Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Junior Poetry Prize 2

Another fine entry for the recent Junior Poetry Prize comes from Iona Chavasse:

All We Could See for Miles

The large waves bashed against us,
As we rose up,
And dropped down,
Sending cold white spray over us.
All we could see for miles was the sea,
Deep blue, shining. 
Was the shining blue a mask?
A mask that hid its cold dark depths,
A mask that hid its cold stone heart,
A mask that hid the power to swallow us at any second.
Dragging us down, 
Pulling at our arms,
Our legs,
Our souls. 
Pulling the air out of our lungs,
The life out of our bodies,
Love out of our hearts.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Junior Poetry Prize 2018

Congratulations to Emma Hinde, Third Form, who has been awarded this year's Junior Poetry Prize. Here are three of her winning poems:-


One day a billion years ago,
An old mage said to me
“I have created a new word.”
And I think that word was Tree. 

“Tree?” I asked. “Now what’s a tree?”
Said he: “I was hoping you’d tell me.”
So after ten days deep in thought
To him a finished tree I brought. 

It grew up from a little seed,
I went a bit mad with the leaves,
And twigs to let the song-birds nest;
They put the trunk-strength to the test.

The roots dug deep and moisture found
Beneath the barren, rocky ground 
And when the snow fell down in patches,
All the leaves fell off the branches.

Soon with these trees obsessed I came
And filled the world with different names:
Birch and maple; oak and elm,
They slowly crowded all the realm.

And in the mornings out did come
A chorus of the greatest song;
For all the birds that there did sleep
Came out into the forest deep. 


When the clouds look like a painting,
And the light streams through the trees,
All the little song-birds sit there;
Chirping in the breeze.

When the daffodils are blooming
You hear the buzzing of the bees
And the little boy with hay fever
Lets out a great big sneeze.

When the water’s so inviting 
That the masses flock to seas
The general feeling in the air
Is that it’s almost a disease.

When the snow has finished melting
And you’ve put away your skis
It’s like Spring’s pulled the lever;
Winter’s falling to his knees.  

When the Vikings ruled the Seas

When the Vikings ruled the Seas
Horns blowed
And fires glowed
When the Vikings ruled the seas.

Cockerels crowed
And mead flowed
When the Vikings ruled the seas.

But beware;
For as the gods watch over you
They may choose you for their games. 

One day a man went sailing;
Sailing out to meat his fate,
And when he saw the dragon
He looked down at his bait.

“Not big enough.” He said.
“I’ll have to sit and wait.
“I’m sure that Thor’ll come quite soon
“With a bigger piece of bait.”

So wait he did, with baited breath
For Thor to turn up to his test
But where he was he didn’t know;
He’d gone to watch another show.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

