Thursday, April 30, 2009

Junior Poetry : 'Teapot' and 'Dawn'

Here are two more poems from the recent Junior Poetry Prize entries. Oliver (I form) and Mark (Primary) were given book tokens for their writing.

'Teapot', by Oliver Glenn-Craigie

My Dad’s old teapot,
Boiling when it’s angry,
Smelling of smoky Chinese tea,
The steam whistling out of the spout,
The worn handle willing to retire
But staying strong,
The peeling paint falling off,
The smooth edges becoming rough,
Since his teenage years making thousands
Of cups, filled with warmth inside.

'Dawn', by Mark Russell

A golden shaft from above,
Illuminates a heavy shadow’s murky dull.
From frightening darkness,
And unleashed fears,
Come showers of hopefulness,
A green, bright day of clear.

As a deep, crimson sliver
Surfaces on the horizon,
Twittering birds call out their early morning mantra.
The light appears as their little voices quiver.

The colours of day-time, they start to emerge,
Lush greens, rich browns and the bright pink of flowers.

A gentle reminder, that it’s never really gone.
The sun shines its light, like it always has shone.

Professor T.P. Dolan

We're delighted to be welcoming to the College tonight Professor Terry Dolan, a long-time friend of and visitor to St Columba's. This evening he will be talking about American English and associated subjects to an audience of senior pupils in the Drawing Room. We'll have a report tomorrow, and also shortly a podcast interview with him about the works of the great Geoffrey Chaucer.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


In last term's exam, Nicola Dalrymple from Primary wrote a story which she wanted to be 'unpredictable', which it certainly is. Read it below via Scribd (click the icon in the top right-hand corner to see the document in full-page view):
Shadows, Nicola Dalrymple Shadows, Nicola Dalrymple sccenglish

Tech Blog

The College ICT Department has just set up a new blog, which will provide help and suggestions for both pupils and staff on technology-related issues. This is part of the ongoing commitment to technology in the school, which has seen a great burgeoning of devolved websites and blogs over the last couple of years. The links to all these various College sites are in our sidebar to the right, under 'Other SCC Sites'.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Junior Poetry Prize, 2009

Congratulations to the winner of this year's Junior Poetry Prize, Opeline Kellett from III form. Congratulations also to Oliver Glenn-Craigie (I form) and Mark Russell (Primary) who have won book tokens for their entries. Below is one of Opeline's winning poems. Over the next week, we'll post plenty of other good entries from several pupils.

'Youthful Innocence', by Opeline Kellett

Pinnacle of innocence
that child of five
strawberry eyes
a smile inside

that sweet voice that tinkles
the charm of her tears
the love in her vision
that no one could fear

She chuckles in the morning
to her mum and her pop
don't let her change they whisper
it would hurt too much

Her radiance and youth
carefree, not a fluster inside
don't let her go they plead
don't let her leave her immaculate life.

'Irish Times' Noticeboard

Greetings to anyone who's visiting us as a result of reading today's 'Noticeboard' in the Irish Times. To access our Macbeth revision podcasts, go here.

So far there have been sessions on Macbeth's soliloquy in Act I scene vii, and on Lady Macbeth. We plan to put these weekly podcasts online each Sunday, leading up to the Leaving Cert. Future topics will include the idea of kingship and rule in Scotland, the scene set in England with Malcolm and Macduff, the 'Tomorrow...' speech in Act V scene v, and more.

You can also listen to our podcasts via the 'widget' on the sidebar to the right, or by visiting our podcast page here (if you have iTunes on your computer you can also subscribe by clicking here, and so download our episodes to your MP3 player, or by searching for 'SCC English' in the iTunes Store).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Podcast 4: Macbeth revision II - the Real Lady Macbeth

The second in our series of weekly revision podcasts leading up to the Leaving Certificate in June deals with Lady Macbeth, a character who too often is seen in black and white, simplistic terms. This 16-minute analysis deals with each of the nine times she appears in the play, and suggests how she is not a 'fiend-like' character, but a more complex woman, fragile and even pathetic.

