Author Archives: Mary Morrissy

Resident Writers take the stage

Our final reading in the School of English Reading Series for 2019 will feature our two resident writers on campus – the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Fellow ( sponsored by the Munster Literature Centre and Cork City Council) Sara Maitland, and our Arts Council/UCC Writer-in-Residence Danny Denton.

The reading takes place on Tuesday, November 26, at the Creative Zone, Boole Library, @6.30pm

Sara Maitland, the fourth Frank O’Connor Fellow to teach at UCC, has been busy all semester with our MA in Creative Writing students and mentoring local writers.  She was born in London and attended Oxford University, where she read English. Her first novel Daughter of Jerusalem won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1979. Since then she has written five more novels and several collections of short stories, the most recent in 2013,  Mosswitch and Other Stories. 

In 2004 she moved to Galloway in Scotland and built herself a house on the moors above Stranraer where she now lives. Since then she has produced an eclectic range of non-fiction including  A Book of Silence, (Granta, 2008) part cultural history, part memoir about her own search for silence, Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of our Forests and Fairytales (Granta, 2012), and How to be Alone (Picador, 2014).

Danny Denton is a writer from Passage West, Co. Cork, with a BA in English & Philosophy from UCC, and an MA in Writing from The National University of Ireland, Galway. His first novel, The Earlie King & The Kid In Yellow, was published by Granta Books in 2018, and nominated for ‘Newcomer of the Year’ at the Irish Book Awards. Among other publications, his work has appeared in The Stinging Fly, Southword, Granta, Winter Papers, The Dublin Review, Tate Etc, The Guardian, The Irish Times, Architecture Ireland and The Big Issue. Since December 2018, he has been literary editor of The Stinging Fly literary journal. 


John Banville signs our book!

Our Visiting Professor of Creative Writing, John Banville, with the President of UCC, Dr Patrick O’Shea, signing the UCC Visitor’s Book on the occasion of his first public reading for the university on November 5.  The reading, which also featured local author Billy O’Callaghan, played to a packed house in WW5.  

Montague Poetry Fellow announced

We are delighted to announce that the American poet, Paula Bohince, has been appointed as the 2020 John Montague International Poetry Fellow.  Every year the Fellowship allows an international poet to reside in Cork for three months to focus on her / his writing, as well as enjoying and contributing to the literary life of the city.  

Paula Bohince is the author of three poetry collections, all from Sarabande: Swallows and Waves (January 2016), The Children (2012), and Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods (2008). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Granta, POETRY, The TLS, The Irish Times, Australian Book Review, and elsewhere.

She has taught at New York University, the New School, The Poetry School, and elsewhere. She lives in Pennsylvania.

Ms Bohince will be teaching on the MA in Creative Writing from January – April and will also be giving a reading at the University (date to be announced).  She will also be taking part in the Cork International Poetry Festival (March 25-28 2020) and will be mentoring two emerging poets over the course of her residency.  

The fellowship is an initiative of the Munster Literature Centre and funded by University College Cork. It’s named to honour the great Irish poet John Montague who lived in Cork and taught at UCC for many years. 

– Find out more about Bohince from her website
– Read her poems in POETRY and Granta

Eibhear Walshe at the Friary

Last Sunday, our Director of Creative Writing, Eibhear Walshe was the guest reader at Fiction at the Friary, run by Madeleine D’Arcy, a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing, and Danielle McLaughlin, who was last year’s Arts Council Writer in Residence in the Department of  English. Eibhear read from his new novel, The Trumpet Shall Sound.

Next Monday, November 4, will see him reading and discusssing the novel at the Cité Internationale Des Arts, Paris.

John Banville to read with Billy O’Callaghan

Our second event in the Department of English’s Reading Series features UCC’s Visiting Professor of Creative Writing, the internationally renowned Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville.  He will be reading with Cork author,Billy O’Callaghan

The reading takes place on Tuesday, November 5 @ 6.30pm at WW5.

John Banville is the author of over 20 works of fiction, including the 2005 Booker Prize-winning The Sea.  He has written travel literature, memoir, adaptations of the German dramatist, Heinrich Von Kleist and numerous screenplays.  This will be the first of two public readings he will give as part of his visiting professorship. 

Under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, he has published seven crime novels, the first three of which were adapted for a BBC TV series, Quirke, starring Gabriel Byrne. A new novel under the Benjamin Black moniker, The Secret Guests, will be published in January.

Banville has won numerous international awards including the Franz Kafka Prize, the Austrian State Prize for European Literature and the Prince of Asturias Award for Letters.  

Billy O’Callaghan was born in Cork in 1974, and  is the author of three short story collections: In ExileIn Too Deep  and The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind, which won  a Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award and was selected as Cork’s One City, One Book for 2017.

His first novel, The Dead House, was an Irish best-seller, and his second novel,  My Coney Island Baby, came out earlier this year.  A new short story collection, The Boatman,  is forthcoming in 2020, the title story of which was a finalist for the 2016 Costa Short Story Award.





