Friday, October 26, 2007

The Kite Runner

Many thanks to our friend Terry O'Malley, who has sent in pictures and material relating to Khaled Hosseini's bestselling novel The Kite Runner, recently recommended here by TY pupil Mark Kavanagh who has read it for his Extended Essay. Above, an Animoto video of some of the pictures Terry took on a visit to Afghanistan, as Chair of the Irish aid organisation SAFE (Support for Afghan Further Education). On a recent visit in August, Terry had a lucky escape in an ambush in which two people were killed. (The music on the video is 'Spaceman' by The Lift).

He visited Noor Agha (whose house is near the two Sufi graveyards as pictured) and took pictures of some of his vivid kites. The string is impregnated with powdered glass ...

See more about the background in these two articles. See also a Time Magazine article here.

We're now starting half-term, so posting will resume on our return, from Monday 5th November.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Review of 'The History Boys'

Recently, our Transition Year all went to the National Theatre production of Alan Bennett's play The History Boys, in the Olympia Theatre as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. Here is a comprehensive review of the play and the production, by Fiona Boyd :-

Over all the play was a success. I really enjoyed watching it and seeing the characters and storyline develop. I enjoyed the different uses of music and images which made the play much more interesting to watch, giving it a little bit more rhythm and pace. I thought it was really well acted. I felt the actor who played Irwin was holding back a little but that may have just been how he interpreted the character. I thought the schoolboys were acted really well and even though they didn’t look 17 at a first glance they acted it!

Read Fiona's full review here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

To Autumn

The last Poem of the Week before our half-term starts on Friday is the most famous and anthologised of all poems about this time of year, John Keats's 'To Autumn' :

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy

Full text here. See the John Keats Forum here. Pictured, a couple of views of the College. The trees around the grounds are really stunning at the moment.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Haddon, Plath, Lynch

Further TY Extended Essay recommendations :-

Poppy Vernon has read the latest novel by Mark Haddon, A Spot of Bother : 'I really enjoyed reading this book. It has a wonderful style - it is humorous but also matter of fact. It is based on a family who are slowly falling to pieces: mother, father, daughter, her fiance and her child. The parents are unhappy about their rather unreliable daughter getting married, because they feel he is not good enough, but slowly realise that their own marriage is falling apart. Meanwhile, outside all the mayhem of affairs and arguments, the husband is slowly going mad.'

One of Fiona Boyd's books is Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar : 'I really enjoyed the beginning of this book, but it got a bit boring and slow towards the middle. The main character is a young woman who is troubled, but is very interesting and intelligent. She sees right through people's phoniness, and his a unique way of looking at the world. I like the style as it is very poetic.'

Henry Hatton has read Chris Lynch's Inexcusable : 'This is a story about a boy called Kier, who has very bad luck. He lives an ordinary decent life, and is very mannerly and trusting. He has a crush - a crush which is one-way. This book is about the unfortunate events which follow; it opens your mind about how monstrous a normal person can be. It gives Kier's thoughts in his ordinary life, in school, on the pitch and at home. When you read one chapter, you find that the next is totally different, and I think that makes reading it more enjoyable. Kier is a great character, and when reading, it is like you have a telescope and are looking into his thoughts. It is a truly great story.'


The winner of the competition, based on Ronan Swift's song 'My Bookcase', to identify the author who died the youngest, is Zachary Stephenson, who gets a €10 booktoken for identifying the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. He was 29 when he died (some got it slightly wrong by saying 30).

II, I and Primary Plays

Last night we had the first drama productions of the year, the II form and I/Primary plays in the BSR. Both were highly accomplished and entertaining light-hearted one-acters. I form and Primary put on Martians are Really Nice People by Bill Condon, directed by Anne Hallahan and Tristan Clarke, featuring in the main parts Alexandra Owens, Chris Doherty, Michael Dunne, Zachary Stephenson, Lily Guinness, Jamie Boyd and Molly Buckingham.

