Monday, June 22, 2009

Top 100 Language Blogs 2009

SCC English has been nominated for the 'Top 100 Language Blogs 2009' Award (not sure how, or by who, so thanks to whoever did), run by and (see the comment on the previous post). Voting and judging are in July: more then.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Off to the Beach

And so we head off on our summer holidays. 88% of our posts this year have been about the school, but in the holidays every now and then we'll also throw in posts about matters of general literary interest.

Our third full year of blogging has been as busy as the others. Our main innovation this year was a start on podcasting, with several interviews, as well as Macbeth revision sessions (and there are plenty of plans for next year's podcasts). We were delighted to receive the Edublogs Best Blog Award 2008 in December. We published lots of pupils' poetry and essays, and continued posting lots of news about drama, fiction, poetry and more.

So it's time to pack a pile of books into a bag and head off...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Podcast 14: Henry James's 'The Portrait of a Lady'

Our final podcast of this academic year, just in time for some satisfying holiday reading, is an interview with former colleague John Fanagan, who discusses Henry James's great 1881 novel The Portrait of a Lady. Set in England and Italy, the book examines the progress of the innocent American young woman Isabel Archer, as she comes into contact with the ways of an older civilisation. John discusses other characters in the novel, such as Ralph Touchett, Lord Warburton, Madame Merle, Henrietta Stacpoole and the dark Gilbert Osmond. There's a spoiler warning before the last few minutes of the podcast, in which the infamous ending is discussed, so if you haven't already read the novel, you might like to pause it then, and return later.

(This is also the 700th post on SCC English).
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).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Submarine, June 2009

This year's final edition of the excellent Library magazine, The Submarine, is out now, and is a bumper 16-page sign-off, with plenty of food for thought. Appropriately, given the weeks ahead of us, it focusses on reading. It can be read online via Issuu below, or downloaded to your computer from the College site here.

The guest editor this time is Fiona Boyd from V form, who Librarian Tom McConville commends for her 'sure touch and irresistible force of personality' (in other words, if you said you'd write something, you'd better turn up with the goods). Among the articles are reviews by Anna Traill of Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses, of Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things by Dr Garry Bannister, and of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by Sarah O'Mahony. There are also poems by Fiona Boyd and Opeline Kellett.

In addition, there's an edited transcript of this blog's podcast interview with Professor Terry Dolan on Geoffrey Chaucer, a summary of this term's new Library books, a story by I former Christian Sullivan called 'Hitler's Scientist', an advice column on reading by Virginia Peck, and lots of both enlightening and entertaining comments under the 'What's Reading Me?' heading by plenty of staff and pupils.

Click on the pages below for a larger view, scroll through by using the arrows, and click again for a close-up.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

'Tinseltown Meltdown': the inside view

Miriam Poulton was one of the Transition Year participants in the Actiontrack Show on Saturday (see yesterday's posts for a photo album and an Animoto video). She writes:-

Thursday morning the scripts were given to us. From past plays we had known that Actiontrack performances generally didn’t make much sense, but this… Tinseltown, plastic celebrities, singing hippos, icecream mines… could it get much stranger? The team kindly asked us what parts we would prefer, though only some got their preference. For instance, I had asked to be one of the ice-cream people, but after break when the team told us the parts I found I was to be Tara Cards, the prophesying and crazy old lady with a talking garden. Just what I always wanted to pretend to be on stage...

Read the rest of Miriam's excellent description of the five days here.

(Pictured, Michael McBurney breathes fire at the climax of the evening).

Monday, June 15, 2009

Actiontrack 09 Animoto

Below, a 3-minute Animoto video put together from photos taken at the Actiontrack performance of Tinselstown Meltdown on Saturday evening. Click the icon on the bottom, second from the right, for a full-screen view. See today's other post for the photo album. The music is 'Festa Da Carnaval' by Fernando Ebano.

