River People (2017) is an anthology of poems and short stories written by attendees of a creative writing course for older people, which was headed by editor Ron Carey and managing editor Dominic Taylor. Published by the Limerick Writers’ Centre, the collection explores Irish society, both past and present, from bygone times to contemporary society.
As the title suggests, numerous pieces are an ode to the River Shannon and Limerick City, as well as the cultures and customs that have come and gone over the ages. The opening piece, ‘Echoes of Sionna,’ tracks the course and history of the Shannon, from the folktales of The Fianna to Viking conquests and right up to the present day. Likewise, the poems ‘Shannon River’ and ‘Rudderless Swan’ explore the river, this time looking at the Shannon from the perspective of the water and a swan, respectively, and evoke the natural beauty and heritage of the river.
Numerous prose pieces in the collection are drawn from a love of the past. The hilarious and nostalgic ‘Radio Times’ reminisces on the electrification of rural Ireland and the wonder of radio entering Irish households. From hearing the Munster Hurling final to listening to a radio in Luxembourg, the piece is filled with childhood excitement. ‘Tea and Turf’ also celebrates rural Ireland and old traditions. The short story describes a boy’s day at the bog cutting turf and having a picnic with his family. The scenic landscapes, scented flowers, and memories of childhood add to this stunningly vivid snapshot of Ireland’s celebrated rural culture. Other short stories explore early childhood memories, like ‘The Joy of Giving,’ in which a boy buys toffee in the corner shop after mass, and ‘The Legacy,’ where a woman returns to her dilapidated Aunt’s house in which she grew up.
Dotted throughout the anthology are pieces that comment on where we are in society today. The comedic ‘Electric Picnic 2017’ describes the adventures of two Old Age Pensioners who attend the Electric Picnic music festival and shows their perspectives on the eccentric crowds that frequent such events. ‘Perfection,’ a unique and surprising story, being the only science-fiction piece in the anthology, explores the technology driven aspects of the present. It is bound to leave the reader intrigued. A piece that a lot of people can relate to is ‘Heartbreak.’ The poem describes a mother’s sadness as she drives her son to the airport. The story of emigration isn’t new to an Irish mindset, yet it is always painful to see a loved one leave the nest.
This anthology, written exclusively by older up-and-coming writers and poets, is a wonderful collection of pieces that delve into the past and weave their way to the present. The book was launched in Chez le Fab on the 5th December. It is available from O’Mahony’s Bookshop, Quay Books, Celtic Book Shop, Crescent Book Shop, and online at www.limerickwriterscentre.com
Limerick Writers’ Centre
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