The II form play, directed by Ronan Swift and Ulrike Riemenschneider, was King Chicken by Allan Mackay ('the play's action takes place in deepest darkest Africa'). Stanley (Hannah Wentges) and Bottomley (Patrick Tice) were rather nervous explorers looking for the lost Dr Livingstone (Opeline Kellett), and on the way encountering Tarzan (Robin Fitzpatrick) and Jane (Bronwyn Mallon), as well as the Bantu Chief Oyinda Onabanjo, plus some dancing lions.

Well done to all concerned - plainly, there's lots of dramatic talent for the years ahead.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Extended Essays

This coming week is the last one before half-term, and Transition Year pupils are coming to the end of their reading for their Extended Essay (the Essay itself must be completed by Wednesday 14th November). This week, they get classes to help plan and structure the pieces.

More on what they have been reading :-

Mark Kavanagh on the recent bestseller The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (see his website here) :- 'The main characters are a boy named Amir and his friend Hassan. They begin as two young boys growing up in Afghanistan, and as the story progresses, so do their lives. The setting is sad because we see a once-beautiful land transformed into a war-torn wasteland. The book is split roughly into two parts, the first ending with Amir living in America and the second beginning when he must once again visit the land of his birth.'

Gina Mirow is doing her project on modern slavery, and has read Mende Nazer's Slave : 'I can highly recommend this book because it opens your eyes to how horribly cruel the world can be. Some people seem to think that slavery doesn't exist any more, but Mende has only been free since 2001. Although it is gob-smacking at times, it is consistently interesting and well-written.'

Emma Davies recommends Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, 'as it covers a wide range of topics such as religion, war and childhood. It also covers emotions such as love, hate and happiness.' See an impressive website for the book here.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Deane, Gilmore, and Family Secrets

More TY Extended Essay book recommendations:-

Lauren Meyler has been reading Seamus Deane's fine novel Reading in the Dark (which we sometimes study for the Leaving Certificate) : 'My Extended Essay is about Irish history. This book is very suited to my subject, particularly in the way characters react with each other; they are all well described. It is about a young boy trying to figure out his broken family's secret. It is very interesting and descriptive.'

Also on family secrets, Sebastian Stephenson is reading Mikal Gilmore's extraordinary family-autobiography Shot in the Heart : 'This is a very powerful book about a murderer who wished to be punished by death. This history is seen through the eyes of the youngest son, Mikal. It is very sad and even surreal, to the point where I almost thought it was fiction.'

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Personal Reading, Personal Writing

This morning one of our Department teachers, Ronan Swift, gave a talk in Chapel about his reading over the years :-

Writing about our past, our memories, our home places and our ancestors is, I think, within everyone's grasp. You don't need to be a tremendously creative person to do it; we all have some story to tell. Which is why I enjoy books of this kind above nearly any other genre. Memories and autobiographies, the stories of other people's lives, told by themselves, fascinate me.

Ronan mentioned and recommended several books, including Hugh Leonard's Home Before Night, Laurie Lee's As I Walked out one Midsummer Morning, Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life and In Pharoah's Army, and his current read, John McGahern's powerful Memoir. Read Ronan's full talk here, and see the covers of the books he mentions above. Some of these books are being shown in the Library display case.

Then he sang a 'thank you' and 'apology' song to books, the lyrics to which are here. Pupils - a 10euro book token to the winner of the competition, working out which author died youngest, and at what age? (And who was the member of staff who was on 'Sunday Miscellany'?)


The eleventh Poem of the Week is 'Scaffolding', by Seamus Heaney. Pictured, the scaffolding currently around the Cadogan Building, as its refurbishment and conversion into a music and performance centre continues (due to finish in December).

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won't slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job's done

Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bullying Awareness

Today is Bullying Awareness Day at the College, when the whole school pays attention to this important issue in general discussions. Some of these are being prompted by Andrew Motion's poem 'The Game', which was specially written for Childline in 2000 by the British Poet Laureate.

It starts :-
I must tell you this:
there was a boy - Tommy Prentice.
The afternoon I'm thinking about
he stopped me with his shout
of just my first name,
all friendly-like - no blame,
jealousy, resentment or distrust -
telling me I must
come out with him now
and play - he had friends waiting, although
it was me that they wanted: without me
the game was no good. OK?
Of course OK. Tommy Prentice
was tall, handsome, cool, useful at fly-half,
with slick, black hair fringeing his level stare.
And he wanted me? Like I say,
of course it was OK.

