Winter Papers 5: ‘You can fling open any page and find something to curl into as the light fades’

This fifth instalment of the annual arts anthology from Kevin Barry and Olivia Smith is the first to not feature an editorial. With the workload that now goes into commissioning, editing and printing (still in beautiful cloth-bound hardback) being spaced between Barry’s promotional duties for Night Boat to Tangier, you don’t blame the two-person Winter Papers team for saying “sod it” this year.

What’s more, this is now an eagerly anticipated early Christmas gift for the arts community, a hand-crafted compendium of short stories, essays, poetry, interviews and visual arts that you can fling open on any page and find something to curl into as the light fades. The time for introductions is perhaps over.

Always interesting is how we come across familiar names out of their natural habitats. Barry himself has a go at the essay form, a territory as unusual for the celebrated novelist as the very subject matter he writes about – a ruined Dominican priory in Sligo he visits with his senses on high alert. Marina Carr and Olwen Fouéré talk Lorca, Leonard Cohen and Connemara. Nuala O’Connor turns a sartorial history into a design for life, while novelist and wit Paraic O’Donnell uses gardening as a bittersweet hook on which to hang life-changing news.

The tree and moon on the cover foreshadow a vague seam of families and mothers. Poetry by Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Eleanor Hooker, and Jessica Traynor carry varying degrees of translucence in their maternal imagery, while Ronan Kelly’s excellent short story ‘A Short Film About Time’ knots itself in thorny paternal bothers.

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Visual meat abounds, from Jonathan Brennan’s uncovered 1950s Kodak Wallet to Wally Cassidy’s photo album of Traveller hip-hop (a profile of Zambian-Irish artist Denise Chaila also features, the publication’s interest in the Limerick music scene showing no sign of waning).

You don’t love all of Winter Papers, but its yearly achievement is that you always love enough to justify your anticipation.

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