Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Junior Poetry Prize, 2017

Congratulations to Tania Stokes, winner of this year's Junior Poetry Prize. Here is her entry, and other good entries will be posted in coming days.

'Resonance' by Tania Stokes 

I balanced on the strings. 
Light as a tightrope walk: 
Tentative, timid.
The first sound crept

At the draw of the bow 
Like some small creature 
From the dark. 

I missed my mark.
The tone not true,
My arrow flew into 

Nothing. The music played 
Itself in my head. Pure, 
Featherweight. Nimble. 

I composed myself;
I could see it, crystalline, 

The filigree lines.
I fixed my aim.
No stray note would escape. 

I would catch it
And carve it to perfection. 

But I was mistaken
In my reflection.
A cello’s purpose
Is not to take away –
Music grows. Its source?
A spark. Music throws flames 

To the dark, illuminates hearts. 

I reached deep, my arrow
Steeped in power. The melody,
I let it fly and it soared high –
It felt alive. I dived
Into the rising tide, and once inside, 

I let it carry me to shore.
Music is more than perfection.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

William Trevor evening

As part of the College's Arts Week, on Thursday 23rd March we held an event to mark the life and writings of William Trevor, Old Columban.  The guest of honour was the novelist Joseph O'Connor (pictured), who talked about writing in general, and Trevor's writing in particular, after reading beautifully to the audience Trevor's great short story 'Another Christmas'.

This was preceded by a talk by Julian Girdham, Head of the English Department, on Trevor's connections with and writing about the College, which can be read here.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

William Trevor Remembered

Tonight in the Big Schoolroom at 8pm, as part of the College's annual Arts Week, there will be an event to remember the great Old Columban novelist, William Trevor.  The novelist Joseph O'Connor will read one of Trevor's short stories and talk about him, and the Head of the English Department, Julian Girdham, will give an account of Trevor's writings about schools and the College in particular.  The event is open to the public, and there is no charge for entry.

If you haven't been to the College before, here are directions.

Here is Mira Stout's great interview with Trevor in the Paris Review in 1989.

Below, a fascinating interview with William Trevor by Mike Murphy on RTE in 2000.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Reading for Pleasure

Kenny Pieper's Reading for Pleasure in the 'How to Teach' is well-worth reading by all English teachers.  It's a pleasure to read a book so rooted in true commitment. And here is Kenny in an engaging Pivotal Podcast (number 146).

Some jottings:

'I take the act of reading for granted': Kenny's emphasis on those for whom this is not true is just what all (especially experienced?) English teachers need to bear in mind: we have a version of 'the curse of knowledge'.

The notion of what Donalyn Miller calls 'aliteracy', "a generation of kids who can read perfectly well but choose not to" is indeed a real challenge.

Kenny gives 10 minutes at the start of (most of) his classes over to reading. Well worth considering.

Plenty of more good practical ideas: the 'interest inventory', bookmark formats, dialogue journals, book speed-dating and much more, with interesting comments on the balance between e-readers such as the Kindle, and paper books.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

100 Books... from the TES

On World Book Day, here's a list for secondary pupils, courtesy of the TES.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Remembering William Trevor

The most distinguished Old Columban writer, William Trevor, died in November 2016, aged 88. The College will celebrate his achievements in an event during Arts Week which is open to all-comers. We are delighted that the novelist Joseph O'Connor, who is also the Frank McCourt Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Limerick, will read from and comment on Trevor's work. There will also be a short talk by the Head of the English Department and Sub-Warden Julian Girdham on William Trevor's connections with and writings about St Columba's.

All are welcome to attend this event, in the Big Schoolroom on Thursday 23rd March at 8pm, and to join us for a glass of wine afterwards. There is no charge for entry.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tom McConville

At half-term our Librarian, Tom McConville, leaves the College, and the English Department has particular reason to thank him for all his support over the years. This morning at a reception in the Lower Argyle the Warden thanked Tom for all his work, the Sub-Warden, as a former Librarian, paid tribute to him, and Tom himself gave a characteristically witty and insightful thank you response.