Continued ...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Jordan, Blixen, Doherty

More TY reading recommendations for the Extended Essay :-

Molly Sanderson has been reading Berlie Doherty's novel Dear Nobody : 'I really enjoyed this book. As I am writing my Extended Essay on 'suffering in relationships', I though I would read it because it is about a relationship between young people, in which both suffer. I also enjoyed the way the book was written in two parts. Some was through the boy's eyes, and the rest was the girl writing letters to her unborn baby, who she describes as 'Nobody'. I really loved it!'

Jasper Mathews recommends Robert Jordan's Lord of Chaos : 'This is a well-written book with good characters. The author keeps you interested throughout the book by moving from character to character in different places. It is set in a fantasy world, where the struggle between good and evil is reaching its height. However, the book is number 6 of a series of 12, so unless you've read the first 5, it would be confusing and hard to understand.'

Sarah O'Mahony has read Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) : 'I really like the attention to detail, especially with description. The storyline is interesting and beautiful. It has a magical aspect to it, and I love the setting, in Eastern Africa.'

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lungu, Nemirovsky, Shan

Continuing recommendations from Transition Year Extended Essay reading :-

Fred Mann recommends Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise, the widely acclaimed 'rescued' novel about France in the Second World War (see the Complete Review's page here) : 'The Germans are invading France, and the population of Paris is evacuating. In all the confusion every nerve will be tested. This book follows the lives of different families as they leave Paris, and also where they end up. It is a well-written book by an author who was there, and saw it all happening. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in World War II history.'

Edward Teggin has been reading Out of the Black Shadows by Stephen Lungu (pictured, right): 'This is a powerful true story about a terrorist turned evangelist. It is very moving and shows that anything is possible if we believe ...'

Philip Kidd's books include the series The Demonata by Darren Shan :-'I love this series because it's fast, witty and imaginative, and quite simple : there are only four main characters that battle Demon to survive. Simple and childish fun - that's what's good about it. There are five books so far, and more in the series to come.' Shan's website is here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The History Boys

Tonight we take all our Transition Year on an outing to the Olympia Theatre to see the National Theatre production of Alan Bennett's The History Boys, part of the current Dublin Theatre Festival.

There's a Q and A audio interview with Bennett on the Festival site here, and Michael Billington's Guardian review of the original production is here. See also the 'Subjunctive History' website. In a few days we'll post a review by one of our own pupils.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

McCarthy, Magorian, Johnston

More TY Extended Essay reading and recommendations :-

Josh Buckingham has read Cormac McCarthy's most recent novel, The Road, and says:-
'This book is about a man and his son walking towards the sea in a post-apocalyptic world. It shows their determination to survive and how they go about surviving. It is a very enthralling yarn and I would really recommend giving it a try.'

And Joanna Coldrick writes about Back Home, by Michelle Magorian:-
'This is about a teenage girl who is sent back to her parents from America after the Second World War. She is sent back to England but she realises that she misses everything in America. She feels like a stranger in her own home, after being gone for five years. Also, it makes you think that you can have as many families as you can imagine. I have also read Magorian's Goodnight, Mister Tom, and Elizabeth Laird's Red Sky in the Morning.'

Charlotte Farrell recommends Shadows on our Skin by Jennifer Johnston (who was interviewed here by Sophie Haslett last term):-
'It is about the Troubles in Ulster. I love the character Joe because he is funny, and the setting because I live there myself. It's mainly about what happened during the Troubles, and how the people were treated, and gives you a fair idea of the violence in Northern Ireland during that time.'

Emily Dickinson

The tenth Poem of the Week is by one of the poets on the Leaving Certificate cycle, the great American writer Emily Dickinson. It is number 333 in the collected edition (out of 1775), and, as always, has no title. It starts :-

The Grass so little has to do -
A Sphere of Simple Green -
With only Butterflies to Brood -

And Bees to Entertain -

The full poem is here.