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. May 2019: 'How Exercise Affects Our Memory' by Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, May 1st 2019 [exercise, physiology, neuroscience].
  2. January 2019: 'Aviation is the red meat in the greenhouse gas sandwich' by John Gibbons, the Irish Times, January 29th 2019 [environment, aviation].
  3. January 2019: 'Filling the Silence with Digital Noise' by the Nielsen Norman Group, November 18th 2018 [technology, learning].
  4. November 2018: "Window for saving Earth from ecological annihilation closing" by John Gibbons, the Irish Times, October 16th 2018 [ecology, environment].
  5. October 2018: "'Fortnite' teaches the wrong lessons" by Nicholas Tampio, The Conversation, October 12th 2018 [gaming, adolescence, technology]/
  6. October 2018: "Why true horror movies are about more than things going bump in the night" by Aislinn Clarke, The Conversation [film, horror, comedy], October 3rd 2018.
  7. October 2018:  'Is Serena Williams right? A linguist on the extra challenges women face in moments of anger' by Kieran File, The Conversation, September 11th 2018 [women, gender, sport].
  8. September 2018: 'Why you should read this article slowly' by Joe Moran, The Guardian, September 14th 2018 [reading, internet].
  9. September 2018: 'The ideal school would put children's development before league tables' by Sue Roffey, The Conversation, September 17th 2018.
  10. September 2018: 'Another Angle: For the love of God, put down the phones' by Adrian Weckler, Irish Independent, August 20th 2018 [technology, phone].
  11. May 2018: 'Neuroscience is unlocking mysteries of the teenage brain' by Lucy Foulkes, The Conversation, April 23rd 2018 [adolescence, neuroscience].
  12. March 2018: 'The Tyranny of Convenience' by Tim Yu, New York Times, February 16th 2018 [modern life, technology].
  13. February 2018: "The death of reading is threatening the soul" by Philip Yancey, Washington Post, July 21st 2017 [reading, books, internet].
  14. January 2018: 'Why more men are wearing makeup than ever before' by Glen Jankowski, The Conversation, January 15th 2018 [make-up, masculinity].
  15. January 2018: 'Why 2017 was the best year in human history' by Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, January 6, 2018 [history, progress, health].
  16. November 2017: 'Boys must behave if women are to be safe' by Fintan O'Toole, The Irish Times, October 31, 2017.
  17. October 2017: 'A giant insect ecosystem is collapsing due to humans' by Michael McCarthy, The Guardian, October 21, 2017.
  18. October 2017: 'We can't stop mass murder' by Shikha Dalmia, The Week, October 6, 2017.
  19. October 2017: 'What every teacher should know about ... memory' by Bradley Busch, The Guardian, October 6, 2017 [learning, memory, teaching].
  20. October 2017: 'Think the world is in a mess: here are 4 things you can do about it' by Alexandre Christoyannapoulos. The Conversation, November 16, 2016 [activism, citizenship, economics].
  21. September 2017: 'The power of silence in the smartphone age' by Erling Kagge, The Guardian, September 23rd 2017 [technology].
  22. September 2017: '5 reasons why people share fake photos during disasters' by A.J. Willingham,, September 8th 2017 [journalism, psychology, social media].
  23. September 2017: 'Can you identify the psychopaths in your life?' by Rob Hastings, iNews, August 29th 2017 [psychology].
  24. February 2017: 'Our roads are choked. We're on the verge of carmageddon' by George Monbiot, The Guardian, September 20th 2016 [environment, transport].
  25. January 2017: 'Girls believe brilliance is a male trait' by Nicola Davis, The Guardian, January 27th 2017.
  26. January 2017: 'What do teenagers want? Potted plant parents' by Lisa Damour, New York Times, December 14th 2016 [adolescence, parenting].
  27. November 2016: 'Trump makes it easy to vote for Her' by Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald, November 6th 2016 [politics, America].
  28. October 2016: 'How being alone may be the key to rest' by Claudia Hammond, BBC, September 27th 2016 [rest, reading, introversion].
  29. September 2016: 'Why Parents are Getting Angrier' by Nicola Skinner, The Guardian, September 3rd 2016 [parenting, psychology, childhood].
  30. September 2016: 'Burkini beach ban: must French Muslim women become invisible?' by Delphine Strauss, The Irish Times, August 22nd 2016 [culture, Islam, France].
  31. May 2016: 'How can Lidl sell jeans for £5.99?' by Gethin Chamberlain, The Guardian, March 13th 2016 [economics, retailing, manufacture].
  32. April 2016: 'Teaching men how to be emotionally honest' by Anrew Reiner, New York Times, April 4th 2016 [gender, adolescence, masculinity].
  33. 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].
  34. 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].
  35. January 2016: 'Welcome to the Anthropocene, a new geological era for the world', The Week, January 8th 2016 [geology, climate change, environment].
  36. November 2015: 'Birth Order Determines ... Almost Nothing' by Jeanne Safer, [psychology, parenting, childhood].
  37. November 2015: 'How psychopaths can save your life' by Kevin Dutton, The Observer [psychology].
  38. November 2015: '10 benefits of reading: why you should read every day' by Lana Winter-Hebert, [reading, entertainment, education].
  39. October 2015: 'How much can you really learn while you're asleep?' by Jordan Gaines Lewis, The Guardian, October 6th 2015 [neuroscience, learning, adolescence].
  40. 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].