We wish Tom all the best for the future. A good way to see some of his legacy is by checking out so many editions of the excellent Library magazine, 'The Submarine'.

Pictured: the Sub-Warden, Richard Brett (College Librarian), Tom McConville, and the Warden.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

SCC Book Club

The next choice for the pupils' Book Club is Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses, on Tuesday 7th March in the Library at 1.20pm. See Mrs Donnelly with any queries.

And on the topic of Book Clubs, the next choice is William Trevor's Reading Turgenev from Two Lives, for discussion on the evening of Tuesday 28th February (more here on William Trevor before long).

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Articles of the Week

This is an ongoing listing of links to the Articles of the Week used with our Leaving Certificate pupils, from September 2013 onwards.

The idea came from the American teacher and writer Kelly Gallagher, and it fits very well into the Leaving course, getting pupils used to reading interesting articles and thus helping them in both the comprehension and composition sections of their Paper 1, as well as expanding their knowledge base and vocabulary and providing interesting topics for discussion.

Click here for Gallagher's current articles, and read more about the theory behind the scheme in his excellent book Readicide: how schools are killing reading and what you can do about it. Pupils have to mark up the articles with annotations before class discussion.
  1. February 2017: 'Our roads are choked. We're on the verge of carmageddon' by George Monbiot, The Guardian, September 20th 2016 [environment, transport].
  2. January 2017: 'Girls believe brilliance is a male trait' by Nicola Davis, The Guardian, January 27th 2017.
  3. January 2017: 'What do teenagers want? Potted plant parents' by Lisa Damour, New York Times, December 14th 2016 [adolescence, parenting].
  4. November 2016: 'Trump makes it easy to vote for Her' by Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald, November 6th 2016 [politics, America].
  5. October 2016: 'How being alone may be the key to rest' by Claudia Hammond, BBC, September 27th 2016 [rest, reading, introversion].
  6. September 2016: 'Why Parents are Getting Angrier' by Nicola Skinner, The Guardian, September 3rd 2016 [parenting, psychology, childhood].
  7. September 2016: 'Burkini beach ban: must French Muslim women become invisible?' by Delphine Strauss, The Irish Times, August 22nd 2016 [culture, Islam, France].
  8. May 2016: 'How can Lidl sell jeans for £5.99?' by Gethin Chamberlain, The Guardian, March 13th 2016 [economics, retailing, manufacture].
  9. April 2016: 'Teaching men how to be emotionally honest' by Anrew Reiner, New York Times, April 4th 2016 [gender, adolescence, masculinity].
  10. February 2016: 'Then and now: how things have changed for teenage girls since the 1950s' by Clare Furniss, The Guardian, January 29th 2016 [teenagers, gender, sexism].
  11. January 2016: 'Teenagers risk being defined for life by their social media posts' by Karlin Lilllington, Irish Times, January 14th 2016 [social media, teenagers, identity].
  12. January 2016: 'Welcome to the Anthropocene, a new geological era for the world', The Week, January 8th 2016 [geology, climate change, environment].
  13. November 2015: 'Birth Order Determines ... Almost Nothing' by Jeanne Safer, [psychology, parenting, childhood].
  14. November 2015: 'How psychopaths can save your life' by Kevin Dutton, The Observer [psychology].
  15. November 2015: '10 benefits of reading: why you should read every day' by Lana Winter-Hebert, [reading, entertainment, education].
  16. October 2015: 'How much can you really learn while you're asleep?' by Jordan Gaines Lewis, The Guardian, October 6th 2015 [neuroscience, learning, adolescence].
  17. September 2015: 'Fifth of secondary school pupils wake almost every night to use social media' by Sally Weale, The Guardian, September 15th 2015 [social media, learning, teenagers].

Monday, February 06, 2017

Junior Poetry Prize, 2017

The theme for this year is: e n e r g y

life… power… speed… fossil fuels… electricity… muscle… heart… physics… biology… wind turbines… dynamo… joules…movement... drive...

Any interpretation of the theme ‘energy’ is welcome!

Poems should be fourteen lines or more. Entrants can enter as many poems as they wish. 

