Friday, February 8, 2013

Boyne Writers AGM- Chairman's Address

This is an shortened version of our chairman, Paddy Smith's address to the Boyne Writers Group AGM on Thursday 7 February. A fuller version is on our website.

It’s been another year during which members continued to surprise and delight each other with a great variety of material. In some cases, members’ material was deemed good enough to be included in publications from near and far.

Some members distinguished themselves: Evan Costigan took the top award in a national poetry competition, the Francis Ledwidge, with his poem Boy at the Bus Stop. I think I’m correct in saying that Evan is only the second of our members to ever win a national poetry award.

I apologise once again for my absence from so many meetings over the last year. The core work of the group continued in my absence, I’m glad to say – though I remain to be convinced as to whether the standard of grammar and spelling in the group has risen at all during my absence.

I’m a self-appointed watchdog for such matters. And I do take on the task with gusto. I’m just that way inclined. I’ll be glad when this month is over because for the rest of the year I won’t have to listen to so many people on the radio and TV talking about Feb-yury. I have a very low tolerance for grammatic bloomers by people who should know better – people who say less buses or less words when they mean fewer buses or fewer words; or people who talk about a life of criminality when they mean a life of crime; or use the word simplistic when they mean simple. As you can see, I get irritated very easily, but I do enjoy my exasperation!

In this context, yesterday’s Irish Independent had a very timely supplement on The Written Word, and I got a few more sources of irritation there. Unnecessary words and phrases – ‘she greeted him with a smile on her face’ (as opposed to a smile on her shoulder?); ‘the company had a complete monopoly’ (as opposed to an incomplete monopoly?). And then there was the dangling participle; my favourite was this one: ‘with a huge front balcony, she hoped to sell the flat quickly’ (the poor woman must have been a sight with a huge front balcony!).

I do enjoy being a member of the Boyne Writers’ Group. Where would you go to invite criticism of something you have done and are nervously proud of? Where would you go to get the chance to comment on other people’s efforts and develop your critical abilities? Where would you go to meet a group of people who bare their souls in the pursuit of their hobby? I’ll tell you where: to a meeting of the Boyne Writers’ Group.

By coming to our meetings, we invite criticism of our work. We welcome criticism of our work. And not in the sense that Noel Coward meant it: “I love criticism just so long as it’s unqualified praise.” Criticism, as in the Oxford English Dictionary definition, is – “the analysis and judgement of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work”. 

I’ll finish with some personal highlights of the year for me. A totally subjective choice.

Orla Fay’s night as the Guest Reader in the Boyne Readings and Open Mic: a record crowd of something like 26 people.

The buzz there was in the room at Michael Farry’s book launch. A great turnout, especially of people who wouldn’t normally be at one of our functions.

The night last autumn that the American Professor Gregory Castle launched Boyne Berries: a really lovely occasion.

And, finally, the sense of pride we all felt in the Battle of the Books last July when Michael Farry scored his perfect 10. We still didn’t win – but it was a very honourable loss.

Thank you.

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