The evening started with Claire Conway's 'balanced, thoughtful' essay 'The Oldest Person I Know', which is also printed in our new book Outside the Frame. Patrick Tice's piece on his last day on earth was 'sustained in tone, with self-deprecating humour and lovely adjectives.' Oyinda Onabanjo's poem 'Medusa' was 'scary', and used the present tense powerfully, and also the paradox of beauty born out of hideousness. Mena Fitzgibbon's piece on a character's last day on earth was 'powerful and assured'. Michael Kemp conveyed his enthusiasm for Florence and the Machine with 'pace, excitement and passion'. Passion was also evident in Zuleika O'Malley's 'powerful, sympathetic' piece imagining the life and death of a tiger. Aoise Keogan-Nooshabadi's 'compulsive' story was powerfully delivered.
Then came Jack Cherry, whose photograph is shown at the top of this post and has been used for the back cover of Outside the Frame; he wrote a humorous piece about his first house 'with lovely timing.' Rab Sheeran's memory of his first school was full of evocative 'senses', particularly smell and sound. This was followed by Opeline Kellett's essay on her own first house, a 'fine piece with a double perspective'. Emma Moore opened her discussion of Parents particularly strongly. Finally, Mr Polden 'just thanked' Shannen Keogan for her moving essay 'The Day of the Funeral'; it spoke for itself.
He then addressed pupils on the power and importance of literature. As the poet Ezra Pound said, 'literature is news that stays news'. We read a newspaper or magazine and have forgotten it hours later, but literature requires real thought, passion and craft - all qualities on show earlier in the pupils' readings. As a Junior Certificate examiner last year he had seen that the best answers all had passion. But this passion must be controlled and shaped; in the words of the Lyrical Ballads, it should be 'emotion recollected in tranquillity.' E.M.Forster wrote : 'Only connect'. This is what literature can do for us. When faced with the blank page or computer screen we should just start. Mr Polden finished by complimenting the English teachers, and had kind words to say about this 'hugely impressive' blog.
He then announced the winners of Premier Grades this year: Rosie Agnew, Mena Fitzgibbon, Lingfan Gao, Michael Kemp, Shannen Keogan, Aoise Keogan-Nooshabadi, Opeline Kellett, Emma Moore and Oyinda Onabanjo.
Congratulations to them all, and many thanks to Colin Polden for his attentive comments, his inspiring talk and his generosity in coming to our English Evening.