The Academy of American Poets page on Dickinson is here, and the Dickinson Electronic Archives here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

TY Extended Essay Reading

Over the next couple of weeks we'll be posting lots of book recommendations by our Transition Year pupils, who are currently well into the reading part of their Extended Essay projects.

Sophie Kyd-Rebenburg has read Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses :- 'I really like the story-line. It's about a boy and a girl who grow up together being best friends, but as their childhood comes to an end, realize that they have developed a much stronger relationship - love. The problem is, Calem is a Nought and Sephy is a Cross, and their families hate each other ... It's an interesting and enjoyable book because it shows that love is always there, no matter how big the difference between skin colour and wealth is. It grabs you when there is a lot of tension and even sadness.'
(Blackman's website is here.)

Tom Guinness has read The Old Boys, by Old Columban William Trevor : 'It is about a group of past pupils, whose school remains unknown, who form a committee called the Old Boys. Many, especially Mr Nox and Mr Jaraby, are trying to get the title of President of the Committee. This drives them to sabotage and blackmail. It also makes them partly crazy! I like the twists and turns of this book, such as Mr Turtle's proposal and his sudden death. The author portrays the emotions of the other characters very well. It is also in a setting which everyone knows well, a school.'

Eavan Boland

We're just back from a weekend 'Exodus' out of school, during which Head of Department John Fanagan went to the the annual Poetry School weekend in London, and writes :-

'I attended a wonderful seminar run by Eavan Boland whose poetry I was teaching to my sixth form a couple of weeks ago. She spoke of the creation and use of image in poetry and contended strongly that, like the appendix in the human body, the simile is now redundant. Using poems by Wallace Stevens, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich and her own 'Black Lace Fan', she examined the power of metaphor as an organic part of the poem. We were encouraged to give our views: I argued with her about the compass simile in Donne's 'A Valediction : forbidding mourning', which I love and she doesn't.

At a reception afterwards I spoke to her for a while and found her very engaging. She is a wonderful teacher and the seminar was exciting and stimulating. The Poetry School is at'

There are useful links to Boland, one of the Leaving Certificate poets, on the Norton Poets site, and an interview in Caffeine Destiny here. One of the prescribed poems on our course is the beautiful 'The Pomegranate', here. Shortly available in the Library : the newly published Eavan Boland Sourcebook.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Jessi Dean's perfectly-pitched and often hilarious piece on wearing braces was a great success at the House Speech competition last Sunday night. It also works well on the page or screen, so here is the full piece, which starts :-

Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight I’m here to talk to you about a subject that has a huge impact on my life…….Braces! People with braces get such a hard time. You don’t stop to think about it but, when you see the images shown on TV of the typical ‘dork’ they always seem to have braces. Take the show Ugly Betty for instance, which I’m sure you’ve all seen. She’s actually really pretty in real life but, for the show, they’ve obviously thought- ‘ can we make her Ugly Betty?’ So they stick some braces on her. Well, thanks very much, how’s that supposed to make us feel? And then of course, there’s the amount of ‘clever’ names people have come up with – Braceface (obviously), Chainsaw Chops, Tinsel Teeth, Cageface, Metalmouth, Railway Face…and the list goes on ... continued here

Teaching English magazine

The Autumn 2007 edition of Teaching English (we featured in the spring edition) is now out from the English Support Service, and is again an attractively produced publication with lots of interesting features (the cover is Henry Raeburn's 'Portrait of the Reverend Robert Walker Skating'). Click below on the pages for a larger view, and again to zoom.

Among the features are :
  • Winners from the Write a Poem competition for schools,
  • An interview by Kevin McDermott with poet Julie O'Callaghan,
  • A guide to the 2009 Leaving Certificate comparative books, including new texts by John Banville (Kepler), Julian Barnes (Arthur & George), Beckett (Waiting for Godot), Eleni Gage (North of Ithaka), Martin McDonagh (The Lonesome West), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Purple Hibiscus) and Asne Seierstad (The Bookseller of Kabul),
  • An interview with Athboy Community School teacher Tony Magner on teaching the comparative module,
  • and several articles on film - Alicia McGivern of the IFI, Sean Conlon on teaching film and Vinny Murphy on the Moving Image project.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Philip Larkin's 'The Mower'

The ninth Poem of the Week being read to English classes, and posted in our classrooms, is Philip Larkin's direct and powerfully moving 'The Mower', written in 1979. Larkin is one of the poets on the Leaving Certificate rota (he's currently being studied by this year's leavers). The full text is here.