Listen to this podcast via the player below:-

You can also listen to our podcasts via the 'widget' on the sidebar to the right, or by visiting our podcast page here (if you have iTunes on your computer you can also subscribe by clicking here, and so download our episodes to your MP3 player, or by searching for 'SCC English' in the iTunes Store).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy 445th Birthday, Shakespeare...

...and a reminder to pupils that the Willis Shakespeare Prize is being held tomorrow, Friday, at 6.30pm in Adare.

The Guardian today has a birthday feature on Shakespeare's portrayal on film and television, with clips of various sketches, including the one below, featuring Rowan Atkinson in Blackadder mode trying to persuade Hugh Laurie as the Bard that that speech from Hamlet is rather too long ...

Actiontrack comments

At the end of last term II form had the annual Actiontrack drama workshops. Two days ago we posted Eleanor Dolphin's full description of the experience. Everyone else in the form also wrote about it afterwards, and here are a few of the comments they made-
  • I thought Actiontrack was great fun. I learned a lot of things about acting : one of the things was how in improvisation you have to make things up on the spot. Also, I learned always to be confident on stage and make my voice clear.
  • We did a lot of making things up on the spot, which I found really fun, and it was interesting to hear others' stories. Also, this was the first experience I'd had with acting and I found it really fun and laid-back, and I surprised myself by not getting all embarrassed when I presented my stories in front of my year. I liked the day with the whole year most, because it meant that we got a lot more advice and tips on how we could make our small plays better, more interesting and appealing to the audience.
  • I really enjoyed the whole thing: we were allowed to relax and try something different. Nick and Jules were so good at everything. They taught us loads and were so friendly. I was surprised as well with how quickly they learnt our names.
  • I thought Actiontrack was a great learning experience. I had never done much drama before, but it made me want to have a go at the Junior Play next year. They did a great job at keeping everyone involved, and I don't think anyone got tired or felt left out. It was great, the way we were given so much freedom to write our own scenes, develop our role plays, and create our own characters, and perform in front of our fellow pupils.
  • On Wednesday we spent the whole morning doing drama. It was hard, but really interesting. It helped me a lot, because all my life I have been really afraid to play anything in front of anybody. So for the first minute I was in a panic, but after the first time in front of my friends, I suddenly realised that I enjoyed it.
  • I'm really looking forward to fourth form when we get to do a whole week of Actiontrack and then get to perform in front of the whole school.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

'Easter Wings' by George Herbert

The 49th Poem of the Week is George Herbert's 'Easter Wings'. An example of a pattern poem, written in 'carmen figuration', this poem was published in 1633. It's a good prompt for pupils to make poems in appropriate shapes... Above, the way it was originally published. Below, the text:-

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poore:
With thee
Oh let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne:
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Most thinne.
With thee
Let me combine
And feel this day thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Actiontrack review

Near the end of term, Nick and Julia from the Actiontrack Performance Company visited us for the annual three days of drama workshops with II form. Eleanor Dolphin was one of the pupils in these workshops, and writes:-

When I heard that 2nd form would be taking part in an Actiontrack acting workshop I was quite excited. I have done acting before this, I used to go to drama classes once a week, I took classes in my primary school and I have taken part in a few plays/productions. One of my ambitions is to become an actress one day.

On Tuesday in the BSR we worked with Nick and Jools. We started off with some clapping games to warm our brains up. We had to first clap back the rhythm of what Nick clapped. We played zip, zap, boing afterwards, you would have to concentrate quite hard for this game, especially when we added other actions later. After zip, zap, boing we created a grid maze, it started off with just one person walking around, making a grid shape from their imagination, you weren’t allowed to walk in curves only straight lines and ninety-degree turns. They added more and more people into the grid and it started to fill up, you couldn’t collide with or touch anyone. Afterwards we were asked to copy someone’s actions through the grid but to try to make it subtle, the person had to try to guess who was copying him or her.

Read Eleanor's full account of the workshop here. More about Actiontrack shortly.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Start of Trinity Term

Pupils return to school today for the start of the very busy Trinity Term. In English, ahead of us are of course the Leaving and Junior Certificate exams, starting on Wednesday 3rd June.

