Author Archives: Mary Morrissy

Colum McCann to read at UCC

The distinguished Irish writer Colum McCann will read at UCC in the first event of the Department of English’s 2020 Reading Series.

McCann, who was born in Dublin, is the author of seven novels, including Transatlantic and Let the Great World Spin, and three collections of stories. His international honours include a National Book Award, the International Dublin Literary Award (formerly IMPAC) and a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government.  He is a member of Aosdána and the American Academy of Arts.

His fiction has been published in over 40 languages.  He lives in New York and teaches on the MFA programme in Hunter College, New York.  His new novel, Apeirogon, will be published in February.   

The reading takes place on Tuesday, January 28, West Wing 5 @6.30pm.  Admission is free and all are welcome.


UCC’s first Choctaw scholar

Jessica Militante is the first recipient of a Choctaw Ireland Scholarship, created to commemorate the historic connection between the Choctaw and Irish people created during the Great Famine.  Here she writes about her Choctaw – and Cork – roots.

When I think of my Choctaw ancestors, the first word that comes to mind is resilient. My people are the embodiment of the word. In 1831, the Choctaw people were forcibly removed from their land in the southeast of the United States due to President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act.

The Choctaws were the first nation to endure the march, which began in an exceptionally harsh winter and continued for several months, for over a thousand miles, to what is now Oklahoma. The unfathomable conditions, lack of resources, and the widespread of disease during the Trail of Tears lead to thousands of Choctaws’ deaths. Yet the Choctaw people did not allow this incomprehensible trauma to destroy them. They persevered.  

Resilient is also a word that I associate with my Irish ancestors. The people of Cork endured the catastrophic event of the Great Famine a few years later, between 1845 and 1852. The scarcity of food was extreme, and the residents of Cork were starving and suffering from famine-related diseases. They were hungry and scared, and yet they too persevered.

These two resilient nations of my ancestry came together in the most remarkable way. In 1847, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma heard of the great hardship the people of Cork were facing and felt compelled to assist them. They raised $170, today’s equivalent of over $5,000, to aid the city of Cork in their time of need. The Choctaws gifted this money to Cork not from a position of wealth but from one of empathy. Having just lived through their own unimaginable tragedy, they identified with the suffering happening in Cork and, out of pure generosity and love for humankind, wanted to help. 

This immeasurable act of humanity has never been forgotten by the people of Cork. It is the reason that there is a gorgeous sculpture of nine, twenty-feet, stainless steel eagle feathers in the town of Midleton. It is also the reason that I am able to study at University College Cork.

I am the first recipient of the Choctaw Ireland Scholarship, a scholarship created to commemorate the beautiful connection between the Choctaw and Irish people. Ireland is showing that same generosity and love for the Choctaw nation with this scholarship which is allowing me to study for my master’s in Creative Writing here at UCC.

The second term of my one-year master’s programme starts this week, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my past five months in Cork. Last semester, I had the pleasure of having afternoon tea with UCC’s president, Dr Patrick O’Shea, along with the recipient of the George Mitchell Scholarship, Minhal Ahmed.  We spoke about the motivation behind the Choctaw scholarship, fun places to visit around Cork, and, of course, the weather! Having been born in and lived the majority of my life in California, Irish weather has certainly been an adjustment.

My five roommates are all from various places in Ireland which has made it so easy to learn more about Irish culture. Between them and my Cork classmates, it’s clear to see that generosity and human kindness is still very much alive in Ireland. 

I have been to visit the Kindred Spirits sculpture in Midleton twice now, once with my mom and once with a fellow Choctaw student, Chayla Rowley, who is studying in Dublin as a Fulbright scholar. Each time that I go, I stand in the middle of the circle, my Choctaw flag wrapped around my shoulders as the eagle feathers stretch towards the sky around me and I am overwhelmed by the strength and love I feel.

Further developing my creative writing at UCC is helping me toward achieving my goal of publishing a young adult novel. Throughout my own childhood and adolescence, I strongly connected with the trials and triumphs of the characters I read about which I feel played a vital role in my desire to become a writer. I want to provide other young adults with the same joy of representation in the novels they read and hope to inspire a similar desire to share stories as the novels I read did in me.  

I have yet to decide where I plan to live after graduating from UCC. In addition to California, I have previously lived in England and Japan, but Cork has been as welcoming as if I had lived here my whole life. All the possibilities are quite exciting, and I look forward to what my future holds for me.

I am so honoured to receive this opportunity and proud of both my Choctaw and Irish ancestors for their immeasurable acts of resilience and generosity. Such acts are so rare, and I am thrilled to help in some small way to keep this connection strong.    

Jessica Militante with UCC president, Dr Patrick O Shea, and Minhal Ahmed, recipient of the George Mitchell scholarship for 2019/20.


No jackets required

Coats hanging on the Ha’penny Bridge Dublin today. Photo:

Coats left for the homeless last week on Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin, were later removed by Dublin City Council for causing ‘congestion’.  Here is MA in Creative Writing graduand, poet Molly Twomey’s timely response, featured on Broadsheet – 

Zip It

We ask you to kindly halt
leaving your parkas and jackets
to warm the homeless

for we cannot have tourists
distracted from their whiskey
lattes and Aran jumpers.