Actiontrack 09 Photo Album

Here's an album of some photos of last night's Actiontrack performance and rehearsals (see today's other post to see these turned into an Animoto video set to music):-

Sunday, June 14, 2009

'Tinseltown Meltdown'

It can be safely said that last night's Actiontrack Showbuild performance from Transition Year ended in the most spectacular way imaginable - with the large curtains over the Deerpark end window parting to reveal a blazing 'volcano', and the audience following the cast out of the BSR in the semi-dark to stand around a bonfire accompanied by two 'fire-breathers' and a Japanese drum unit. Whereupon a large tractor hoved into view, in its uploader an enormous icecream, which was then tipped into the flames, 'quenching' the volcano.

What had taken place in the preceding 80 minutes was a drama called Tinseltown Meltdown, the story of the innate shallowness of the world of celebrity, and the innate decency of icecream. Over the next couple of days we'll have lots of photos, a video, and a pupil's review.

Click here for the programme.

Friday, June 12, 2009

'Lake Thun'

The last of the recent series of four poems inspired by paintings and photographs, written by Transition Year, is Sophie Millar's 'Lake Thun', which was prompted by Ferdinand Holler's painting of that name (click here for a large image).

'Lake Thun' by Sophie Millar

Calamity and Catastrophe
Steered far away
From the warm blue chill
Of the dawning day.
With airbrushed colours
Within shy waters,
The mountains arose
To take control.

But presumptions took the tide of doubt
And it was believed a dream,
For no life could possibly live
In this lovestruck paradise.

'My First School'

Recently we posted Susannah Cooke's piece about her first school, and here is another essay from the Transition Year Work Portfolio on the same subject. In this case it's Rebecca Moran's experience of her first school in Castlebar:-

As I walked along the dark grey corridor, I was greeted by a red door. I held my mum’s hand. We were welcomed by a rather old woman who had pronounced wrinkles in her forehead and had a friendly, caring look about her. She wore a pale pink v-neck sweater and long black trousers. Her name was Miss Kelly. She reached for a large sheet, filled with the names of boys and girls. She scanned it and finally came across mine...

Read the full essay here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Podcast 13: Actiontrack - an interview with Nick Brace

Our 13th podcast is an interview with the Artistic Director of the Actiontrack Performance Company, Nick Brace (pictured, giving last-minute instructions to last year's cast). Actiontrack have been coming to us since 1993, working with II formers in March, and with Transition Year in particular at the end of each year in 'showbuilds'. Nick discusses the process in which a musical production is created from scratch in five days, involving song-writing, singing, dancing, set design and of course acting. He also talks about Actiontrack's work generally, including local work in Somerset with schools, youth groups and communities. Actiontrack's website is here.

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).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

'Ophelia and the Guard'

The third in our current series of poems prompted by the TY Images in Poetry module is based on the famous photograph by Lee Miller of an SS guard in the canal at Dachau from 1945. Read more in Newsweek about Miller here. Click here for a larger image.

'Ophelia and the Guard' by Kate Boyd Crotty

Just outside the frame,
Soldiers gaze at their man,
The pain and tragedy that hit them all.
But for this man, no more.

As if he is sleeping peacefully,
He lies as Ophelia once did;
Her love for Hamlet dying with her
And his, for his love dies with him.

The almost stillness engulfs all
As they look on his lifeless body.
A cold gust blows causing ripples in the water
And the grass sways gently.

Almost silence is all around.
All that can be heard is the gentle lapping
Of the water against his arm.

For him this is peace. Freedom.

Book List 2009-2010

The English books needed by pupils in the next academic year can now be seen here. Parents will get the general booklist at the end of term. Books can be ordered online from Wise Owl here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I form poetry workshops

Recently 10 I formers had two poetry workshops with the poet Louise Callaghan, and started on pieces in their notebooks. Their exercises included concentrating on the senses, on colour, and one in which they described a beautiful shell Louise brought to the room.

Here are some of the poems prompted by the shell, and click here for more material from the workshops.

'Heart-Shaped', by Alex Owens

It has a rough surface on its outer skin.
It reminds me of builders' sanding paper.
Just one flip, it turns to silk,
The glossy touch, like plastic.
Its heart-shape
Reminds me of a white ribbon,
Or the tear-drop of a lost soul.

'The Shell', by Duncan Mathews

The outside a bland normality,
The inside a thing of beauty,
The outside rough like sand,
The inside smooth like enamel,
The outside dull brown like dried blood,
The inside awash with colours,
A rainbow flood.

'Mysterious Shell', by Lauren Scully

This shell is a mermaid's fan.
She uses it to create a cool breeze.

This shell is an old man's ash tray.
He uses it to put his cigarettes out.

This shell is the skin of a turtle
When it swims to shore.

This shell is my granny's mirror
That her wrinkles appear in.

This shell feels like I am rubbing a fingernail
That is freshly manicured.

This shell smells like bits of seaweed
And tastes like grass.

TY English Prize

Congratulations to Miriam Poulton, who last night was awarded the English Prize at the IV form Prize Presentation Evening in the BSR: the full list of subject awards is on the College site here.

Monday, June 08, 2009

'Judith and Holofernes'

The second of the recent series of Images in Poetry comes from Olivia Plunket, who wrote this poem in response to the stunning 1599 painting 'Judith and Holofernes' by Caravaggio (click here for a large image):-

'Judith and Holofernes' by Olivia Plunket

Draping curtains as red as blood
The maid will encourage Judith
As she enters the realm of reality.

Holofernes’s hand clenching
The blood-stained sheets
Upon which his body lies.

His shoulder arching forward,
His muscles pulsing.
Outside the frame his legs are thrashing,
As he tries to fight his fate,
Screaming to his saviour in the heavens.

TY Prize Presentation Evening

This evening in the BSR at 8pm, we'll have our first-ever prize evening just for the Transition Year. Click here for the full programme.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

'Man and Nature'

Here's the first of four poems we'll be posting over the coming week, by members of the Transition Year (who are about to start their Actiontrack drama week, and who have their Prize Presentation Evening tomorrow at 8pm in the BSR). These poems come from the Images in Poetry module, which you can read about here.

This poem was prompted by Henri Cartier-Bresson 'Place de l'Europe' (click for larger image) which coincidentally was one of the four photos featured in the Leaving Certficate Paper 1 last Wednesday, under the idea 'The Decisive Moment'.

'Man and Nature' by Jasper Pickersgill

The fallen ladder lies useless,
It has no more point of function.
It may have had one nonetheless;
After all it’s in good shape and condition.

It may seem like a useless jump,
One that has no point but to get wet.
The man may be hurrying, or on the run;
Nonetheless he hasn’t been caught yet.

It’s a perfect image of man and nature,
One trying to avoid the other.
It is impossible to avoid: we are nature -
Nothing we can do can separate the two.

Paper II completed

Predictably, given the setting process, yesterday's 'controversial' Paper 2 was straightforward, unexceptional and quite similar to the original paper. The unseen poem was an interesting and relatively challenging one, Anne Carson's 'Father's Old Blue Cardigan', which can be read here on the Poetry Foundation website. The fuss is over, and we move on...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Podcast 12: The Great Hunger - MacIntyre, Kavanagh, Jameson

Our 12th podcast is an interview with Department member Evan Jameson, about the highly successful part he look in the Balally Players' production of Tom MacIntyre's The Great Hunger, his 1983 adaptation of the epic poem by Patrick Kavanagh (the first part of the poem is on the Leaving Certificate course). We reviewed this here six months ago.

Evan discusses the rehearsal process for this very physical piece of drama, the nature of the writing itself, and the experience of going to amateur drama festivals around the country, culminating in the All-Ireland finals in Athlone last month, where the production achieved 4th place.

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).

'Going Places' on Amazon

The book we published this time last year on Lulu, Going Places, a selection from this blog over its first two years, can now also be bought from Amazon in America by clicking here.

The plan is to publish another book next year, catching up with writing posted from 2008 to 2010.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Macbeth revision

For all you desperate last-minute revisers out there, thinking about Macbeth, click here for some help.

My First School

The first piece read out at the recent Transition Year English Evening, from the pupils' Work Portfolios this year, was Susannah Cooke's 'My First School', originally written as an exam essay, and then reworked. Praised by guest Garrett Fagan for its precise focus on the texture of reality, it is a touching and funny recollection of the importances of primary school life:-

In summer months we were able to go and play on the grass, though only if it was a dry day. It was these months that I got a reputation for eating woodlice and liking worms. I would often pick them up stranded worms and fling them at anybody, this provided me with entertainment, but I don’t think they liked it.

Being top of the school was a new experience. You know everybody’s name, and they knew you. I had my eleven plus that year, and remembering doing hardly any work compared to my friends. On the day of the exam they all had their lucky charms, from necklaces to coins. I didn’t have anything, and feeling rather left out I went outside and picked a daisy. That would become my lucky flower.

Read Susannah's full essay here.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

My Acting Career (so far)

Last term II form had their Actiontrack taster workshops in the BSR, and afterwards each pupil wrote a response. Jasmine Blenkins O'Callaghan used the opportunity to write about her wider thespian career, too, and this forms the basis of today's post, an essay called 'My Acting Career (so far)', an entertaining and surprisingly wide-ranging series of experiences:-

I have always wanted to be an actress (drummer and marine biologist have always been lurking in the background too). I would love to be able to go into theatre first, and then film. The theatre part of that dream may be hindered though, as I have never been able to sing. I am almost perfectly out of tune every time I try to sing - that isn’t going to help in all those West End musicals!

Click here for the rest of Jasmine's theatrical autobiography (so far), which includes A Midsummer Night's Dream, Androcles and the Lion, the Globe Theatre in London, and the film Cracks (pictured above at SCC last summer).

English Paper II

The Warden has put a statement on the College website here about the rescheduled English Paper II.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Rescheduled English exams

RTE and the State Examination Commission have just confirmed that the English literature exams at Leaving Certificate will now be taken on Saturday morning, following a breach of security earlier today at a school, with contingency papers. More here from RTE and here from the Irish Times.

Paper I

Leaving Cert candidates sat their Higher Level paper I this morning (almost all at SCC sit it at this level). It was a straightforward and accessible paper on the theme 'Decisions'. The three comprehension texts were varied and more interesting than normal - an Irish Times 'for' and 'against' piece on zoos, an extract from the Australian writer David Malouf's short story 'The Valley of Lagoons' (it's set in Northern Australia in the 1960s and is from his collection Every Move You Make), and four beautiful photographs by the great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, with accompanying text from this essay by Frank van Riper.

The composing options also offered plenty of scope: an article on 'your experience of education'; an opinion piece on indecision; a short story in which the central character faces an important decision; a persuasive essay on science and technology; an article about respected public figures; a personal essay on daydreams (a pretty popular choice); and a short story based on one of the Cartier-Bresson photos.

'A Safety Net'

Over the coming two weeks we'll be catching up with plenty of poems and prose pieces written by pupils recently, including Transition Year Work Portfolio material (TY are currently in Achill, and return next week for the Actiontrack showbuild). Below, a piece written by Dalton Tice of IV form for his Work Portfolio about the meaning of religion in his life, called 'A Safety Net' (click on the icon in the top right corner to see the essay full-size).

Leaving and Junior Cert English

Good luck to our 61 VI formers and 41 III formers as they start their Certificate exams this morning in the Sports Hall with English. The Leaving candidates are tackling Paper I (composition and comprehension), and the Junior candidates Language at Higher Level (with Literature this afternoon) and all the sections at Ordinary Level.