Also, shortly we will have the results of the Senior and Junior Poetry Prizes; the Shakespeare Prize exam; theatre visits to The Comedy of Errors and All My Sons; posting of Transition Year Work Portfolio material; the Transition Year English Evening; the Voices of Poetry evening; the TY Actiontrack Week; plenty of podcasts (which started yesterday with a Macbeth revision recording); a visit and talk by Professor Terry Dolan, as well as a podcast interview with him about Geoffrey Chaucer; regular Poems of the Week; and plenty more...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Podcast 3 : Macbeth revision I - the crucial moment

Today we're starting weekly revision podcasts on Macbeth, leading up to the Leaving Cert in early June. These short programmes will focus on key moments, characters and ideas in the play, and are designed to give you a few minutes in the week when you can freshen up your thinking about the play. It's easy to become stale after two years studying a text...

The first podcast deals with Macbeth's soliloquy which starts Act I scene vii, 'If it were done ...', analysing the speech and suggesting why this is the most important moment in the whole play. (The Wordle at the top of this post is composed from the words of the speech - since we've used Wordle a lot over recent months, we'd like to recommend voting for it in the Webby Awards - register here). Next week's podcast will be on Lady Macbeth.

Listen to the podcast via the player below:-

You can also listen to our podcasts via the 'widget' on the sidebar to the right, or by visiting our podcast page here (if you have iTunes on your computer you can also subscribe by clicking here, and so download our episodes to your MP3 player, or by searching for 'SCC English' in the iTunes Store).


Our ClustrMap, which shows where visitors to this blog come from, is at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar. Not surprisingly, the biggest number is from Ireland (even more during term-time), followed by the USA and UK. At the bottom of the list is an interesting list of names of countries which have been here just once over the last couple of months - so this is just to say 'Hello', in whatever language is appropriate, to our friends from :

Peru, Kenya, Fiji, Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Sri Lanka, Estonia, Mauritius, Saint Lucia, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Armenia, Mongolia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Senegal, Benin and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (pictured above, to cheer us all up in these chastened times).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dublin Review of Books

The spring edition of the excellent online magazine, the Dublin Review of Books, is out now here. Barra Ó Seaghdha, in his review of Stepping Stones, Seamus Heaney's interviews with Dennis O'Driscoll, comments that

O’Driscoll raises the matter of the many conferences, launches, conferrings and other public events in which Heaney participates. 'Ongoing civic service, I suppose,' Heaney responds. The grace and patience with which he handles such demands on his time and energy point to another aspect of the poetic vocation as he conceives it. Life has been good to him in many ways; poetry has enriched his existence both privately and in the social and intellectual worlds it has opened up to him. In return, though under no obligation to roll up his shirtsleeves and take part in the meitheal, Heaney performs his neighbourly duty as few in his position would.

Elsewhere, John McAuliffe reviews Austin Clarke's Collected Poems, and there are plenty of other interesting articles.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Seamus Heaney at 70

Tomorrow is Seamus Heaney's 70th birthday, and our national broadcaster is really doing him proud. RTE have a superb microsite called 'Heaney at 70' here, and there's plenty of interesting material, and news of a wide array of events, including readings, television programmes, archive interviews, music and more, including Peter Sirr's essay 'In Step With What Escaped Me' (an introduction to the CD set of eleven books, which we'll be getting for the Library). At the bottom of this post is the flier, as seen on Issuu (click for a larger view, and scroll through the pages), Throughout the day RTE Radio 1 on longwave 252 will be broadcasting the entire collection, as read by the poet himself.

So congratulations to RTE on a magnificent effort to mark this occasion, and of course birthday congratulations to the magnificent poet himself. (The Irish Times special tribute is here, including an article by our friend Niall MacMonagle from Wesley College on Heaney in the classroom)

2009 Hennessy Awards

Congratulations to OC Selina Guinness, who has been short-listed in the 2009 Hennessy XO Awards in the First Fiction category for her story 'Among the Living'. Selina was the guest speaker at a TY English Evening in the past, and edited the 2004 anthology The New Irish Poets for Bloodaxe Books.

