As I have said, I have been busy lately. Last week, I was lucky to be invited to a day seminar at the Canadian embassy in Dublin. For me, it was the occasion to have the pleasure to meet other Irish scholars who share the same interest as mine. We were spoiled with this seminar. Not only were we offered food and drinks in abundance, but also some very interesting papers and a reading by Jane Urquhart.
There was first a reading by Patrick O’Connor, an Irish scholar and poet with a passion for Canada. He read from his latest collection, Behold the Enchanted Country. Each poem evokes a certain place in Canada and were actually inspired by his travels across Canada. As he noted, it is at once a travel guide and a collection of poetry.
Then, André Lapierre from the University of Ottawa offered a talk on Canadian Aboriginal toponomy. He explained the project in which he is involved to get the name of some places changed to their Aboriginal name, because, as he noted, if the language disappear we will still have a way of remembering it through these topographical names. He explored the problems involved in this process and how they manage to resolve them by negotiating with the natives. For instance, one of them was the length of the name, so they agreed that it could be divided to form words more easily pronounced by the non-natives It was a lively and accessible talk, which I really enjoyed.
A few representatives from the Association of Canadian Studies in Ireland also discussed the state of Canadian studies at home and abroad. They especially noted the decline of Canadian studies in Canada, but pointed out that they were thriving abroad. In Ireland, it seems that Canadian studies have survived by being integrated to other programmes.
Finally, Jane Urquhart read from one of his novels, A Map of Glass, in which an Irish man emigrates to Canada. The reading was followed by a series of question to which Urquhart gave considered and detailed answers. I was a pleasure to listen to her witty and humourous comments.
She was asked about her relationship with the short story as she has published a collection, Storm Glass. She explained how when she began writing, she was mostly writing piles and piles of poems, which were growing into narratives. Her short stories were part of this experimentation with writing and she then discovered that she was destined to write novels. She thus does not consider herself as a good short story writer and notes that most of her stories have later evolved into novels.
She was asked about her position on e-publishing and said that she was not drawn to it. Moreover, she noted that it was a decision beyond her control and in the hands of her publishers.
When asked what is essential to write a novel, she answered that “unstructured time” is essential because it is that time in which you are able to think about your novel.
She also argued that it is important to ignore the voices after having written the first book and to continue writing. By that, she meant especially the criticism that might impact on your writing.
Overall, it was an extremely enjoyable afternoon, well worth the trip to Dublin.