On the evening of Friday 31st January 2020 at 7pm, the Joyce Centre hosted a reading event with a difference, it sought to harness raw intimacy and frank sexuality in readings that delivered a modern take on the spirit of Nora Barnacle and her letters. We were delighted to welcome our three wonderful writers; Clíona Saidléar, Grace Wilentz & Sinéad Nolan to the Kenmare Room.
Our writers were published together in ‘Autonomy’, the anthology which supported Repeal, and between them, they share decades of experience in activism. During the evening the writers shared prose and poetry asserting that pleasure is indeed still political.
Their writing explored themes of sexuality, autonomy, pleasure, care, and the self, through reflections on the lives of individual women. As well as reflecting on shared experiences of political moments which brought seismic shifts in relation to the status of women in Ireland and elsewhere.
Through their focus on Nora Barnacle, the reading event formed part of the Joyce birthday celebrations at our Centre. This year, on February 2nd we celebrated the 138th Birthday of James Joyce.
This event is also featured as part of the 2020 Herstory Light Festival, an annual global event celebrating women and equality. The 2020 Herstory Light Festival took place over the weekend of St. Brigid’s Day, which is from Friday 31st January until Monday 3rd February 2020.
Clíona Saidléar is a Dublin based writer of prose. Her short stories have been published in the literary journals Crannóg, Anomalylit and Cold Coffee Stand and the anthologies, Autonomy and ITT’s Stand Fast 2018. She is the 2018 winner of the Red line Book Festival Prize and has been longlisted in the Penguin short story prize and shortlisted in the Cúirt new writer’s prize. Her writing style has been described by critics and editors as ‘simply and utterly delectable,’ ‘powerfully subtle’ and ‘unbearable delicate’.
Clíona is a feminist and an activist who has spent the last 15 years working on ending sexual violence with the rape crisis network Ireland where she has campaigned on everything from Repeal the 8th to sex education in schools. Before that, she spent a decade working in front line service provision for people with disabilities.
She is currently the Executive Director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland. She is an avid swimmer and can otherwise be found in the sea!
Grace Wilentz’s poems have appeared in Irish, British and American journals including Poetry Ireland Review, Magma, The Harvard Advocate, the American Poetry Journal and The Irish Times. Recently, one of her poems was displayed on an artistic banner unfurled on the facade of the Abbey Theatre. She is the recipient of two Arts Council awards, including the literature bursary. Her debut pamphlet, Holding Distance was published by the Green Bottle Press in 2019. Grace Wilentz has worked for the past 10 years on advancing sexual and reproductive rights and justice. Her work is informed by a strong intersectional analysis.
Sinéad Nolan first published her poetry in Foiseach magazine in 2008 – an audacious move given she was an editor of that particular publication. She has written poetry of varying quality for most of her adult life and this year completed the Stinging Fly course for emerging poets with renowned poet Martina Evans. In 2018 Sinéad was delighted to be published in Autonomy by an editor other than herself. She recently competed in the Dublin Story Grand Slam at the Abbey Theatre, having won the monthly slam in 2018. Sinead started her campaigning life supporting activists-at-risk, later working with families of the disappeared in Mexico. She now focuses on human rights closer to home.
We followed the readings by a brief Q&A with all three writers where our audience explored themes which emerged during the readings, as well as links between the arts and political activism.