Friday, February 27, 2009

Days of Freedom

In the recent Senior English Prize exam, candidates had to answer two sections in two hours: a composition, and a poetry section analysing two poems (Hardy's 'During Wind and Rain' and Seamus Heaney's sonnet from 'Clearances', 'When all the others were away at Mass ...')

Miriam Poulton of Transition Year received a distinction for her entry, and wrote a story called 'Days of Freedom' prompted by a photograph of two boys leaping into a lake. It starts:-

They were a motley bunch, and I knew Mum would find names for them - red-necks, hillbillies, that type of thing. It wasn’t difficult to see why: they were all wearing ragged denim, checked shirts or only a bikini top or even nothing in the case of some of the boys, and all sporting tanned bare feet. One girl even wore her hair in two long sandy plaits. There were a lot of things you could call them and I gave them the politest label possible: small-town Canadians.

Perhaps it was the pale skin, or the fact we had just arrived in a sparkly rented Chevrolet, but the group of young people were all staring at me like I had two heads. “Hi,” I tried nervously.

Read the full story here.

The Art of Teaching English

This weekend, there's a conference in Loughrea on 'The Art of Teaching English', which marks the establishment of INOTE, the Irish National Organisation for Teachers of English. There are plenty of interesting presentations, and there'll be a report here next week. Notes and links from our own presentation are here.

To a Poor Old Woman ...

The 47th Poem of the Week is William Carlos Williams's 'To a Poor Old Woman', and you can hear the poet himself reading this simple poem here, from the amazing resource Penn Sound run by the University of Pennsylvania, where you can find a huge collection of poems by Williams and interviews of him, as well as much material from other writers.

'This is just to say' was our 7th Poem of the Week in September 2007 - see also this post.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fight Club review

Today, two reviews by pupils from Mr Canning's Junior Cert set. First, Michael Kemp is reading Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, and has seen the 1999 film. He writes :-

It is a seamless transition to screen; Palahniuk even says it’s an improvement on his novel. The story is about how the unnamed Narrator (Edward Norton) tries to redeem himself from his mundane life by following his friend’s advice to reach “bottom”, so he can be free of society’s shackles and how it all revolves around a girl named Marla Singer.

This pitch-black comedy satire is among the most bleak films I’ve ever seen. It's shot with a spherical lens to capture the grimness of the narrator’s world, which could mirror his perverted psyche. The bleakness is a definite barrier, but the character’s jokes and observations save the film from being unbearable and make you revel in its nightmarish vision.

Read Michael's full comments here.

Below, Shannen Keogan's review of Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet review

Here's another review of the recent Junior Play production of Romeo and Juliet, this time by III former Shannen Keogan :-

Throughout the entire play every single character gave off the impression that they knew what they were doing and did it very professionally. I have to give particular mention to: Opeline Kellett who had the very tough job of playing two different roles (the authoritative Princess Escalus and the fragile Lady Capulet); Thomas Emmet as Lord Capulet gave a powerfully choleric display; Olivia Plunket came across as the chatty and caring nurse; and Igor Verkhovskiy's interpretation of Tybalt as a Russian mafia boss was refreshingly innovative. In short they all gave excellent performances.

Read the full review by Shannen here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Farewell Future Wives

Announcing the first album release by a member of our Department ... Ronan Swift's long-awaited debut album, Farewell Future Wives, is now out. Opening with an appropriately literary track, 'A Midsummer Night's Email', as Romeo writes to Juliet, it ranges from the long-standing favourite 'Adulterous Thoughts' to 'Advice for Lovers' to 'Interrupted by Cattle'. Great tunes, nifty lyrics, and smooth production values. Irresistible. And the cover's by Old Columban Conrad Frankel.

Email us here (scc.english 'at' if you're looking for a copy (Euro15 each); it can be arranged ...

[added later : go here for our first podcast, which features Ronan discussing this album].

English Prizes 2009

Congratulations to the winners of this year's prizes, following the recent examinations: Rebecca Feeney-Barry (senior) and Lingfan Gao (junior).

In addition, booktokens and distinctions are being awarded to the best performers in different forms - Ciara O'Driscoll (VI), Fiona Boyd (V), Miriam Poulton (IV), Hamish Law (II) and Sadhbh Sheeran (I), and distinctions to Emily Plunket and Crispin Maenpaa from VI. We hope to post some work from the entries here shortly.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

World Book Day competition

World Book Day this year is on Thursday 5th March. We'll be celebrating it in various weeks - more detail next week - but this is a post encouraging entries for a new venture, a short story competition being run in concert with the Library.

