Category Archives: Members’ News

Irish PEN/Freedom to Write Merger

As we announced in our last newsletter to members, we have had a dedicated but diminishing committee running Irish PEN for some time. As Chair I’ve been in situ on committee for much longer than is healthy in any organisation and have been looking at ways to move Irish PEN forwards.

As a committee, we agreed that the events aspect of Irish PEN’s activities, which has been so valuable in the past, has been superseded by the vast numbers of festivals and other author events now running. Our feeling was, that in the current political climate, Irish PEN needed to become involved much more with PEN International’s activities, focusing on free speech and using our status as a PEN centre in a neutral country to PEN’s advantage.

We were not alone in this, and Freedom to Write, a subgroup of dedicated writers (whom you will all be familiar with) from the Word group at the Irish Writers Centre, also felt the need for action and began to do exactly this.

Many of the Freedom to Write group are PEN members. And Éilís Ní Dhuibhne and Catherine Dunne are past Award winners. So they all understand Irish PEN. We are delighted to announce that Freedom to Write have agreed to merge with Irish PEN to produce a new organisation with a new constitution in line with our shared goals.

Freedom to Write group have agreed to act as a steering committee while guiding the transition to a completely new Irish PEN. The new Irish PEN will be launched in November. An AGM will follow in the New Year when a new committee will be formed, as elected by Irish PEN members. In the meantime, the Freedom to Write Campaign will continue its support of the PEN charter through various actions, carried out in the name of Irish PEN/The Freedom to Write Campaign. Those who have paid their membership for 2020 will automatically move across to the re-energised organisation, although those on subscriptions may have to set up new ones to the new organisation in 2021.

We want to build PEN into a real voice for writers and will be asking you to sign up to a new mailing list (GDPR compliant) in order to keep you informed of actions and events.

On a personal note, I will be retiring as chair,  and news of your new committee will be communicated in the autumn. Until then, Freedom to Write will become custodians of our vital tradition, ensuring the new organisation is built on firm ground.

Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin

Photo by Simon Robinson

Freedom to Write and Irish PEN by Lia Mills

Who we are: The Freedom to Write Campaign (Ireland) is an informal, independent group of writers that has emerged from WORD, a professional writers’ network associated with the Irish Writers Centre.

We work to promote Freedom of Expression by raising public awareness about writers who are at risk, or in prison, or who have been murdered because of their writing. During the last two years, our members have worked with, among others, Irish PEN, PEN International, the Irish Writers Centre, Poetry Ireland, Fighting Words and Front Line Defenders, on events and campaigns to promote the work of writers who are at risk or in prison.

We have taken part in various festivals, such as Listowel Writers’ Week, the Red Line Festival and the Belfast Book Festival. Some of us have contributed to the recent anthology of essays Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!, by and about women Human Rights Defenders at risk (published by Front line Defenders and Fighting Words).

We are:

  • June Considine
  • Catherine Dunne
  • Kate Ennals
  • Sophia Hillan
  • Liz McManus
  • Maria McManus
  • Lia Mills
  • Éilís Ní Dhuibhne

When the current committee invited us to consider stepping up to devise and manage a reorganisation and revitalisation of Irish PEN, the idea made a lot of sense to us; the work we already do is based on the PEN charter and we have had consistent support and encouragement from PEN International from the start.

We are looking forward to this challenge and the adventure of changing our existing structure to conform to PEN conventions, while redesigning a constitution for a new and invigorated Irish PEN to move into the decade ahead.  We’re excited to meet and work with both existing and new members.

There will be a period of transition this summer while we manage administrative changes, to be followed

by a complete relaunch in November and a subsequent AGM early in 2021 – the centenary year of PEN International.

Eavan Boland 1944-2020

Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann is deeply saddened by the passing of Eavan Boland. One of Ireland’s greatest poets, Eavan had been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Contribution to Irish Literature.

She was due to receive this award on the 22nd March of this year, surrounded by her peers and admirers. We should have had the opportunity to celebrate her in person, to acknowledge her achievements both as a poet and fearless champion of women writers. But Covid19 intervened and the Award event had to be postponed. We planned that our Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann celebration would instead take place to coincide with Eavan’s forthcoming publication, The Historians, scheduled for September 2020. (WW Norton and Carcanet Press) Her untimely death is a source of deep sadness to us all and we offer our sincere condolences to her family, friends and colleagues around the world.