Christie on song with her sonnets

Christie Kannapel (MA 2018/19) has been busy since she handed in her thesis in September and returned to her native Utah.  Her sonnets  “On the Edge” (the title poem of her thesis) and “The Fall”  were finalists and semi-finalists respectively for the prestigious Atlanta Review’s Dan Veacher Prize for Young Poets. (

Three of her poems, “Little on Shore”, “Tower Ravens” and “Echo”  have been included in Provo Utah’s Poemball Machine initiative. 

And upcoming in December, her sonnet “Almost” will be featured on the Irish-founded cultural website Headstuff in the “New Voices” poetry blog.

Christie was also one of two MA students whose fictional serial, “One Summer in Cork”, appeared in the Echo in July under the Summer Soap banner, an ongoing liaison between the MA’s Writing for Media module and Examiner publications.



Remembering John Rodgers

A memorial book of the late John Rodgers‘ writing, Deadlines,  – a title chosen by John himself  with typical mordant wit – will be launched at this year’s Rostrevor Literary Festival on November 23. 

John was a much admired student on the MA in Creative Writing 2017/18 when he was diagnosed with terminal  lung cancer.  Although he never got to complete his studies, he continued writing, as he had done for over 30 years.  One of the earliest poems in this volume dates back to October 1980; the latest was written on a hospital trolley during his final illness. 

Born in 1957, John worked as a chartered building surveyor for 30 years, many of them in London, before returning to Ireland to settle in Rostrevor, Co Down.  His son Fionbharr and his lifelong friend, Paddy McGuinness, have selected and edited the work that appears in  Deadlines, a publication that had been planned before John got sick.  

Deadlines will be available for purchase at the Rostrevor Literary Festival.


Hunting the ghost of Lafcadio Hearn

PhD student Robert Feeney travelled from Tokyo to Matsue in search of the subject of his creative writing thesis.  Greek-born but Irish-raised author Lafcadio Hearn (1850 – 1904), is largely overlooked in the West, but he is beloved in Japan as a cultural icon, particularly in Matsue, where his great-grandson still lives. 

Lafcadio Hearn. Photograph: Courtesy of the Miriam and Ira D Wallach collection at the The New York Public Library

The Willer Express has a generous seat pitch of ninety-one centimetres, adjustable small pillow for the back, and a head canopy for sleeping. Having had some previous experience of night bus travel in Japan, I am prepared for the rigours of the journey. Provisions have been purchased from the convini in advance, a snack combination featuring both sweet (vitamin C infused-lemon candy to strengthen my immune system against the recycled goblin breath of fellow travelers) and savoury (‘Cheeza’ crackers, foil packed for freshness).

I have re-acquainted myself with the rules of conduct, with specific regard to the sensory non-disturbance of other customers. The volume of my i-Pod has been turned down. I have thoroughly showered and deodorized. My clothing is dark and unexciting.

On the bus I am seated next to an old gentleman who obviously has not washed as thoroughly. This is a great start, as it positions me near the top of the moral high ground I so desperately want to claim. Disaster strikes, however, when, only one hour into the journey, I feel some hunger pangs and open my foil packet of biscuits. Instantly the bus is filled with the potent odours of artificial camembert and brie. It is akin to opening a Pandora’s Box of cheese, only at the bottom of the box there is no hope, only more cheese stench. My neighbour audibly sniffs the air, then with a dramatic snap pulls the seat canopy down over his head like a protective helmet. The air between us congeals and goes cold. The moral high ground crumbles beneath me like a mature cheddar. Oh well, I think, only eleven more hours of this to go before home.

At least I had the foresight to pack my snacks above my omiyagi, thus reducing my noise pollution during the trip. Omiyagi is Japanese for souvenir, an industry unto itself in these parts. In Western society, when a worker returns from holiday, they glumly resume their seat at the office and utter some choice sentences on how fantastic the holiday was, or how they wish they were still there instead of here. The Japanese worker, on the other hand, returns to the office and apologises to their colleagues for the extra workload they have had to endure because of their absence and, in recompense, gives everyone a small gift, a souvenir from their vacation destination.

While my trip was not necessarily a vacation, and my colleagues are not Japanese, in order to retain some standing on the moral high ground I purchased several boxes of Hoichi no Mimi Manju from the extensive Matsue souvenir shops. These are small pinkish confectionaries, made to resemble ears, but being a sort of sweet dumpling with a centre of fig jam. They were inspired by a folk-tale translation penned by my thesis subject, Lafcadio Hearn. In this story, a blind musician named Hoichi is plagued by ghostly fans. A helpful monk seeks to aid him by inscribing his entire body with Buddhist sutras, as a sort of protective shield. But he forgets the ears, and when the ghosts return that night, poor Hoichi loses another sense when they rip his ears from his head.

