Listowel Writers Week 2020 by Sandra Behan

Ireland’s oldest literacy and arts festival cancelled in strange and surreal times.
Since 1970 artists and poets have come together in the beautiful Kerry heritage town of Listowel.Writers Weeks 50th Anniversary a casualty of Covid 19.
Competition winners announced at a digital ceremony live on Facebook

Social distancing making intimate gatherings of writers and audiences impossible.
I will miss the excitement of Listowel Writers Week, the highlight of my year.

NO laughter, singing and reciting
NO late nights or craic in Poet’s Corner or John B’s
NO belly laughs at Frances, Patsy and Dominic’s storytelling;
NO music and songs from John Sheehan, Mickey MacConnell and Neil Brosnan.

This year I will tune into the Healing Session in John B’s on Facebook.
A virtual affiliate of the Wonderful Community of Artists and Writers

My Writer’s journey in Listowel began in 2008
My first workshop was in the Scanachai with Leo Cullen
That first class opened a whole new world for me
It taught me how to express myself,
It gave me a safe place a ‘Page’ in a notebook
A ‘Page’ to put all the things that clogged up my head

The first person I met was Helen Murphy in a packed ‘Poet’s Corner.’
Helen and I hit it off straight away.
She shared her story with me and I realized for the first time
That Listowel was full of people who had a story to tell

It took me many workshops and seven years of going to Listowel
To give me the confidence to write and recite my own words

George Roly, introduced me to the Healing Session in John B’s’
I thought it was some kind of religious service and agreed to go

That first year in John B’s as I listened to everyone’s stories
Some well-crafted works of art, some scribbles on a page
I knew that this was where I wanted to read my first poem
It took two years and many crumpled pages to write my first poem

The first time I read my poem in Poet’s corner, not a sound was heard
As I bled each word, it wasn’t great but it was a start
John McGrath and Sean Lyons showed me such compassion and respect
As I took my first step on the road to freedom

I remember the first time I met Mary Keane
A beautiful lady, who gave her time generously to a stranger
She signed John B’s book for me as we chatted
I still cherish the photo of that moment

I will finish off by saying a heartfelt thank you to John B Keane,
For his legacy which he has handed over to Billy Keane; and
Bryan McMahon, George Fitzmaurice, Maurice Walsh and the last man standing Brendan Kennelly.

Without these great men, there would be no Listowel Writers Week.



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