The competition is being aimed particularly at juniors, but seniors are also welcome to enter, and the Library will be giving book tokens to winners. You should write a short story (1000 words at most) about an encounter in real life with a character from a book. A possible first sentence is :

The Library was quiet. I heard a noise and turned around. 'But,' I gasped, 'what are you doing here? You belong in a book!' ....

The deadline is Saturday 7th March, and winning entries will be published on this blog, and in the Library magazine, 'The Submarine'. Good luck!

John Montague at 80

The poet John Montague is 80 on Saturday, and yesterday's Irish Times had a page-length article about him by fellow poet Thomas McCarthy, who wrote:-

His energy, power and belief in the poet’s vocation grows in intensity with every passing year. Along with that energy is a familial delicacy, an ability to capture microcosms of love.

Read McCarthy's full article here. It quotes in full two of the poems from the Leaving Certificate selection (Montague is on the rota for this year), 'The Same Gesture' and 'All Legendary Obstacles'.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tenderfoot report

Recently the Transition Year Tenderfoot project was completed. Sophie Millar, who wrote about the experience previously, now looks back:-

The build-up was here and at last all our practising was to be put on stage in front of an audience! Being behind the scenes in the wings was the most fun, but what struck me most about the public performances was that it was all left down to us, the students (although we were almost too busy to notice).

In the end, after all the preparation and rehearsals it was just us alone working the show. Whether we were acting or off-stage, we had the responsibility fully on ourselves to make it all happen, trying to put people in costumes in the dark while not bursting into laughter, or doing the acting itself. It was great, and the shows went brilliantly. After the last performance finished I think we all felt we had really achieved something. It was sad for it to end but most of us have stayed in touch and have been into town together or back to the theatre itself to see other shows. I appreciated every day and we are all so grateful to the directors and everyone who helped us there and taught us so much.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Romeo and Juliet review

Today we break for half-term, and so posting here will resume when we return on Monday 23rd February.

Our last post in this part of term is a review of the recent highly successful Junior Play production (collage above) Romeo and Juliet by V former Anna Traill, who played the title role in last year's Junior production of Antigone by Sophocles. A story suited for Valentine's weekend ...

Anna writes:-

Our Friday and Saturday evenings, February 6th and 7th, were lit up as the Junior school performed the infamous tragedy Romeo and Juliet. The audience was captivated from the first moment.

We didn’t really know what we were expecting as we sat on the edge of our seats before the lights went off. But as soon as William Maire and Tyrone Langham came on to the stage with their yellow hoodies, and spray-painted ‘Montagues’ and ‘Capulets’ onto the wall we knew we were in for a good night.

Jasper Pickersgill played Romeo brilliantly: not once was he put off by any audience reaction, and he expressed his love for Juliet incredibly well throughout the story. Emma Moore, playing the leading female role, Juliet, was mesmerising. The romance between Romeo and Juliet seemed so real throughout the production. Our hearts as an audience were really being torn.

Read the full review here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Junior Poetry Prize, 2009

III, II, I and Primary who wish to enter this year's Junior Poetry Prize should complete a poem/poems which are in some way prompted by the idea of change. They should be at least 14 lines, and emailed to Ms Smith at typed.up 'at' by Thursday 26th March. As with previous years, we'll post many of these entries at the start of next term. Last year's winner was Joanna Tottenham, and the 2007 winner was Fiona Boyd.

The Junior English Prize is being held tonight in Kennedy, starting at 6.30pm.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Boyne, Haddon, Whyman

Here's the latest in the series of impressive Transition Year Extended Essays we've been posting over recent weeks. Robbie Hollis wrote about the theme of Troubled Childhoods in three novels - John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and Mark Whyman's Boy Kills Man.

In his conclusion Robbie reflects on the experience of writing this long essay:-

In the introduction I outlined the basic plots of the books, and introduced the characters and people in the books. I found that this was easy, as there was a lot to write about, and I felt I had to hold myself back, because it is very easy to write pages on the plot of a book, basically retelling it, but very hard to write about the actual people, places and story, without just saying line after line about what happens in the book itself.

When going through the relationships I decided to stick to the main character in each of the books. Otherwise I could have rambled on forever about every little character in e
ach book, and thought this would be rather boring. I learnt that when I read a book I don’t really think in a lot of detail about the relationships characters have with each other, until I have to write about it, then I thought about it in a lot more detail, and for future reference I think I will stop and maybe think just what each relationship means to each person, and how the plot and story are affected by each and every relationship, whether it is in a small way, or a big way.