Saturday, April 27, 2019

A tribute to the late Terry Dolan

A great man, and great friend both of this Department and our school, left us recently. Professor T.P. Dolan of the English Department of University College Dublin, more commonly known as 'Terry', visited us for over 35 years until recent times. His funeral was earlier today in Kingscourt, County Cavan, where he was buried alongside his mother, and we were represented by the current and former Heads of English.

In his homily, the priest appositely quoted Goldsmith:
"And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew
That one small head could carry all he knew."

Terry's particular talent was a humorous lightness of touch, in discussing language and literature, that belied the deep scholarship on which that knowledge rested. This talent became known nationally-recognised due to his weekly slot on the Sean Moncrieff show on Newstalk FM, in which he explained the etymology of a bewildering range of words. This was also his party piece for so many Literary Society meetings here over the years: no pupil could catch him out (though at times he stretched things: he would look you in the eye and insist after some rather unlikely explanation "It's true", while a twinkle in his eye suggested otherwise). Regular subjects for his talks included American English, Geoffrey Chaucer (see below) and of course Hiberno-English: his masterpiece is his book A Dictionary of Hiberno-English, regularly updated, the definitive collection of English as it is used all over Ireland. He also particularly enjoyed talking about 'bad' language, his Queen's College Oxford voice articulating the origins of the 'f' word to startled pupils. The photograph at the top of this post shows him lecturing in the Lower Argyle on a Saturday evening.

Terry's Hiberno-English website can still be accessed via the Web Archive here.

In February 2008 Terry suffered a shock stroke that confined him to Tallaght Hospital for a long time. Visiting him there was to witness again his ease with everyone, particularly the nurses and doctors who looked after him, and his fellow patients. In these distressing circumstances, he never faltered from his inner core: kindness and cheerfulness. Almost a year later he returned to the Sean Moncrieff Show to public delight, and in February 2010 he gave an interview to Marian Finucane on surviving his stroke. Indeed, he became a prominent advocate of stroke awareness.

He was in great form when I interviewed him for a podcast on his beloved Geoffrey Chaucer. So here's a 30-minute treat from ten years ago (also at the bottom of this post).

He was also a stalwart of our annual Transition Year English evenings in May as a guest speaker, always commenting on pupils' work with great sensitivity. He never patronised 16 year-olds but found the best in what they wrote. His imprimatur always gave such pleasure to them.

Terry Dolan was a wonderful man. May he rest in peace.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Macbeth resources

Here is a summary of some resources for study and revision of Macbeth, starting with our own.  

(Updated April 2019)

Swiss Army Knife quotations: 'Macbeth'

To embed quotations and use them effectively in your revision, consider the Swiss Army Knife technique: choose a quotation which can be used flexibly in many ways, for several characters, for different themes. Firstly, make sure you know the quotation (use flashcards, ask a friend to test you). Then write it down and think about it: let your ideas spring out of it like a SAK. Below is an example from Lady Macbeth. Later, ask that friend to test you on the notes you wrote.

(mindmap: drag it around to see it all, and use the - and + buttons for sizing)

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Submarine, March 2019

The latest edition of 'The Submarine', the pupil-edited and -written magazine, has now been published in school (in paper form) and below in flippable form via Issuu (use the arrows to navigate, and click again for a close look).

In this edition, there are pieces by Avi Johnston (On Journalism), Vivian Tuite (A College Diary, on her first days at the school), Sveva Ciofani (The Earthquake in Italy that No-one Talks About), Sinead Cleary (Ted Bundy), Poppy Gleeson (The Jump), Calvin She (on sharks), Noah Leach (Analog), Thando Khumalo (Mortality), Wolfgang Romanowski (on the visit by Emma Brown of Barnardo's), and art work by Edna Johnston, Avi Johnston, Estelle Yu, Denis Cully, Thea Walsh and Camila Garcia Herrera.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Classic Shakespeare

Gresham College has a phenomenal high-class series of videos on all sorts of subjects. Over the last year or so, Sir Jonathan Bate, one of the world's greatest authorities on Shakespeare, has lectured on the playwright, and currently six of these lectures are available online. 