Please email your poem(s) to Ms Smith, or hand them to your English teacher by Wednesday 29 March 2017.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

First Form Public Speaking Competition

The annual First Form public speaking competition took place today, and Ms Smith writes:

"We are grateful to Cathy Boobbyer who judged this year's speeches. Eight courageous finalists spoke on topics as various as tropical animals, Syrian refugees, robots, the dangers of gaming, and the importance of failure. 

There were four winners: 4th place went to Peter Taylor with his brave speech about Anxiety. In joint 2nd place were Guy Fitzgibbon and Tom Casey. Guy made an arresting address about robot invasions, and Tom Casey spoke about forms of discrimination in our world. 

First place went to Emma Hinde for her engaging, carefully constructed speech about artificial intelligence (AI). She certainly made us all think. Something robots could be doing very soon... "

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Submarine, January 2017

The latest edition of the Library magazine, The Submarine, is out, and it is a special one, since our Librarian, Mr McConville, moves to pastures new next month. His creation and editing of this excellent magazine has been one of the highlights of his time here, especially his elegant and amusing editorials. Read it via Issuu below (click on the arrows to navigate, and again to zoom in).

The edition includes 'A Russian Christmas' by Anastasia Danilova,  a review of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy by Nevin McCone, another by Catherine Butt of Lauren Gruff's Fates and Furies, an account of Olive Mooney's recent launch of her book The Curse of Helbizia in the BSR by Avi Johnston, a short story by Daisy McKeever, a version of Isabelle Townshend's TY House Speech on 9/11, another session of 'What's Reading Me', and the major part of the production, the completion of John Somerville-Large's series of articles on the architectural development of the College (including, of course, the Library itself, which he designed).

Monday, January 16, 2017

Senior English Prize 2017

Congratulations to Douglas Boyd Crotty, winner of this year's Senior English Prize, for his coherent and well-argued essay on the refugee crisis. Distinctions and book tokens for the best performers in Forms go to Callum Pery-Knox-Gore (VI), Richard Gao (V), James O'Connor (IV) and Casper v Schulenberg (IV).

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Books of the Year 2016

Here we go again: our annual popular post of books of the year as they feature in the press (excluding papers with pay-walls) and on some blogs.

This list will be regularly updated in the lead-up to Christmas, and build up steadily.

Most recent update: 5.1.2017.

Previous lists are here: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015.

