever that is!

Marina Carr

TV

Does the sports channel count? Since reading Joyce Carol Oates’ On Boxing, my strange fascination with the sport has only deepened. I’ll be tuning in on 4 September to watch Katie Taylor defend her five world lightweight belts against IBF mandatory challenger Jennifer Han. If you’re a fan, then you’ll already have watched Ross Whitaker’s fine documentary Katie.

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GIG

The last gig I was due to attend before Covid wiped out my diary was one by Cursed Murphy Versus the Resistance, a six-piece ensemble who describe themselves as a "mutant ninja spoken word punk rock’n’roll band" and who specialize in a wild mash-up of punk poetry, cinematic guitar soundscapes and drums! I hope to catch them live very soon. In the meantime, I’m all booked for the now sold-out Pillow Queens gig in Cork this December.

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ARTNew Considerations of Familiar Settings is a newly opened exhibition in the elegant setting of Newbridge House, Dublin. Curated by Marysia Wieckiewicz-Carroll, it brings together 11 women & gender-minority artists whose practices explore complex personal, historical and cultural narratives through sculpture, painting, film and installation work. For this exhibition, Wieckiewicz-Carr found inspiration in the influence of Lady Betty Cobbe who, in her role as the woman of the house in the 18th Century, concentrated on collecting and commissioning mainly Irish artisans and makers. The resulting show is spectacular and one that you’ll want to savour slowly. It features the work of Niamh McCann, Niamh O'Malley, Katie Watchorn, Ella de Burca, Eithne Jordan, Barbara Knezevic, Helen O'Leary, Liliane Puthod, Alice Rekab with Louise Meade & Emma Wolf Haugh. It runs until 19th September - more info here.

RADIO

One of the great pleasure of literature is, I think, the poem or story sung aloud. The RTÉ Poetry Programme is a cherished podcast in the writing community and beyond. Now presented by the inimitable Olivia O’ Leary, back episodes can be found here.

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Other richly curated radio spaces, where you can hear literature read and discussed, include Unlaunched Books and Books For Breakfast.

TECH

The 2021 Earagail Arts Festival featured a dazzling and imaginative arts programme with a strong online component. At the Inch Wildfowl Reserve artist Mark Cullen produced three augmented reality animations for No Nations, No Borders (a literary event featuring newly commissioned work by myself, Abby Oliveira and Kerri Ní Dochartaigh). Cullen was also engaged to develop an app for use with these new texts and to enhance the Inch Wildfowl nature-walk experience. More about the project and app here.

THE NEXT BIG THING...

I’m impatiently awaiting the premiere of Elsewhere, a new opera by Irish composer Michael Gallen which is loosely based on the story of the 1919 Monaghan asylum Soviet. It’s a tantalising and mysterious reimagining of institutional history, and a timely exploration of the themes of violence, community, autonomy and care. It’s a co-production by Straymaker (led by Michael Gallen), the French ensemble Miroirs Étendus and the Abbey Theatre. As a librettist on the project, I’ve had an up-front seat to watch the production take shape and I’ve no doubt that Straymaker - and whatever the company creates into the future - is the next big thing! Elsewhere is due to open at the Abbey Theatre in November 2021.

Michael Gallen