Eavan Boland was the recipient of numerous accolades throughout her long career, among them a Lannan Foundation Award, the PEN Award for creative non-fiction for A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet, the Corrington Medal for Literary Excellence and the Bucknell Medal of Distinction. She held honorary degrees from, among others, University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, and Strathclyde University Scotland. In 2016, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2017, she was elected an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy.

Those who knew Eavan Boland personally speak of a brilliant teacher, a rigorous one.

Eilís Ní Dhuibhne, playwright, short story writer and novelist, remembers the workshops that Eavan Boland facilitated in the mid-1980s. She remembers her as brave, outspoken, passionate. ‘She was also intelligent enough, confident enough, and articulate enough to promote the idea that women should write poetry and literature. In her own poetry, she was  revolutionary: she wrote about her domestic and maternal life and confirmed that feeding a baby, putting out milk bottles, living ‘in the suburbs’ could be the stuff of poetry.’

Lia Mills – novelist, short story writer, essayist –  remembers A Kind of Scar: The Woman Poet in a National Tradition. ‘One of the seminal LIP pamphlets published by Attic press in the 1980s [in which] Boland challenges some of the sacred cows of Irish poetry using her own experience as a lens. It was a daring, radical thing to write and it predates by a long shot the explosion of fine personal essay and memoir writing that Irish literature enjoys now.’ Lia Mills also recalls the way Eavan Boland ‘had a way of drilling deeper into the core of words and shifting our angle of perception. These shifts were not always comfortable, but they were effective. She had such a strong mind.’

Eavan Boland loved teaching. She believed that workshops ‘generated oxygen’ – literary oxygen. According to Eilís Ní Dhuibhne, Eavan loved to quote an anonymous workshop participant, a woman, who declared: ‘If they knew I wrote poetry people would think I didn’t wash my windows.’  In so many ways, Eavan Boland ‘was the champion of women in the home, of women who longed to be poets and writers, but were hemmed in by society. Locked down in domesticity.’

Trailblazing. Daring. Committed. Fearless. Eavan Boland was not afraid to excoriate the editors of Field Day in the late 1980s, those who ‘forgot’ to include so many Irish women in their Anthology of Irish writing. Eavan herself was included – but that did not stop her protesting angrily at the exclusion of her female peers.

Mary Robinson recently spoke of Eavan Boland, her close friend, as a very ‘practical’ poet, one who knew, even early on, how to use a computer. In contrast, Mary Robinson was, she said, the ‘dreamy lawyer’.

Liz McManus remembers, in particular, the poem Our Future Will Become the Past of Other Women, written by Eavan Boland to celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage in Ireland. Eavan read her poem at a special event at the UN, organised by the Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN, Geraldine Byrne Nason, MRIA. Liz McManus also recalls that ‘Eavan Boland’s workshops in the mid 1980s were the springboard for the formation of WEB, possibly the longest-lasting women’s writing group in Ireland.’

Maria McManus, a poet from the north of Ireland, expresses for all of us that which we have lost in Eavan Boland’s passing, and all that we have gained from her life among us and her work: ‘We will receive sustenance from the work of Eavan Boland for a long time yet to come. The ‘long tail’ of her work and the resultant gift to us, is that she shared the deep truths of ‘dailiness’ – an  unflinching intelligence of the relational, an acute eye on the tyranny of the insular and the colonial, and the richness of the every-day. We see ourselves more clearly, we are better people and we are more daring because of her.’

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam dílís.

Catherine Dunne, on behalf of the Board of Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann

Irish PEN Remembers Poet And Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney 1939-2013

Seamus Heaney 1939-2013

 

In a short tribute on behalf of the Committee of Irish PEN Fr.Tony Gaughan writes:

Members of Irish PEN are saddened by the loss  of Seamus Heaney, a true friend, former member and recipient of the Irish PEN Award in 2005. Irish PEN members were thrilled in 1995 when he was presented with the Nobel Prize for Literature. It is no secret that the Irish PEN Centre had for some time been presenting his  name for that prestigious honour.

