2023 Review and thoughts on 2024

Hare’s Breath cover image artwork by Rosaleen Fleming

2023 was an important year for me, primarily because I published my second poetry collection Hare’s Breath (Salmon Poetry). It’s been six years since my first collection After The Fall was published and I’m very proud of the poems that make up this new collection. I was delighted to launch the collection to a full house at Books Upstairs (a very important independent bookshop) in November and also very happy to have John Murphy introduce the book to the world. John has been a huge part of my writing life as first reader and mentor for almost a decade.

That aside, the year has mainly been about working on the new novel. (I am still actively seeking a publisher for Riverrun which was a winner of the the Novel Fair at the Irish Writers Centre 2022). The new novel which currently has a working title of A Fork in the Road, has been taking up most of my time and will continue to do so in 2024. During the year I received support from Listowel Writers Week by way of a week long stay at the Cill Rialaig writers retreat in Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry. I also was granted an Agility Award bursary from the Arts Council and was accepted for the National Mentoring Programme which is run by the Irish Writers Centre. My mentor is novelist and short story writer Sean O’Reilly and it’s been very interesting working with him as I write the novel. I have a further two sessions with Sean planned for early in 2024 and my aim is to complete the novel by the end of the year.

Here’s a brief list of how 2023 went for me from a writing perspective:

I was disappointed not to publish any new short stories in 2023, but I’m happy to say that my story Call Me Cathy will be published at Fictive Dream in January 2024.

Next year my main priorities will be to finish the new novel, write and publish some more short stories and do as many poetry readings as possible, bringing Hare’s Breath to as many people as possible around the country.

From a poetry point of view, the highlights of 2023 for me included Maurice Devitt’s Some of these Stories are True, Paul Bregazzi’s Hex, Breda Wall Ryan’s These are my People, A.E. Stalling’s verse translation of Hesiod: Works and Days, Maeve McKenna’s A Dedication to Drowning, Breda Spaight’s Watching for the Hawk, Jane Robinson’s Island and Atoll, Mark Ward’s Nightlight, Eamonn Lynskey’s Material Support, Rachel Coventry’s The Detachable Heart and Eamon McGuiness’ The Wrong Heroes.

Some the best short story collections I read this year included How to Gut a Fish by Sheila Armstrong, Evelyn Conlon’s Moving About the Place, Sean O’Reilly’s Levitation and Ann Beattie’s Park City: New and Selected stories.

Among the best novels I’ve read during the year I have to include The Singularities by John Banville (it has something of the old Banville in terms of character and concerns), Fludd by the late Hilary Mantel, Nothing Special by Nicole Flattery, Though the Bodies Fall by Noel O’Regan, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan and Jabberwock by Dara Kavanagh (David Butler).

My ‘to be read’ pile grows bigger every week, but I’m looking forward to Booker winner Prophet Song by Paul Lynch and the current Winter Papers among many others in early 2024.

I hope 2023 was good to you and, whatever you’re reading or writing in 2024, I wish you only the very best!

Brian

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