  •  In the Irish Times, hits and misses: John Connolly writes that "My disappointment of the year was Jenny Erpenbeck’s airless, joyless novel The End of Days, which stole time from me that I might otherwise have more profitably spent sticking pins in my eyes." So that's at least one off the list. More positively, Sinead Gleeson recommends "the sparse and affecting My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout", "a near-perfect novel told in pithy, beautiful language."  
  • The Irish Times Best Books of 2016: John Kelly calls Solar Bones by Mike McCormack "a work of some genius", and the excellent Eavan Boland goes for another fine contemporary poet, Adrienne Rich, whose Collected Poems were published recently.
  • The Irish Times also has a great list of favourite children's and YA books compiled by E.R.Murray. Owl Bat, Bat Owl by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick pops up a couple of times.
  • Nicholas Lezard's paperback choices are always worth paying attention to. Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent ('Romania's Adrian Mole') by Mircea Eliade, translated by Christopher Moncrieff, looks worth checking out.
  • Head over to the School Library Journal for informed lists of the best children's books of the year, divided into five sections by age.
  • The general Guardian/Observer lists are among the best each year, and here are parts one and two. Kudos to them for the proper showcasing of excellent cover design.  Hisham Matar's The Return gets lots of recommendations, as does Sebastian Barry's gay love story Days Without End. They also have best politics books, best fiction, and pretty much everything else. In Best Children's Books Julia Eccleshare goes for the latest Jon Klassen, We Found a Hat and the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary. Also, science books recommended by scientists, properly pushing the boundaries of just what a 'science book' is. And check out this podcast discussion.
  • The Observer's lists include Fiction by Alex Preston, who goes overboard for The Underground Railway: "It’s a profound and important novel, but more than anything it’s an absurdly good read, gripping you in its tightly wound plot, astonishing you with its leaps of imagination. If Colson Whitehead doesn’t win every prize going next year, I’ll appear on Saturday Review in my underpants." Kate Kellaway is in charge of poetry books, and Denise Riley's Say Something Back looks like one to buy.
  • The Guardian's publishers' list of their hits and misses is always good, especially publishers on the books they wish they had produced: Christopher Hamilton-Emery of Salt writes that "I wish I’d published: KJ Orr’s gorgeous debut, Light Box (Daunt). She is a writer of piercing, crystalline prose; her short stories unveil compulsions, discords, collisions and tiny, intensely memorable brutalities. The collection is, to use a rather worn phrase, stunning." Also, hidden gems of 2016.
  • Another good annual list is the picks by readers in The Guardian (why don't more outlets do this?). Sue Brooks goes for the interesting-sounding Being a Beast by Charles Foster ("Foster’s attempts to live like various animals is my book of the year. Funny, exuberant and courageous, nudging closer and closer to how it might feel to enter the non-human world").
  • The Bookbag: Top ten non-fiction books of 2016 includes one up our own street, The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation by David Crystal.
  • From the excellent Nigel Warburton, the best philosophy books of the year on FiveBooks. Top of his list is "about the philosophy known as ‘existentialism.’ It’s by Sarah Bakewell and it’s called At the Existentialist CafĂ©" and is "exceptional".
  • Boing Boing's list has plenty of unusual choices, such as Astonish Yourself: 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life which sounds tempting.
  • In the Telegraph, the Best Books of 2016 includes Human Acts by Han Kang, whose The Vegetarian was so unsettling. A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones (not a travel book) sounds interesting.
  • The New York Times's 10 Best Books of 2016 includes The Vegetarian, and Colson Whitehead's Obama-boosted The Underground Railroad (will we be hearing about President Trump's reading lists?).
  • The same newspaper has an annual 100 Notable Books, and this time Edna O'Brien features with The Little Red Chairs as well as a favourite of many this year, Elizabeth Strout's My Name is Lucy Barton. They also have a Notable Children's Books feature.
  •  The Age from Australia includes Drusilla Modjeska recommending Eimear McBride's The Lesser Bohemians, and Zoe Morrison going for one of our favourites, the late Kent Haruf's pitch-perfect Our Souls at Night.
  • The Times Literary Supplement usually sets the intellectual bar high with their many recommendations. Karl Ove Knaussgaard's final volume, Some Rain Must Fall, in the his five-book auto-biographical splurge (the Marmite of modern literature) is called by Paul Binding "arguably the richest and most powerful of the sequence."
  • Mother Jones has 20 Notable Books of 2016and spots The Arab of the Future 2: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1984-1985, by Riad Sattouf & Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, by Marcelino Truong: "two of the most affecting memoirs of the year are graphic novels by French cartoonists who grew up astride two cultures."
  • The Financial Times has a good list. Thinking about 2016 might take in reading J.D. Vance's much-noticed Hillbilly Elegy, or from a different perspective one that looks very interesting, Peter Parker's Housman Country, "a reminder of the emotional charge behind all those grand abstractions of nationhood and sovereignty."