They’ll stop taking selfies,
we’ll have nothing left
to post on Lovin’ Dublin.

We have given your coats
to Oxfam for students
to buy, resell, repay their loans.

Your woollen hats and mittens
are a real congestion issue.
People are bumping

into each other like scabies
on a child’s elbow.
If they really want a home,

they’d apply for the HAP
scheme on their iPhones.
Look, we can’t build more shelters

or estates, we just gave 23 million
to a rafting course; kayaking,
water polo. We don’t mind

stags and hens pissing
down Camden’s Place, snorting
coke off Molly Malone’s tits.

At least they’re not setting up
tents like whack-a-moles
outside the church,

making it hard to stomach
our tuna melts. Feeling guilt
when we tuck in

the bathed skin of our children
under plastic moons
and glow in the dark stars.

Molly Twomey

Fair Day for Laura!

Congratulations to our newly conferred doctor in creative writing, Laura McKenna, who has just been announced as one of twelve finalists in the Irish Writers Centre Novel (IWC) Fair  2020.  (

This year’s winners were selected by author-judges Christine Dwyer-HickeyNiamh Boyce and Kevin Curran. The finalists will have the opportunity to pitch their novels directly to some of the top names in publishing across Ireland and the UK at an event in the IWC in February.

Laura’s submission to the Fair is her doctoral  novel, Words to Shape my Name.  An historical novel, it’s based on the life of Tony Small, an escaped slave who journeyed to the heart of revolutionary Ireland in the late 18th century as the manservant of Lord Edward Fitzgerald.

The novel has already been long-listed for the Bath Novel Award 2019, and an article drawn from the critical research portion of Laura’s thesis has been accepted for publication in History Ireland in 2020.

Now in its ninth year, the Novel Fair has resulted in 20 success stories, giving aspiring writers the chance to kick-start their literary career.  Last year, five of the 12 finalists secured publishing deals. Previous Novel Fair winners include Catriona Lally who was recently awarded the prestigious Lannan Literary Prize worth $100,000.



Strange tales from places in the mind

The readers in the final School of English Reading of 2019, Sara Maitland and Danny Denton, transported the audience to strange places, writes MA student Debra Fotheringham-Simpson 

The physical location for Tuesday evening’s reading with writers Sara Maitland (pictured above), this year’s Frank O’Connor International Short Story Fellow, and Danny Denton (Arts Council/UCC Writer-in-Residence) was ostensibly in the Boole Library’s Creative Zone on UCC campus on an absolutely lashing November night.

But audience members found themselves conveyed to much more interesting and harrowing climes: the top of a tower in an old growth forest, on the phone lines of a Cork radio station, in the back of a car with a disembodied head, and trapped amidst unspeakable violence and death inside a London theatre.

Danny Denton  opened the evening with an excerpt from a work-in-progress. Denton’s 2018 novel, The Earlie King & The Kid In Yellow, was published by Granta Books and nominated for Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. He has widely published in The Irish Times, Southword, The Guardian and The Stinging Fly, where he now serves as literary editor. Denton is a Cork local, originally from Passage West.

Denton’s excerpt carried us through a mesmerizing dreamlike sequence of narrative voices via phone calls placed to the radio talk show of one Cork DJ, Tony Cooney. Denton ended the passage with the voice of a female caller, as she recounted a near-death experience at a London theatre when shooters storm the auditorium and gun down audience members. Denton’s description of the “gentle murmur” of the chorus of vibrating phones, as the loved ones of the dead and dying attempted to get in touch, was particularly haunting.

This year’s Frank O’Connor Fellow, Sara Maitland,  is the author of six novels and several collections of short stories. Her first novel Daughter of Jerusalem won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1979. Her most recent collection, Mosswitch and Other Stories, was published in 2013 by Comma Press. She currently resides in a home she built on the Scottish moors above Stranraer near Galloway.

Maitland read an audience-requested story from her 2012 collection, Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of our Forests and Fairytales (Granta). Her take on Rapunzel is told from a first-person viewpoint of the sorceress who purchases Rapunzel from her parents for a handful of salad greens. Maitland, eyes half-lidded and head held aloft almost as if reciting from memory, shared with us her lovingly crafted tale of avarice, stolen love, and impulsive and violent revenge.

If there was a unifying theme in the Tuesday’s readings, it was the importance of place, the setting that informs character motivation and action, in the works of the two writers. In the Question and Answer session after the reading, moderator Mary Morrissy, Associate Director of Creative Writing, asked the two writers to talk about the importance of place in their own work. Denton, after some thought, recounted his fascination with the theory of non-place posited by French anthropologist, Marc Augé.

In our modern existence we spend most of our time in-between places, in spaces like airports, bus terminals, and virtual spaces rather than in what Denton called the “twig snapping and crackling, windy world”.  Augé’s theory of “non-place” made him more conscious of wanting to create a world in his own work that you could “live and breathe in”.

Maitland, who has a preference for isolated places, deserts and moors, had a different response: “As we become more mobile, long-traveling, more distant, place becomes the new mystery that engages the imagination because you can go any place.”







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.