Also shortlisted, in the Emerging Writer category, is Kevin Power, for his short story 'The American Girl'; recently we recommended his first novel, Bad Day in Blackrock (nominated as Best Irish Newcomer in the forthcoming Irish Book Awards). Power is also nominated in the Poetry category.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

PC Live

SCC English features in this month's edition of PC Live, Ireland's top technology magazine, on pages 4 and 5, under the 'Blogger in Profile' slot.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

All My Sons

Arthur Miller's early play, All My Sons, is a feature of our Junior Certificate course, and a new production, directed by Robin Lefèvre, has just opened at the Gate Theatre. Our III and IV forms will be going to see it in May.

In today's Irish Independent, Bruce Arnold wrote that it 'surpassed all my expectations in a production of great power, simplicity and purity ... the single setting, with its clapboard house and almost claustrophobic garden, seems closed in on the audience, drawing them into the heart of the play's action and holding them, in the last scene, quite spellbound.' More here.

In today's Irish Times, Peter Crawley writes that 'Robin Lefèvre’s new production for the Gate is certainly faithful to the play, which is to say that it is inevitably uneven, reaching moments of intense dramatic heat created by some peerless performances, while also dipping into airless pockets of leaden significance. That’s the consequence of taking Miller at his word. One look at Liz Ascroft’s set, a beautifully detailed but slavishly realistic American backyard, lets you know you’re in for a very straight reading.' More here.

On Monday, Arminta Wallace had a long feature in the IT about Len Cariou, who plays the central character Joe Keller.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bad Day at Blackrock

Kevin Power's debut novel, Bad Day at Blackrock, certainly pinpoints the zeitgeist - and specifically the rottenness in wealthy Ireland that has brought us to our current state. Power's pointed epigraph is from Hamlet : 'This is th'impostume of much wealth and peace, / That inward breaks, and shows no cause without / Why the man dies' (the reference is to Hamlet's thoughts on the apparent pointlessness of Fortinbras's aggression).

Bad Day in Blackrock is much the best literary response yet to the Celtic Tiger years, with echoes of The Great Gatsby and Donna Tartt's The Secret History. Ross O'Carroll Kelly has been on this territory for a while from a comic angle, but Power's controlled combination of the lyrical and the demotic is on an entirely different level in analysing pre-crash Ireland : this was a world in which, on any given evening, you could watch while a pyjamaed teenage girl with back-combed hair and furry boots jogged across the bleak forecourt of an all-night petrol station to buy a packet of safety razors to cut herself with.

Power's narrator is nameless and for the most of the novel it seems that he is also uninvolved, just an observer, but in fact in the final pages we learn that he is right at the heart of the story. The skill, control and narrative drive in this novel are very impressive, and the author is clearly at the start of an interesting career.

Power was interviewed last October by Vincent Woods in the Arts Show on Radio 1 - click here to listen. And his short story 'Wilderness Gothic', short-listed for the Francis MacManus award last year, can be heard here, read by Daragh Kelly. John Boyne's Irish Times review of the novel is here.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Comedy of Errors

Our Shakespeare Society will be going on its second theatre outing of the year on April 27th, to the Abbey Theatre production of Shakespeare's first and shortest play, The Comedy of Errors (produced here in 2000), directed by Jason Byrne, who also directed the Julius Caesar we saw in 2007. At the bottom is the Abbey's trailer.

In the Irish Times, Peter Crawley, here, calls the production 'self-aware', and writes that 'with bad debts and easy credit undermining society, the play comes off as a fierce economic satire. Any similarity to our own situation is purely intentional. That shiver of recognition makes the head-smacking contrivances, the zany gags and the cast’s witty embellishments all the sharper. And though Byrne often seems busy deconstructing the jokes, letting the opening scene become an unpardonable snore, everything that follows is good, edgy fun.'

There's also an enthusiastic review here in the Independent, which calls it 'an exuberant, affectionate job ... respectful without being reverential, and quite wonderfully physical and fast-moving.'

In yesterday's Sunday Times, Declan Burke wrote that 'bare brick, mobile scaffolding and contemporary costuming set the tone for Jason Byrne's postmodern take ... Peter Daly (as Dromio of Syracuse) and Ciaran O'Brien (as Dromio of Ephesus) steal the show with two superb comic performances.'