Whilst I was on character changes, I also found a great depth of things to write about in the subject. I discovered that in every book, almost all of the characters change in some way, and this is the core focus of the book, although I didn’t realise before that all books tell of great adventure, or saddening loss, or violent crime, but if I look closely I will see that the author is writing it around the character, and not the plot, and that this is the way to write and focus on a book, do not think about the action or adventure, or excessive violence, think of the character and how he or she changes through out the course of the book. I believe from now on I will look at books in a very different, more personal way, and I think that everybody should discover what I have, and be able to read a book in that way.

Read Robbie's full essay here.


Our 46th Poem of the Week is Carol Ann Duffy's 'Valentine', appropriately since, as can be seen in the photo, pupils are currently filling the box outside Beresford House with Valentine's cards for Saturday. Duffy's sharp poem isn't anything like 'a cute card or kissogram'. Read the full text here.

2009 English Prizes

The Senior English Prize is being held today: candidates go to the Library at 2pm, or Adare at 6.45pm. The Junior Prize will be held tomorrow evening, from 6.30 to 7.45pm in Kennedy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Grass is Singing interview

VI formers currently preparing The Grass is Singing for the Leaving Certificate comparative answer in their Mocks will find useful material here in Doris Lessing's own words in the BBC World Service World Book Club from February 2003. The interview is 23 minutes long.

Among points of interest are :-
  • That she originally wrote a novel with Tony Marston as the main character throughout, but eventually cut out most of this, since she didn't feel she had to skill to maintain the narrative.
  • She had to create a mood of menace in the environment for Mary Turner, despite the fact that Lessing herself loves that landscape.
  • Rhodesia was 'the most profoundly boring culture' she has known, particularly in the way that the whites constantly talked about the shortcomings or strengths of their servants.
  • She didn't think of Mary and Moses as having a primarily physical relationship, but she was nonetheless interested in the way the black servant 'dominated' the white mistress.
  • In Rhodesia, many whites left rather than stayed, through boredom, failure or dislike of racism. There were plenty of whites like Dick who didn't make it, and were poor, but to an extent they were 'bolstered' by the wealthier whites, so that 'they didn't let the side down'. This was one of the culture's unwritten assumptions.
  • She thinks that Mary was 'under Moses's thumb' and then he felt betrayed at the end, so this was the motive for the murder.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Romeo and Juliet photos

Here's an Animoto video of pictures taken by Peter Watts on Saturday night of the Junior Play, Romeo and Juliet. The music is, appropriately, 'Duelo A La Muerto' by Incendio. It's followed by the pictures in an album.

And the album:

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Senior Poetry Prize

The 2009 Senior Poetry Prize, in memory of Old Columban Peter Dix (the trophy is seen left, in the Library), has been launched. All candidates should submit their portfolio of poems of between two and five poems to Mr Canning by the last day of this term. The two set themes this year are People and Place, and pupils may treat either of these themes in any way. The full rubric can be seen here.

Last year's joint winners were Rachel Acton Filion and Fiona Boyd; some of their winning poems can be seen here and here. In 2007 Ben Russell was the winner. Of course, we'll be posting lots of entries here when the judging has been completed at the start of next term.

The Tempest

This should be interesting : the South Bank Show tonight (ITV, 10.15pm) examines Shakespeare's late play The Tempest:

"Melvyn Bragg explores the history of Shakespeare's play and its appeal to modern audiences. He focuses on the work of alchemist John Dee, said to have been the basis for the character Prospero, the shipwreck in 1609 that might have inspired it and the role played by magic in the story. With archive footage of British, Italian and German productions and contributions from experts including Charles Nicholl and Gary Taylor."

Last night our Junior Play production of Romeo and Juliet concluded, with a fine final performance. We'll shortly have plenty of photos, and a review by a pupil.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Romeo and Juliet first night

Good luck to all involved in tonight's opening performance of Romeo and Juliet, this year's Junior Play. Pictured above, the cast after last night's dress rehearsal (the coloured hoodies denote the families - red for Montague, yellow for Capulet, with Mercutio the lone purple).

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Romeo and Juliet

The Junior Play, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, is in the final throes of rehearsal before the two performances in the BSR, on Friday at 7pm, and Saturday at 8pm. This Junior production follows many successful recent productions from the Shakespeare Society, including The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It and, most recently in 2006, Twelfth Night. The dress rehearsal is tonight.