Among his many qualities, Irish PEN members will remember his friendliness and unassuming attitude to the many honours showered upon him.

‘Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it. ‘

Seamus Heaney 1939-2013

.The Glamoured

Brightening brightness, alone on the road, she appears,
Crystalline crystal and sparkle of blue in green eyes,
Sweetness of sweetness in her unembittered young voice
And a high colour dawning behind the pearl of her face.

Ringlets and ringlets, a curl in every tress
Of her fair hair trailing and brushing the dew on the grass;
And a gem from her birthplace far in the high universe
Outglittering glass and gracing the groove of her breasts.

News that was secret she whispered to soothe her aloneness,
News of one due to return and reclaim his true place,
News of the ruin of those who had cast him in darkness,
News that was awesome, too awesome to utter in verse.

My head got lighter and lighter but still I approached her,
Enthralled by her thraldom, helplessly held and bewildered,
Choking and calling Christ’s name: then she fled in a shimmer
To Luachra Fort where only the glamoured can enter.

I hurtled and hurled myself madly following after
Over keshes and marshes and mosses and treacherous moors
And arrived at that stronghold unsure about how I had got there,
That earthwork of earth the orders of magic once reared.

A gang of thick louts were shouting loud insults and jeering
And a curly-haired coven in fits of sniggers and sneers:
Next thing I was taken and cruelly shackled in fetters
As the breasts of the maiden were groped by a thick-witted boor.

I tried then as hard as I could to make her hear truth,
How wrong she was to be linked to that lazarous swine
When the pride of the pure Scottish stock, a prince of the blood,
Was ardent and eager to wed her and make her his bride.

When she heard me, she started to weep, but pride was the cause
Of those tears that came wetting her cheeks and shone in her eyes;
Then she sent me a guard to guide me out of the fortress,
Who’d appeared to me, lone on the road, a brightening brightness.

Calamity, shock, collapse, heartbreak and grief
To think of her sweetness, her beauty, her mildness, her life
Defiled at the hands of a hornmaster sprung from riff-raff,
And no hope of redress till the lions ride back on the wave.

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Aodhgan O’Rathaille, translated by Seamus Heaney

Published by Index On Censorship 30/08/2013:  Index on censorship 30/08/2013

Irish PEN 2013 Summer Newsletter

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Irish PEN’s summer 2013 newsletter
  • o New Members & Members’ News
  • o PEN/NEW VOICES Competition
  • o AGM 2013
  • o Irish PEN Award Dinner
  • o Irish PEN and Blasphemy
  • o Irish PEN co-sponsors Free Author Media
  • Training Day – held June 15th
  • o Upcoming Festivals
  • o PEN’s 45th International Writers Meeting
  • o Mary Russell: a talk on Writing & Travel in Syria
New Members

We extend a  warm welcome  to PEN’s  newest members: Morag Prunty, also known as Kate Kerrigan, will be known to many as a New York Times  bestselling author;  her latest release City of Hope, the second part  of  Ellie’s  trilogy, was published by Harper Collins in the U.S. on June 26th

 

Deirdre Conroy is responsible for the blog called Diary of  a  Dublin Landlady,  as  well as  many art  and architectural  reviews  in journals, and has  written chapters  of  published books, Painting Ireland and Great Irish Houses. Deirdre has just finished her first novel. http://dublinlandlady.blogspot.ie/

 

Rosemarie Rowley was born in Dublin. To date she has published five books of poetry, and has four times won the  Epic  award  in the  Scottish  International Poetry Competition. Her most  recent  books  are  Hot  Cinquefoil  Star (2002)  and In Memory  of  Her (2004) and (2008); see more at www.rosemarierowley.ie.

 

Padraig Hanratty has published one short story collection A Blanket of Blues,  in eformat and hardcopy,  as  well  as  a  novella  Dimestore Avenue Blues.  Pádraig has  also been published in Judas! Music magazine, Hot Press and Electric Acorn website.

