Book review - Health & Living - New Irish writing

The Shakings of the Bag is a new collection of poetry and prose written by the ‘Pig Executive’ – an assembly of emerging professional writers based in counties Leitrim and Cavan who met regularly in the Glens Centre, Manorhamilton, to write and critique their work in the company of the novelist and poet, Dermot Healy.

The shor t stories and poems collected in this anthology reveal distinctive impressions of modern Ireland and the forces that have shaped it. It is an Ireland of tensions: where the past and the present, the parochial and the global, the traditional and the new, coalesce in a sometimes incongruous whole. A sense of place is exceptionally strong in many of these works; the backdrops for the stories include rural and small-town Ireland, Dublin and London, and they are peopled by characters from locals to immigrants and emigrants, the Irish diaspora.

Stories such as ‘Whose Funeral Is it Anyway?’ by Bláithín Gallagher and ‘Back Turn’ by Fiona Meehan dramatise the uncomfortable tensions Ireland has had to confront as it transitions to a multicultural society: this was not always an Ireland of the welcomes; or, if it was, the welcome was not always straightforward.

With many of the works here, the hand of the past can be felt directing the drama of the present. This is perhaps most keenly observed in the story that lends the collection its title, The Shakings of the Bag by the INMO’s TN (Noel) Treanor – an industrial relations officer. The story recounts the journey undertaken by an Irish father and son to visit a relative in London on the occasion of his 80th birthday. The generational divide highlights the divergent experiences and values of different generations of Irish people, yet the inescapable hold of the past is felt in the family ties that bind the generations together and are not easily loosened.

The writers who have contributed to this book are Ananda Callery, David Cameron, Scott Coombs, Sorcha Fox, Bláithín Gallagher, Caoimhe Gleeson, Jo Holmwood, Conor McManus, Fiona Meehan, Orla Parkinson, Jeri Reilly and TN Treanor.

The works included here provide fascinating snapshots of Irish life and are a very engaging read.

– Kennas Fitzsimons

Book review - Health & Living - New Irish writing

All rights reserved by INMO. Please don't use without permission