We've added to our Poetry links on the right-hand side the Philip Larkin Society, which has its own 'Poem of the Month' - currently, 'As Bad as a Mile'.

The Antigonish Review has here a long essay by Terry Whalen titled : 'Strangeness made Sense - Philip Larkin in Ireland' in which he states that 'Ireland clearly drew Larkin out of his shell'.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Just Going Out

Now a piece from a regular contributor, Joseph Millar. Mr Jameson asked his Leaving Certificate pupils to find a line from their poetry anthology that intrigued them and then to write a piece in any form of writing prompted by this.

The line Joey chose was from Derek Mahon's poem 'Antarctica', the famous statement by the explorer Captain Oates, on Scott's 1912 expedition, "I am just going outside and may be some time".

The piece starts :-

Tom won’t arrive for a while yet, so for the time being I have the flat to myself. I close the door, and drop the keys onto a table that is too big for the room. Beside me is a cardboard box. It is filled with my things: books, CD’s, clothes, and it’s depressing to see how easily my life can be compressed. The word “MOVING” is crayoned onto the side, accompanied by three nauseatingly blasé exclamation marks. In this empty flat, the box acts as a sort of centrepiece, and that alone should highlight the aesthetically destitute home I had made for myself. I’m standing in Dublin’s only sensual deprivation chamber, and what’s worse, I’m paying €300 a month for the pleasure.

Read on here.

My Mouth was Dry 3

Following on from Saskia Bolus's take on 'My Mouth was Dry', here is Dudley Browne's description of the tense first rugby match of the season, which starts :-
My mouth was dry and I thought my heart would burst from my chest. This was my first thought as I stood there watching the opposing team stroll onto the pitch, all twenty-two of them, and I got the impression that not one of them was under six foot. I had thought we would do well in this match. I was hoping we would do really well because this was not just any rugby match.

The full story here.

Shakespeare Tube Map

The Royal Shakespeare Company has just launched merchandise (including a handy poster for classrooms) based on a 'map' of connections inspired by the London Underground Map. The map shows how characters 'migrate' into each other across the plays :-

The lines include: lovers (red), mothers (pink), fathers and daughters (green), villains (light blue), heroes (dark blue), strong and difficult women (turquoise), warriors (black) and fools (orange). Interesting intersections include Henry V who meets on the warrior and hero line, and Lady Macbeth on the strong and difficult women and warrior line.

Available at the RSC shop.

Monday, October 01, 2007

House Speech Competition 2007

Last night we had our annual House Speech Competition in the BSR; all the speakers are from Transition Year, and the whole form helps them prepare over the two weeks before the event.

This year, the winner was Jasper Mathews, speaking on 'Things that annoy me', followed by Jessica Dean on her experiences of wearing braces, and Sophie Kyd-Rebenburg on her 'patchwork family' of many different nationalities. Both girls are in Hollypark House, which won the House competition.

Other speakers included Alec Cherry (the Dublin transport system), Luke Pitt Ryan (the NorthSide), Molly Sanderson (love), Robin Russell (cricket), Ian Fraser (speeches themselves), Lauren Cooke (her most embarrassing moments) and Paddy Faulkner (the experiences of black people). Josh Buckingham was the night's presenter.


On Saturday evening, Rowland Cooper, who won the Peter Dix Poetry Prize in 2006, read his latest poem 'Vesuvius' at the Poetry Speakeasy in the Ranelagh Arts Festival to a large and appreciative audience. It was inspired by his reading Robert Harris's novel Pompeii.

It starts :-
The windless air hangs on the shoulders
Like the packs of the legions
As they trudge in rank through the German forests.
Yet still the shores are pummelled
And dashed by waves vigorous
With expressionless violence.

The full poem is here.