 

Margaret  Scott is  an author,  blogger and guest blogger with Easons.  The Irish Independent reviewed her  novel Between  You and Me, as  “a  stylish, effervescent  page-turner, which is  sure  to strike  a chord with readers and propel Scott’s wry wit into the limelight”.  Margaret  has  also been published in the Irish Independent,  Irish Daily Mail and Woman’s Weekly.

 

Mayo native Elizabeth Reapy is  the  founding editor of Wordlegs, an online creative writing journal which has  spawned  numerous ebooks, a  short fiction collection (30 under 30), and as of 2012, a brand new festival: The Shore Writers Festival. Elizabeth was the Tyrone  Guthrie  Exchange  Irish Writer  in Varuna  for 2012,  she  is  a  pushcart  nominee and this  year,  the Arts  Council  awarded  her  a  Literature  Bursary to complete her debut short story collection. Elizabeth was Irish PEN’s nominated entry to the PEN/NEW VOICES AWARD 2013.  The Award is open to writers  of  short stories,  creative non-fiction, journalism and poetry who are  aged 18-30, and are put  forward by PEN Centres.  The  Award  aims to encourage  new writing worldwide,  to promote translation – especially into English,  French and Spanish – and to help emerging writers by providing advice  on how  best  to work  towards  a  career  as  a writer.  The  distinguished panel  of  judges  includes Carole Blake, who represents Irish PEN’s 2012 Award recipient Joseph O’Connor, and all of the judges will give feedback  to the  six  long-listed  competition finalists. The closing date for entries was on June 20th

 

Among our newest Associate Members, we welcome Joseph McCloskey,  Karen Ryan,  Paul  McNulty, Carolann Copland, Diane  Ward, Mark Edmund Hutcheson, and Colleen Nelligan Connolly.

 

Members’ News
We  were  delighted to hear Cyril McHale’s wonderfully written  piece about  his  grandfather,  titled  ‘Past Projections’,  broadcast on Sunday Miscellany on June 16th  You can listen back to the broadcast online by clicking on this link, or visit http://www.rte.ie/radio1/sunday-miscellany/.
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One  of  the  highlights  of  the  June  2013 celebrations of James Joyce’s Bloomsday was the launch by Joyce biographer, Peter Costello, of Brendan Lynch’s latest book, CITY OF WRITERS. The  Lives  and Homes  of  Dublin Authors. The launch was attended by seventyguests,  including Robert  Nicholson,  curator  of  the Writers Museum, and Guy St John Williams, grandson of novelist Oliver St John Gogarty.

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Irish PEN AGM 2013

 

We are happy to announce that following elections at Irish PEN’s AGM on June 7th

 

The Irish PEN Executive Committee  for  2013-14 is  as  follows: Kay Boland, Chairperson; Vanessa O’Loughlin,  Vice  Chairperson and PRO; Timmy Conway,  Treasurer; Brenda O’Hanlon, Correspondence Secretary; Máire Moriarty, Minutes Secretary; Emer Liston, Newsletter Editor  and Writers  in Prison Committee Secretary; Tony Gaughan, Honorary Committee Member.

 

We will  sorely miss the  huge  talent of our Social Media Co-ordinator, Chris Murray, who is no longer able to work in this capacity on PEN’s committee due to writing and editing commitments. As  well as having her work performed at last year’s Béal Festival, Chris is  a member of  the International PEN Women Writer’s Committee, and manages a successful Poetry Blog called Poethead’.

 

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Along with the loss of our Social Media Co-ordinator,  Irish  PEN  is also  urgently in need of a Membership Secretary, and an Email Correspondence  Secretary. Please  get  in touch if  you would like  to know  more about the essential (and never dull..!) roles mentioned here. 
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Irish PEN Award Dinner  2013

 