  • The New York Public Library has a list of the best books published for teens in 2016.  In the top 10 is Meg Medina's Burn Baby Burn.
  • The Spectator's Best and Worst Books of the Year by regular contributors includes Daniel Hahn's selection of the fine journalist Gary Younge's Another Day in the Death of America, which is clearly depressing but essential reading.
  • A Year in Reading by The Millions is always formidable: there are a lot of contributors here. Irish crime writer Tana French has apparently read Watership Down for the eighth time...
  • Crave give us their Art Books of the Year. 
  • Slate have various lists, including choices by Katy Waldman, including Michael Chabon's memoir Moonglow, and Laura Miller.
  • A different angle: Slate also look at the best covers of the year (US versions: Shrill is clever).
  • Book porn: The Best-designed Design Books of the year from FastCoDesign: check out those Virginia Woolf covers.
  • Electric Literature's 25 best short story collections of 2016Joy Williams is mentioned in plenty of other lists, too.
  • Bloomberg has a big list with some big-hitters, such as Christine Lagarde.  Lots of good thought-provoking reading here: Dominic Barton of McKinsey recommends Peter Frankopan's The Silk Road: a new history of the world.
  • The great NPR organisation has 10 books 'which faced tough topics head on', such as Emma Donoghue's The Wonder, which is 'teeming with drama and moral questions', and Olivia Laing's The Lonely City, which is in our own pile in waiting.
  • The Verso staff have put together their own list ('the antidote to the ills of 2016), such as Max Porter's Grief is the Thing with Feathers (clever and unusual, but a little over-rated?).
  • The always interesting Darcy Moore has a 'Baker's Dozen' of his Most Enjoyable Reads of 2016, including the sequel to the terrific Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari's Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow, and Robert Walser's gorgeous Looking at Pictures.
  • The Herald in Scotland has Scots writers choosing their books of the yearwith Hugh McDonald going for Karl Ove Knausgaard and Fredrik Ekelund's Home And Away "Knausgaard, author of the My Struggle series, masterpiece or mince according to individual taste, and Ekelund, playwright and novelist, correspond over the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The results are invigorating, unexpected and occasionally brilliant."
  • The formidable Maria Popova of Brain Pickings has her annual lists, including greatest science books (Paul Kalanithi's much-noticed When Breath Becomes Air: "What emerges is an uncommonly insightful, sincere, and sobering revelation of how much our sense of self is tied up with our sense of potential and possibility"), and Best Children's Books of the year, including "what might be the most beautiful children’s book title ever conceived", Cry Heart But Never Break. And she caps it off with her Overall Best Books, such as Sally Mann's Hold Still: a memoir with photographs.
  • Esquire has a list of 25 booksnovels include Emma Cline's well-received The Girls, and in non-fiction Brian Branchfield's Proxies sound intriguing.
  • The New Yorker has The Books We Loved in 2016: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, a re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, is recommended by Alexandra Schwartz and sounds like good fun.
  • The Spinoff from New Zealand has 20 best non-fiction books, 20 best books for kids, 5 best poetry books and 20 best fiction books; a local author in the final list is Tracey Slaughter, whose deleted scenes for lovers is a collection of stories which are "note-perfect, plentiful, and pack an emotional punch that reverberates for days."
  • The Sydney Morning Herald has a list for 'younger eyes' as well as Best Books, and Australian writers on The Books We Loved, with Tim Flannery writing that "Robin Dalton's Aunts Up the Cross, republished by Text in its classics series this year, is right up there with Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals as a quirky and hilarious childhood memoir. I haven't laughed so much in years."
  • Flavorwire has 15 Best Books of 2016 by Sarah Seltzer, including Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth. 
  • On a different note, Nature magazine has a top 20. Hope Jahren's Lab Girl is getting plenty of notice.
  • Berkeleyside editors give their choiceCo-founder Lance Knobel mentions "the strangest book I read in 2016, Constantine Phipps’ What You Want, a reworking of Dante’s Inferno in rhyming couplets, telling the tale of a failed marriage by way of discussing philosophical approaches to happiness." Goodness.
  • Bloomberg has Great History Books of 2016: we like the look of  The Book.
  • The San Francisco Chronicle has 100 recommended books of the year.  
  • Paste Magazine has 30 non-fiction choicesincluding But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman who investigates “collective wrongness” in his essay collection, and also best novels of the year starting with The Nest by the splendidly-named
    Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, as well as a good list of best Young Adult books.
  • The Miami Herald has the year's best fiction, headed up, like so many lists, by The Underground Railroad: "This powerful blend of the historical and the fantastical won the National Book Award earlier this fall, and no wonder — it’s a thrilling, relentless adventure, an exquisitely crafted novel that exerts a deep emotional pull" is a fair judgment.
  • Booktopia's Best Books of 2016: the definitive collection is headed by Hannah Kent's novel The Good People.

    Read more here: