Posted by: mdmusingsie | May 2, 2012

Cúirt 2012

Last week was Galway’s premier annual literary festival, officially called Cúirt International Festival of Literature. Cúirt means court or courtyard and although I’m not positive, the name could have its roots in where the festival took place during the inaugural year over a quarter century ago.

The week-long festival consisted of a series of events, mainly in the Town Hall Theatre, but also scattered around town (plus a few outreach events in neighboring cities). Many consisted of readings by new through well known and highly acclaimed poets and authors, often with panel discussions after the readings. It was an opportunity to revisit existing and discover new favorites.

For writers it was also a chance to pick up hints and tips; explore trends; debate process, purpose, and contradictions; exchange ideas, and of course, provide inspiration

I attended several events that did not involve readings, but were equally entertaining and informative. The first was a lecture on Public History and the Professional Historian given by NUIG Professor Gearóid O’Tuathaigh. This was a fascinating perspective on how public history, which includes media outlets like newspapers, television, documentaries, and even museums and commemoration events, presents a somewhat different version of history from what a professional historian would produce based on research and evaluation of data. “Mind the gap” was the parting reminder.

Another well attended event involved the discussion of e-books versus traditional paper books. As a writer attempting to become published in a difficult and evolving environment as well as someone who has resisted the e-book trend (I spend enough time in front of a screen, not to mention my stack of to-read books which mysteriously never seems to shrink, no matter how much I read), I was particularly interested in this discussion. One of the points raised, which worries me as well, was the potential for censorship or even modification of digital versions to suit a particular government or corporate ideology. Amazon’s George Orwell 1984 fiasco was a prime example of how easy it would be for e-books to summarily disappear. The consensus seemed to be that the traditional book will likely never be totally eliminated, but may become more specialized, with paperbacks becoming the biggest casualty. Time will tell.

Also part of the festival was a number of book launches as well as book signings by the authors and poets who participated in the assorted readings. That to-read stack grew despite my attempt at restraint. By the way, exactly how does an author sign an e-book? (Having said that, I’m sure Amazon will come up with a stylus equipped version of the Kindle soon – too bad I can’t patent that idea.)

A not quite so flattering article in The Irish Times declared the festival had gone too far past its roots in the written word or literature, by adding Poetry Slams, plays, history discussions, and a music related events. It could be argued that with the proliferation of online information including e-books, the festival is evolving in step with literature.

It was a busy week, capped off with a delicious brunch to showcase Connemara based Doire Press (great job John & Lisa, and no I didn’t leave my coat at the museum 🙂 ). I enjoyed every moment.

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