The  2013 Irish PEN Award for  Outstanding Achievement in Irish Literature was awarded to John Banville,  the  novelist  and playwright  whose  most
impressive  works  include The  Sea and The  Book  of Evidence.  The  ceremony took  place  on the  22nd February  at  the  Royal  St.  George  Yacht  Club,  Dun Laoghaire. At the ceremony, the presenter of the award, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan described  the  recipient  as “a  writer  of  innumerable gifts,  of immense talent, of  superb  reputation in Ireland and abroad”.  Accepting the  award,  Banville expressed pleasure at receiving recognition in his own country, adding: “PEN is a splendid organization…that has done  great  work” and described his  first experience of PEN while working in Eastern Europe in the early 1980s. John Banville’s previous honours include the Booker Prize for his 2005 novel The Sea and the Franz Kafka prize in 2011. The Irish PEN award has been presented by Irish PEN since  1999; previous  winners  include Seamus  Heaney and Edna  O’Brien,  and the Award’s trophy was sponsored by www.writing.ie.
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Also, PEN warmly congratulates Maria Duffy on the launch and success of her third novel, The Letter (published by  Hachette Books Ireland).

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Irish PEN & Blasphemy

 

“The Executive Committee of Irish PEN, the Irish Centre  for  PEN  International,  campaigns  for  the offence  of  blasphemy to be removed from the Irish Constitution in 2013.  Human rights  attach to  individuals,  not to  states, organised groups or ideas. When governments seek to limit the rights of individuals to criticise, they  are  not  seeking,  as  they claim,  to  protect  faith  or belief. Rather, they are seeking increased power over their  citizens.  It  is  essential  to  maintain freedom  of  expression, ensuring writers are free to criticise. Irish PEN  calls  upon the  Government  to  restore  our reputation for free speech without delay”. Available to read in full at constitution.ie.
Two years ago, Irish PEN undertook to campaign for a referendum on Blasphemy and the Irish Constitution. Currently,  the  Government’s  policy is  that the Convention on the Constitution, a forum made up of 100 people with  an independent  Chairperson,  will convene to consider and make recommendations on certain topics as possible future amendments to the Constitution.  The Convention is to complete its work within 12 months,  and has  received  Irish PEN’s submission  on Blasphemy and the  importance  of removing it from the  Constitution without  further delay.  You can read Irish PEN’s submission here, and visit constitution.ie for further information.

 

Dublin City of Literature/ Irish PEN Free Author  Media Training Day
June  15th saw a  very special day-long event, sponsored by Dublin City of  Literature  and Irish PEN,  and run in conjunction with  Writing.ie and the  National  Emerging Writer progamme. Over  40 new and established writers who attended  this workshop found out  exactly how  to approach the media, how to win at radio and TV interviews and how to deliver  a  first  class  reading.  MTV  VJ and now corporate trainer Emma Ledden (pictured) and author Declan Hughes kept the audience busy making frantic notes in the morning, while in the afternoon, internet entrepreneur and Business Woman of the Year Darina Loakman,  explained  the  importance  having a  well thought  out  blog or  website,  of  understanding your target market and having a social media strategy that looks for quality over quantity. Participants,  many of  whom had had that  all- important  author  photo taken by professional photographer Paul Sherwood at a special rate, left the day significantly better prepared for the challenges of book promotion.  Describing it  as  ‘brilliant’  and ‘fantastic’, both the calibre of the presenters and the insights they offered were highly praised. PEN members  may book author  photographs separately to the event, at Paul Sherwood’s studio in Blackrock,  Co.  Dublin – contact  Paul  directly at www.sherwood.ie or by mobile 087 230 9096.

 

FESTIVAL FEVER

 

There  are  many exciting festivals  coming up for writers and book lovers in the autumn; the Mountains to Sea Festival again promises to be a feast, with an especially interesting programme  on Sunday September 8th in Dún Laoghaire; visit mountainstosea.ie for more details. Also, among the UNESCO Dublin City of Literature events coming up, one of the most exciting promises to be the Dublin Festival of  History which takes  place  between  27 th September and 10th October.

 

2013 is the year of the Gathering and the year when we mark  the  100th  anniversary of  momentous historical events in the city of Dublin. The upheaval of the  Dublin Lockout  and the  formation of  James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army are but two of a series of historical topics  which will  be  explored  in the  new Dublin Festival of History. More information will be made available  at www.cityofliterature.ie – always a space worth watching. Last year the Dublin Book Festival 2012 presented a packed programme of events, almost entirely free of charge  with  readings,  interviews, debates,  book launches  and workshops for adults,  children  and schools.