This version has been abridged by director Evan Jameson as a fast-paced contemporary story, which opens to the rowdy notes of The Pogues and ends with the melancholy strains of Iceland's Sigur Ros (see below - and in between some Nigerian dance music). The cast has been rehearsing intensely since the start of term. The title roles are being played by Jasper Pickersgill and Emma Moore, and other notables are Thomas Emmet and Opeline Kellett as Lord and Lady Capulet, Patrick Tice as the ill-fated Mercutio and Olivia Plunket as the Nurse.

The production is being played 'in the flat', with a long walkway against one wall of the BSR, and a raised area for the Capulets' house.

We'll have a pupil review here next week.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Boy at the Window

Given the weather these days, it seems appropriate to choose Richard Wilbur's 'Boy at the Window' as our 45th Poem of the Week. Click here for the text of the poem, and then on 'Listen' to hear Wilbur himself read it on the Internet Poetry Archive. He says it's about his son Christopher at the age of 5 on a December afternoon; after they made a snowman, when summoned into dinner Christopher stood at the window crying because their creation could not come in from the cold. Above, a visitor on the Warden's Lawn yesterday. Below, the Chapel yesterday evening.

(The other poets reading on the Internet Poetry Archive are Seamus Heaney, Yusef Komunyakaa, Philip Levine, Robert Pinsky, Margaret Walker and Czeslaw Milosz).

Irish Blog Awards 2009

We're delighted to be long-listed for the 2009 Irish Blog Awards in the Best Group Blog category, which is sponsored by It's definitely a long list at the moment; you can have a look at the many other worthy candidates here, as well as the other categories. The Awards are organised by Damien Mulley, and the prize night is in Cork on February 21st.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Elegy for a Dead Animal

The third in the series of poems by TY pupils, prompted by paintings from the Images in Poetry module, is by Susannah Cooke, and is a response to 'Elegy for a Dead Animal' by the contemporary Scottish painter Jack Vettriano :

'Elegy for a Dead Animal', by Susannah Cooke

I’m sitting on this beach
Thinking of the memories we made here.
I probably look rather stupid,
Sitting on this chair in formal attire,
With violinists and a linen table cloth.
I’ve got sand in my shoes and
My dress has got wet.
I am almost catching

My death with the chill.

It’s not long before the tide has turned.

Though I’m surrounded by people,
I’m lost without you.
I’ve been looking for you where I last saw you,
But you aren’t here anymore.

Second Age King Lear

The Second Age production of our V form single text, King Lear, is reviewed today by Sara Keating in the Irish Times here, after its opening at the Wexford Opera House. All our V form will be seeing the production at the Helix Theatre on March 20th.

She writes :- Second Age Theatre’s latest production for secondary school audiences is a stylish, energetic and unconventional King Lear. Directed by Donnacadh O’Briain, it offers a coherent vision of Shakespeare’s characters and themes, while avoiding the easy clich├ęs associated with the canonical tragedy: there is not a white beard in sight.

The proceedings begin with the ritual beat of a drum, the resonant oilcan-echo silencing the cavernous auditorium of Wexford’s Opera House. Michael Vale’s industrial scaffolded design evokes a factory setting. Lear’s kingdom might well be a manufacturing one, but as the play proceeds and the bodies pile up it begins to resemble an abattoir.

Academic Earth and Elizabeth Bishop

Academic Earth is 'an organization founded with the goal of giving everyone on earth access to a world class education' - basically, a YouTube of high-class university lectures on many subjects, from astronomy to medicine, economics to engineering. It's in beta, and so is only starting to build its collection. In terms of English, there are three courses from Yale University, including, below, a lecture on Elizabeth Bishop by Langdon Hammer on one of the Leaving Cert poets (at a considerably higher level, of course). Hammer also lectures on Frost, Yeats, World War I poetr, T.S. Eliot, Hart Crane and more - 25 in total.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Scream

The second poem in a series of responses to the Images in Art TY Module. This poem, by Robbie Hollis, is prompted by Edvard Munch's famous 'The Scream'.

'The Scream', by Robbie Hollis

Two men in dark clothes
Sneak up from behind
The flame red sky.
A river blends with the marbled horizon,
And creates rolling blue mountains.
The skeletal figure,
As if knowing what is to come
Is frozen, in an everlasting scream.