International Women’s March Fortnight: 17th March, ‘Famine Village, Achill Island’ by Mairi Murphy

Today, we return to poetry with the first of three poems by Mairi Murphy, dealing with the tragic desertion of a village on the Achill Island during the Irish famine of 1845.

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Mairi Murphy by Kath Warren, courtesy of the Scottish Writers’ Centre

‘Famine Village, Achill Island’ by Mairi Murphy

Slievemore black, black against the sky

swallowing light

 

scattered on the mountainside my

children scramble goats among sheep

 

unmortared stones pile gable ends

cottaged along a mossy track

 

plainstone hearths and shelving empty

unwelcome at the door, this gorta mor

 

brings no birthing on the kitchen table,

sings no dancing on the hard earth floor

 

in Westernmost graveyard, Mulligans

cling to the hill: now I know

 

how deep a hungered migration

pierces the heart’s core

 


Mairi Murphy graduated last autumn from Glasgow University with a Masters in Creative Writing. Whilst there she was awarded the 2016 Alistair Buchan Prize for poetry for which two of her poems were also shortlisted. Recently her poems have been published in ‘Shetland Create’, ‘From Glasgow to Saturn’ and ‘Crooked Holster (an anthology of crime). She is the editor of ‘Glasgow Women Poets’ published by Four-em Press in 2016, of which she is the co-founder.

 

February Book Club: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Americanah, 4th Estate Edition cover

We look forward to seeing you on Monday for our book club, where we’ll be discussing Adichie’s 2013 novel Americanah. Whether you’re a veteran of our launch, book club, and modernisms workshop, or if February’s book club will be the first time you’ve come to one of the events in the Transatlantic Literary Women Series, you’re very welcome! Look forward to seeing you there.

We’ll be meeting at 5.15 on Monday in the same venue as January’s book club – in room 203, on the first floor of 4 University Gardens. I know some of you will be coming straight from work (me too, after seminars on Zelda Fitzgerald and Alice James – incidentally, two other unheralded transatlantic literary women!), so we’ll provide refreshments and rustle up a few snacks. As always, we want the tone to be relaxed, informal, friendly – and fun.

The janitors do their rounds and lock the outside doors shortly after 5.15, so if you’re a bit late, don’t worry: ring the bell and we’ll come and let you in. We’ll also come down to the front door regularly in the first half hour to make sure no-one’s been left stranded.

You may have seen that votes have been cast for our third book club meeting on Monday 20 March and that the winner was Nella Larsen’s novel Passing. We’ve ordered copies from the campus bookstore. If they arrive by Monday, we’ll bring them with us to the book club to circulate (and bonus: the edition has BOTH of Larsen’s fabulous Harlem Renaissance novels – Passing and Quicksand.) If not, we’ll let everyone know when and how they can collect the free copies from the book shop. Either way, we’ll leave a few copies with the book shop for anyone unable to attend Monday’s club.

If you are unable to join us, or would like to share your impressions on Americanah, feel free to do so on the page of the event, on Twitter, or just contact us at transatlantic.women@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Look forward to seeing you soon. Happy reading!

All best- Laura

Ps: Today is the last day to send your submissions for our transatlantic student writing showcase! Please send submissions of no more than 1,500 words of prose or 3 poems (maximum reading time 5-7 minutes) to: info@scottishwriterscentre.org.uk, with Transatlantic Literary Women Series as the subject title. Please also include a brief bio.

Image: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20939933-americanah

February Book Club: Decision Time

We’re looking forward to seeing you for our first book club meeting on Monday 30 January at 5.15 in room 203, 4 University Gardens to discuss Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country (1913). Please come and share your thoughts in a friendly, sociable group—and share a glass of wine or soft drink and nibbles. As always, everyone is welcome!

With such large numbers at our launch, we have booked an extra room in 4 University Gardens, so that we can have two groups if necessary and we will of course all join together at the beginning and the end for chat and refreshments. We’re looking forward to seeing you!

The TLW team chose the first text to kick things off, but future selections are all yours! So, now we need YOU to tell us which book we will all be reading for our second book club meeting, scheduled for Monday 20 February. Make sure your voice is heard! Thank you for the great feedback on the launch and the terrific book club suggestions for future meetings. We have taken three suggestions from the feedback forms for the shortlist for the Feb. book club. We will carry all suggestions forward, so if yours isn’t on the shortlist this time, it may well be on subsequent lists – and do please keep your suggestions coming via Twitter, Facebook or email.

Below are some information on February’s shortlist. How will this work? Louisa will be setting up Twitter and Facebook polls. If you’re not on Twitter you can email us instead: transatlantic.women@gmail.com. If you’re on none of those, then I am deeply envious and please just let us know in person.

So that we can make arrangements and order free copies of the book selected, we need you to cast your vote by Friday 27 January. We look forward to reading and discussing the book with the most votes!

Choice One: Nella Larsen, Quicksand

A writer of the Harlem Renaissance, Nella Larsen published just two novels, and a handful of short stories. Quicksand, written in 1928, is her first novel, introducing us to Helga Crane, a mixed race woman caught between fulfilling her desires and gaining respectability. Critically acclaimed, Larsen’s work speaks powerfully of the contradictions and restrictions experienced by black women. She has been described as a trailblazer in writing about the conflicts of sexuality, race and the secret suffering of women in the early twentieth century. Alice Walker calls Larsen’s work “Absolutely absorbing, fascinating and indispensable”:

“Somewhere, within her, in a deep recess, crouched discontent. She began to lose confidence in the fullness of her life, the glow began to fade from her conception of it. As the days multiplied, her need of something, something vaguely familiar, but which she could not put a name to and hold for definite examination, became almost intolerable. She went through moments of overwhelming anguish. She felt shut in, trapped.” Quicksand

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Nella Larsen (1891 – 1963)

Choice Two: Zelda Fitzgerald, Save Me the Waltz

Zelda Fitzgerald? Just the mad wife of the famous author of The Great Gatsby right? Wrong. A writer and painter in her own right, Zelda Fitzgerald published a single novel, Save Me the Waltz. When Scott Fitzgerald read a draft, he was incandescent, accusing his wife of plagiarising material from the novel on which he was working, Tender is the Night. Save Me the Waltz was extensively rewritten and published in 1932 to lukewarm reviews. Subsequently described as “one of the great literary curios of the twentieth century” and almost always read biographically as a portrait of the Fitzgeralds’ marriage, Save Me the Waltz is set in the United States and Europe and tells the story of Southern girl Alabama Beggs, her marriage to painter David Knight and her struggle to achieve her own artistic success:

“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.”

“But I warn you, I am only really myself when I’m somebody else whom I have endowed with these wonderful qualities from my imagination.”

Choice Three: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

Americanah (2013) is the award winning best seller by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who lived on both sides of the Atlantic: in Nigeria and the USA. The novel traces the story of Ifemelu, a young woman who moves from military occupied Lagos to the USA to study at University. The novel deals with contemporary politics, including 9/11, but it is also a ‘timeless’ (Wiki) love story. According to the Guardian, ‘Some novels tell a great story and others make you change the way you look at the world. Americanah does both.’

Here’s a quote from the book to give you a flavour of this particular offering: ‘her relationship with him was like being content in a house but always sitting by the window and looking out’. Americanah also offers a useful tip for reading groups!

‘If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.’

If you’ve already picked your favorite, you can cast your vote via Twitter, on our Facebook page, or just send us an email!

Saskia