For instance, above is Bate on 'Shakespeare's London and Ancient Rome'. Gresham's also provide a PDF transcript of these lectures, and the presentations. Wonderful.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

English Prizes

Congratulations to the winners of the English Prizes this year: Catherine Butt (Senior) and Marcus O'Connor (Junior).

Distinctions for good entries also went to

VI - Helen Crampton, Laetitia Schoenburg and Isabelle Townshend.
V - Shannon Dent.
IV - Eile Ni Chianain and Sinead Cleary.
III - Iona Chavasse, Avi Johnston and Donald Thomson.
II - Emily McCarth.
I - Lorne Walsh.

There are three other prizes awarded by the Department in the coming months: Junior and Senior Poetry, and Shakespeare.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

SCC English Books of the Year

The annual selection of books published in either hardback or paperback for the first time this year.

(Here is our annual round-up of Books of the Year lists).

Book of the Year
David Park: Travelling in a Strange Land. Short, absorbing, deeply moving. Park flies under the radar in terms of Irish fiction. This is outstanding.

Melatu Uche Okorie: This Hostel Life. Three short stories that have a big impact. A new angle on Irish life. Let's hope she's writing a novel.

Sara Baume:A Line Made by Walking. A dreamy, dreaming voice in the countryside.

William Trevor: Last Stories. Published posthumously: what a standard for a man in his 80s.

Kamila Shamsie: Home Fire. It handles a lot, and handles it brilliantly.

Tim Winton: The Shepherd's Hut. Author of last year's Book of the Year, The Boy Behind the Curtain. Does anyone match him for a sense of place? 

Maryanne Wolf: Reader, Come Home: the reading brain in a digital world. A deep meditation.

Emilie Pine: Notes to Self. The best book of essays this year. How to write about yourself with brutal and moving honesty.

Fintan O'Toole: Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain. The definitive analysis of the horror show we're living through.

Mary Beard: Women and Power. What a strong voice.

Richard Ford: Between Them. On his parents. You never stop being a child at any time of your life.

Michelle McNamara: I'll be Gone in the Dark. True-crime chiller, with a dramatic post-publication development.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Books of 2018

Here we go again: our 9th annual popular post of books of the year as they feature in the press (excluding papers and articles with pay-walls, such as the London Times and Sunday Times and most of the Financial Times) and on some blogs. This is a selective list of what we judge the highest-quality lists: if you want almost everything that moves, check out Largehearted Boy.

The list will be updated pretty well daily up to Christmas.

Previous lists are here: 2010201120122013201420152016, and 2017.

