Cork City

Services and Programmes

Monday, 2nd February, was a day of marathon public readings to celebrate the birthday of James Joyce, author of Ulysses and Portrait of the Artist. City Librarian, Liam Ronayne, welcomed the huge audience of Constant Readers and Cork Joyceans. Professor Colbert Kearney, scholar, biographer and recently retired Professor of English at UCC, spoke brilliantly on James Joyce’s Cork connections, both familial and literary. He was followed by Jim McKeon, playwright, novelist and Frank O’Connor biographer, who read the famous Cork sequence from The Portrait. Vincent Kelly and newsroom colleagues from the Evening Echo then followed with a reading from the newsroom sequence of Ulysses. A huge crowd had gathered by the time Senator David Norris, the brilliant Joyce scholar and human rights activist, rose to deliver a sensational, dramatic rendering of Leopold Bloom’s interior monologues. His performance and his erudition brought the house down.

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Senator David Norris speaking at the Cork Re-Joyce! event

Senator Norris was followed by the Director of Alliance Francaise de Cork, Helène Duquin, who had studied Joyce in her youth at the Sorbonne. Molly Bloom’s famous soliloquy was extended by Maire Bradshaw, poet and founder of The Poets’ House and Bradshaw Books, and by Liz O’Donoghue, the poet and film-maker.  Then Jim McKeon took to the floor again, reading ‘Gas From a Burner’ and ‘The Holy Office,’ two fearsome, satirical ballads by Joyce. Former Senator, socialist and CIT Lecturer, Brendan Ryan, then rose to deliver a superb ‘Ivy Day in the Committee Room’ with great insight and feeling. He was followed by one of Cork’s most distinguished poets, Gerry Murphy, who read from the ‘Calypso’ sequence in Ulysses, our first glimpse of the legendary Leopold Bloom.

Just as spirits might have been flagging, or concentration slipping, the wonderful Welsh tenor, Ryan Morgan, rose to deliver a superb sequence of Victorian and Edwardian songs associated with the Joyce canon. The bookshelves and aisles of the City Library echoed with Morgan’s powerful delivery of songs such as ‘The Lass of Aughrim,’ ‘Jerusalem,’  ‘I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls’ and ‘Silent, O Moyle.’  Following on that powerful musical interlude, poet Gerry Murphy returned to deliver a superb rendition of the ‘Cyclops’ chapter in Ulysses.

Thus, Joyce was remembered in the city of his fathers. The day was a fitting prelude to a year of Constant Readers.