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Rosemary Canavan

Rosemary Canavan
Writer in Residence for Kerry County Council

When I was taken on as Writer in Residence for County Kerry, Ireland, one of my aims was to bring writers together for the exchange of work, ideas, inspiration, by making a web site. Writers tend to work in isolation, and in Kerry, with its sparse population separated by wild rocky mountains and deep sea inlets, they are even more isolated than usual. What better way than the Internet to bring them together, especially as in Ireland, through the libraries, everyone has free access to the Internet?

A major part of the site is an on-line anthology, Breacadh. Breacadh is an Irish word with a cluster of meanings relating to something which is speckled or dappled, including 'marking paper with letters or writing', 'vowel-rhyming', 'embroidering', 'the act of telling or describing' and also 'dawning ' (Irish dawns are usually speckled with cloud). I expected all sorts of work, and 'Breacadh' was the nearest I could come to the concept of a mosaic, whose pieces would come together to form a picture of Kerry writing as a whole.

But as the work began to accumulate I was fascinated to discover that it possessed a kind of kinship. The city, where I had worked previously, was a melting pot, bringing together a wide diversity of peoples and traditions. But here, under the plunging outlines of the Kerry mountains, no one can escape the tremendous presence of the natural world. Add to this the vibrant and distinctive culture of the region which blends old and new, Irish and English, and the passion for writing which you find in every part of the region, and you have some extraordinary work. Mystical, tragic, energetic, bawdy; these are the voices of Kerry today.


Rosemary Canavan is a writer and visual artist who was born in Scotland and brought up in Ireland. Her collection of poetry, The Island, was published by the American literary publishers Story Line Press in 1995, and was shortlisted for the Vincent Buckley Poetry prize at the University of Melbourne, Australia. It explores the plight of prisoners on Spike Island in Cork, where she taught for five years, and also celebrates love, children and the natural world. Her two children's books, Lios Chaitríona (Caitriona's Fairy Fort) and Caitriona agus an tÉan Oir (Caitriona and the Golden Bird) were published by the Irish language publishers An Gúm, and she has read at a number of festivals including the Cheltenham Literary Festival in England. She has also worked with digital media, exhibiting an internet site in Triskel Arts Centre's 'Intermedia 2000'. Her solo exhibition of digital prints and text Figures in the Composition of Time was shown at the Droichead Arts Centre and the Boole Library in University College, Cork. At present she is working on a novel based on the life of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone and is Writer in Residence for Kerry County Council.

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