Professor Koizumi Bon, great-grandson of Lafcadio Hearn, whom I am travelling to Matsue to meet, told me that his students invented this sweet, or at least the idea for it. However, I imagine that when I try to explain all this to my colleagues (uncouth English teachers all), they will be underwhelmed by the cultural significance of the souvenir and my apology, and I will be too tired to press the point.

On my three-night journey to Matsue – on the north west coast of Japan’s main island –  I have attempted to sleep in an internet café, a laundry room and a bus. A night spent in an internet café is not as salacious as it first sounds. Many establishments in Japan cater for this exact purpose, offering large booths with lockable doors, shower rooms and price plans that cater for long stays. I paid roughly ten euro for the privilege, including an inexhaustible supply of coffee, toast and soft serve ice cream. But after standing on a crowded bullet train for four hours, the only thing I wanted was to be horizontal for whatever time remained before the seven am rapid service to Matsue station.

The space in my booth was not quite sufficient for a frame of six foot two, but I fell asleep as soon as my head hit my makeshift rucksack pillow. Unfortunately, I slept through the café manager’s knocking as he attempted to inform me that the shower room was free. When I awoke stiff-necked, there was no time to re-enter the queueing system for a wash. I resigned myself to the fact that for my first meeting with Professor Koizumi, I would be covered in the dust and sweat of work and travel. It was the middle of July, and the Japanese summer was ramping up to mid-thirties heat and one 100% humidity.

The world has largely forgotten Lafcadio Hearn, but Matsue, his first domicile in Japan, has not. Beyond the souvenir shops, his face (aquiline, owlish, in profile to hide a damaged eye) is prominent on several placards dotted about the city. I visited the bean-washing bridge, the subject of another gory Hearn tale concerning a samurai who unwisely taunts a demonic presence there and returns home to find the decapitated corpse of his infant son.

Motorised gondolas of tourists pass under the bridge at regular five-minute intervals. I stayed a while, to see if I could catch snippets of the tour guides’ speech as they passed, to confirm I was at the right bridge. But all I got, over and over, was their command to duck heads. I visited the old pharmacy shop where Hearn would buy beer, one of the Western luxuries (along with beefsteak and plum pudding) he still had a taste for. The shop was still intact and old-fashioned, but the interior was dark and I was not brave enough to push at the door.

The streets were strangely empty, ghostly. I visited Hearn’s old residence. While Professor Koizumi and I contemplated one of the gardens, we were disturbed by a ruckus in the trees above.

“What kind of birds are those?” I asked hopefully.

“Oh,” he said with a smile, “they are herons.”

After meeting the Professor, I went to the youth hostel to drop off my baggage. After some mangled discussion in Japanese, I realised my booking was for next week and, as this weekend was a long public holiday, there was no room at the inn. Or any inn in Matsue, it seemed. I wandered from place to place as a summer shower fell, even trying some of the hotels beyond my budget, until a man ran after me in the rain and told me he would rent me his laundry room, if I would have it.

The room was four tatami mats, with a small fan in the corner for ventilation and a view of a parking lot. It was ideal. I dozed for a few minutes and day-dreamed of a suited, bespectacled Hearn, walking the streets of Matsue for the first time, notebook in hand, beer buying, bridging, availing of the kindness of strangers and taking in the general comings and goings of the city. Only to flinch, remembering that he himself must leave tomorrow on the Willer Express night bus.

But there was another whole day to prepare for that.


Handel in America : The Trumpet Shall Sound!

Our Director of Creative Writing Eibhear Walshe was in the US last week, reading from his new novel on Handel in Dublin. 

Above, Eibhear, before his reading in Fordham College in New York with Keri Walsh and Cathal Pratt 

With Kevin Kenny and Miriam Nyhan at Glucksman House 


Reading from The Trumpet Shall Sound in Wellesley College in Boston. 

Shortlists and scholarships!

More publishing news from our just past students. 

Molly Twomey (MA 2018/19), pictured,  has been shortlisted  for the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Award 2019 with her poem “Atalanta”  while her classmate, Breda Joyce has also made the shortlist for the Words by Water prize for writing in the Irish language with her poem “Slán leis an Airc”. The Words by Water festival in  Kinsale is currently in full force – check it out here – .

Christina Hession, also from our graduating MA class, will appear in the Bangor Literary Journal’s Aspects Issue 10 this weekend with her poem “Dearg Doom”. 

Meanwhile, Fiona Murphy, BA in English graduand, topped off her achievements at last night’s UCC Undergraduate Awards – two prizes, one for an English essay, the other as top-ranked creative writing student – with a long-listing in the Aeon Magazine Short Story Award 2019 for a story she wrote during her third-year fiction workshop under the direction of Mary Morrissy.

Collecting her Eoin Murray Memorial Scholarship prize at the undergrad awards last night was current BA student and Quercus scholar  Rose Keating.  Runner-up for this year’s scholarship  was Molly Twomey, which is where we came in.