 

The  festival  found a  new home  in Smock Alley theatre,  Temple Bar,  and there  it  will return in 2013. The Dublin Book Festival team was  kind enough to lend support to Irish

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PEN and Front  Line  Defenders’ event  to mark November  15th,  which is  the  Day  of  the  Imprisoned Writer – a date marked by PEN Centres  around the world,  to recognize  and support  writers  who resist repression of  the basic human right to freedom of expression. Last  year’s event featured support and readings  from Brian Keenan, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill  and Justine McCarthy, and some  highlights  can be  viewed here, uploaded to YouTube at this link; we hope to work again with both Front Line Defenders and the Dublin Book Festival in 2013.
Pen’s 45th International Writers Meeting was held at Bled from May 8th to 12th 2013. Delegates representing 34 centres from across  the  world attended, welcomed by Dr Uros Grilc, the Slovenian Minister  for  Culture. Subsequently  they were entertained  by a presentation of  the  culture and literary traditions of the central region of Slovenia. The first theme discussed was ‘Literary Creation, from the Periphery to the Centre’; it was recognised that in terms  of  ideology this was  a  basic  dynamic in society. Each Periphery gradually draws nearer to the Centre,  eventually replacing it  and prompting the process to repeat itself.
The second topic was the writer as a traveller creating peace.  This  resonated  with the delegates.  Clearly travel  enables  people  to get beyond viewing other peoples in terms of their stereotypes. It also provides an opportunity to appreciate the  cultural  roots  and riches  of  those  residing in different  parts  of  the world. The result is a genuine respect and regard for the  otherness  in peoples. There  was  unanimity that extending boundaries in this way is a creator of peace both within and without. The  PEN Declaration on Digital  Freedom, passed  at the  International  Congress  in Gyeongju,  Korea,  in 2012 was discussed.
Four articles were appended to it  to clarify  how  it would affect  the  Targeting of Individuals, Censorship, Surveillance and Business and Human Rights.
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October  2013: Mary Russell,  writing  and  travelling in Syria
Mary Russell is well-known for The Blessings of a Good Thick  Skirt,  her  book  about  women  travellers  and explorers throughout the ages. In her latest book, My Home  is  Your Home:  A Journey  round Syria,  she employs the survival strategies of the solo traveller, seasoning a devil-may-care  attitude  with  a pinch  of common sense when taking on everything that comes her  way in Syria – be it a  pack of  feral  dogs, an important  host  or  a  chain-smoking Sufi  sheik. Essentially a  cultural  travel book,  appended  to it is a postscript which offers both a background and an update to the  present  political situation which readers will find useful. Join Irish PEN October 10th to hear riveting stories  and insights  from successful and admired travel writer, Mary Russell. www.maryrussell.info
Become a member of Irish PEN, or rejoin – it’s  quick, easy and hugely beneficial.  Simply  click on this link, or visit www.irishpen.com.
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Time to Say No ! Poems for Malala Yousafzai

Journalists and writers from Brazil, Austria, Germany, Argentina, Turkey, India, Bulgaria, Iran, Norway, Pakistan, Ireland, China, Estonia, Mexico and Vietnam, among others, participate in “Time to say No!”, An anthology  by Helmuth Niederle and Philo Ikonya, writers and editors.

Malala Yousafzai

Philo Ikonya and Helmuth Niederle have produced a book of over two hundred multilingual poems and protests themed in our ability as writers to refuse violence against girls like Malala who have sought with passion to be educated. The book will be launched on the 7th and 8th of March 2013 to coincide with international Women’s Day 2013.

Our sincere thanks to the Irish writers who participated and to Philo and Helmuth who have made the text available in pdf via a public drop-box link.

This link will lead readers to the words of contributors aged 11-80 who desire to support the education of girls and to protest the shooting of a child.

  • The right to education is a universal human right. It is a basic right which fosters and guarantees democracy founded on constitutional legality. This is independent of and not based on or limited by gender
  • Time to say No ! Poems for Malala Yousafzai