  • The annual Irish Times choices by writers demonstrate how strong a year it has been. Emilie Pine's powerful collection of essays, Notes to Self, features, with Pine herself going for Natalia Ginzburg's The Little Virtues. Paschal Donogue, Minister for Finance, is a rare real reader among modern politicians, and chooses Ian Kershaw's Roller-Coaster, the latest in Kershaw's overview of European history.  Joseph O'Connor points out one of our own choices, the brief collection of stories This Hostel Life by Melatu Uche Okorie, a new voice looking at Ireland from an entirely new angle. Elsewhere, Anna Carey has the standout children's titles of the year, including the excellent Louise O'Neill's The Surface Breaks, a re-imagining of The Little Mermaid. Elsewhere, Malachy Clarkin looks at the best sports books of the year: Peter Crouch turns out to produce the greatest laughs.
  • The Irish Independent has 50 top children's books from Sarah Webb, with good Irish representation. Its critics also name their best books of the year, top pick in fiction being Emer Martin's The Cruelty Men, which is 'stunningly ambitious and achingly tragic.' Michael Connelly, always reliable, appears twice in the thriller section. Another critics' selection mentions Tim Dee's Landfill, 'nature writing for the Trump era' from the excellent Toller Press, and in fiction John Boyne's amusing novel about literary ambition, A Ladder to the Sky.
  • The Guardian's selections are always interesting. This year, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister, highly recommends Anna Burns's Booker-winner, Milkman, In another selection, Justine Jordan kicks off with the always readable Jonathan Coe's Brexit novel, Middle England. The Best Children's Books for All Ages points out that one in every three paper books sold this year in the UK has been for children, and Fiona Noble writes that 'In troubled times, books have the power to help children and young people make sense of the world, and a look at 2018’s award winners reveals just how writers and illustrators are responding to our challenging times'.
  • You can also listen to Guardian choices on their books podcast with Claudia Rankine (the full list is on the podcast page).
  • The Guardian's Sunday sister, The Observer, also has a good list: their critics choose selections from genres such as Graphic, Poetry, Fiction and Society. In Art, Laura Cumming, author of the excellent The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of Velasquez, mentions two books on Bruegel, including Winter Scenes, which looks wonderful.
  • The Times Literary Supplement is of course a key place to go. Their annual list has a lot of high-quality recommendations. The great Lydia Davis goes for two books by Natalia Ginzburg, while Roy Foster recommends Colm Tóibín's new book Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know, about the fathers of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce.
  • The New York Times 100 Notable Books is always a formidable list (some great covers this year, too).  Rachel Cusk is a 'Marmite' writer; her Kudos appears here, and the very different Macbeth (the thriller-writer Jo Nesbo's version).
  • We've previously recommended the superb site Five Books: a simple idea, executed with depth and it has a series of Best Books of 2018, including for instance Best Non-Fiction by Fiammetta Rocco (with Ben McIntyre's highly-praised book about Oleg Gordievsky, The Spy and the Traitor), Nigel Warburton's Best Philosophy Books, and Charles Foster on Best Nature Books.
  • From Australia, in the Sydney Morning Herald local writers make their choices, including the great Tim Winton (author of one of our own Books of the Year: more shortly) going for a 'deadset masterpiece', The Overstory by Richard Powers (this is echoed elsewhere by Robert Macfarlane).
  • The Spectator's lists (both of best and overrated books) are always good: the first starts with Deborah Eisenberg's 'oustanding' short story collection Your Duck is My Duck, and the second includes one of our own books of the year, William Trevor's Last Stories (an extraordinarily high standard right to the end). 
  • The Spectator in the USA  has lots of interesting choices, many from the past. Keiron Pim, who is writing Joseph Roth's biography, is of course reading Roth a lot, including The Radetsky March.
  • The New Yorker's Best Books of 2018 by Kate Waldman includes that Marmite-writer Rachel Cusk's novel Kudos. Dan Chiasson looks at poetry books during 2018.
  • The New York Times Book Review has the 10 Best Books of 2018, which include Tara Westover's very successful memoirEducated, which reveals 'an irrepressible thirst to learn'.
  • The New York Times itself has Best Art Books and Best Poetry Books: Like by A.E. Stallings has been mentioned in several places this year.
  • National Public Radio from America has over 300 books from their staff, which you can filter by the usual categories, as well as 'Rather Long' (including Michelle Obama's well-received Becoming), and 'Rather Short' (Kate Walbert's His Favorites looks powerful).
  • iNews has 10 Best Books, including the ubiquitous Normal People by Sally Rooney and Tara Westover's much-noticed Educated.
  • Quill and Quire from Canada have writers' and booksellers' choices, as well as their editors', and Covers of the Year.
  • That great institution, the New York Public Library, has three selections: children, teens and adults.
  • The Washington Post's Michael Dirda's recommendations are here.
  • BBC Arts have 2018's 'biggest books' (not in physical size) with 'the perfect for...' sections, including Sarah-Jayne Blakemore's excellent Inventing Ourselves: the Secret Life of the Teenage Brain (the perfect book for parents, presumably).
  • Vulture's Best Books of 2018 by Christian Lorentzen is a good choice. Keith Gessen's A Terrible Country sounds interesting, and very much of the moment ('like a zombie parody of the Cold War).
  • Bustle is a newcomer to this round-up. Here, 14 Young Adult authors recommend their favourite YA books of 2018.
  • Another newcomer: the Church Times has readers' choices of books of the year. Anything Neil McGregor chooses is bound to be interesting: he goes for The Seabird's Cry by Adam Nicolson, 'as exhilarating and poignant a read as watching the birds in flight.'
  • iNews has its best books of the year, including Sally Rooney, William Trevor, and Tara Westover. A different name is Zadie Smith, with her new collection of essays, Feel Free.
  • Prospect Magazine rounds up the best books in politics. An excellent writer, Sarah Churchwell (who has previously written onThe Great Gatsby and America, has a new book out: Behold, America is 'indispensable'.
  • Times Live from South Africa mentions Tim Winton's great The Shepherd's Hut (so evocative of the landscape of Western Australia) and Michael Ondaatje's Warlight, which many had expected to be getting major prizes. 
  • One of the best online magazines, Slate, has 10 Best Books of 2018 from Laura Miller, including the latest novel from Alan Hollinghurst, The Sparsholt Affair, and Tana French's latest well-received The Witch Elm
  • The Skinny's editors' choices include Sophie Mackintosh's 'utterly sublime' dystopian début novel, The Water Cure, and, in poetry, Tishani Doshi's 'captivating' collection Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods (Emilie Pine, Sally Rooney and Anna Burns are here, too).
  • Prospect Magazine has a list of 'ideas' books of the year (starting with Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now, a wordier version of Hans Rosling's Factfulness?), and one for history, including Gandhi, Churchill and de Gaulle), as well as economics.
  • Electric Lit's 15 Best Non-Fiction Books include Deborah Levy's 'memoir in essays', The Cost of Living. 
  • Flavorwire's Best of 2018 by Sarah Selzer identifies a 'mini-trend', 'books about women’s anger (both at their personal lot and at sexism at large)'.
  • No better place than Nature for Best Science Books (and shows) of the yea, such as Dermot Turing's account of the background behind his uncle's code-breaking, X, Y & Z: the Real Story of How Enigma Was Broken
  • CBC has best Canadian non-fiction, including Tima Kurdi's The Boy on the Beach, based on one of the most distressing photographs of recent times, as well as best Canadian fiction, including the internationally-successful Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, as well as plenty of individual recommendations.
  • The English and Media Centre has a great list of Christmas reading recommendations (from all years, and all the way back to Middlemarch). Perfidious Albion, the 'Brexit-novel' by Sam Byers, is one (hard to match reality, of course).
  • The Big Issue's selection by Jane Graham of best children's books includes The Dam by the 'giant' of children's writing, David Almond.
  • GQ Magazine has 17 Best Books of 2018, with Assymetry by Lisa Harding featuring, which it does in many lists: Harding herself recommends Deviation by Luce d'Eramo, 'a novelistic treatment of her life experiences with Fascists and Nazis.'
  • National Review's 2018: A Year in Reading includes When by Daniel Pink, who is always worth reading.
  • RTÉ's Sinéad Crowley's choices start with three powerful non-fiction books by Emilie Pine, Julia Kelly and Tara Westover.
  • The Seattle Times selection by arts writers includes books from previous years, but from this year comes Lauren Groff's short story selection, Florida (not all set in that state). 
  • Verso Books' authors choose their favourites here. Teresa Thornhill goes all the way back to Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves.
  • The LitHub Ultimate Best Books of 2018 list aggregates American recommendations, with Ottessa Moshfegh (My Year of Rest and Relaxation) and Tommy Orange (There, There) reaching 19 lists each. 
  • The Atlantic's readers' choices are here, with A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles appearing twice.