A GROUP of aspiring Cork writers, who collaborated despite the odds of the pandemic restrictions, have just published an anthology of their work.
Called Swerve Magazine, the group comprises individuals of all ages, and from all walks of life who successfully applied to be part of the Cork Libraries Scheme, launched during the pandemic to offer support to poets and writers.
Under the mentorship of Matthew Geden, poet, lecturer and writer-in-residence at Cork County Council, first-time writers, experienced writers, artists, mothers and playwrights gelled to become a group of committed writers for whom the collaborative experience was life changing.
After working together on Zoom, they’re now set to launch their anthology at the West Cork Literary Festival.
One of them is Mich Maroney a fine art artist who lives in Rosscarbery.
‘I’d never written before this, even though I’d always wanted to – and now writing has taken over my life!’ she said.
She has a short story and a poem included in the magazine, which she also designed – more-or-less – at her kitchen table. And she’s also working on the final stages of her first novel called Ink Blood Brick Bone.
‘It’s about Billy who was executed for his so-called cowardice in a WWI scandal.
‘Some 336 men were executed for cowardice at this time – they were all working class men too, who were being used as an example, showing a real class imbalance.
‘That’s echoed in the UK judicial system right now which is weighed against the young working class, poor and black men so nothing much has changed.’
She has won an award for a draft of the book and having already secured some arts council funding, is hoping to get more so she can carry out further research.
‘It’s at the stage now that to really nuance the novel I need to be in situ, in the trenches, in the Somme battle field,’ she said.
She summed up the programme as ‘amazing, life-changing.’
‘Something really brilliant came out of what was an unpromising situation when Covid hit,’ she said.
‘Swerve grew out of this extraordinary situation when it was brought home to us how the arts can be a profound source of consolation in times of trauma.’
Donal Hayes, from Skibbereen and living in Kinsale, is also part of the collective.
‘I’ve been writing and involved in different writing groups over the years,’ he said.
When Covid hit, he jumped at the chance to be part of the Cork prose group.
‘We haven’t ever physically met as whole group but we totally gelled with each other. Occasionally everything comes together, and that’s what happened here. It was the right people, with the right commitment, the right enthusiasm and the right support, it just worked,’ he said.
His creative non-fiction essay about a tragedy in Glandore Harbour in 1601, Winter Fiesta, is included in the magazine, A regular contributor to RTÉ Radio 1’s Sunday Miscellany, he said the group was a great way to get and give support.
‘It ended up being about far more than just the writing, I’ve made some great friends there,’ he said.
Mich explains how the name Swerve came about: ‘Firstly, in homage to Verve Magazine, a literary journal that was published in France in the 1930s. I own a copy of the last issue of Verve to be published in 1940, at the beginning of WW2, just before the fall of Paris.
‘That issue of Verve was a celebration of French art and literature in the face of barbarism. It is a treasured possession and was the inspiration for the format for our magazine that seeks to give equal weight to the word and the visual image. It is a savage irony that Swerve is being launched as we watch in disbelief whilst Europe is once again threatened by totalitarianism and war.
‘We feel that the arts are crucial in countering this spirit of destruction and nationalistic inward-looking. It is our aim to publish new and emerging writing but another, equally important, ambition is to publish works in translation. It seems essential that the arts should strive to build bridges, foster understanding and transcend boundaries, and it is our intention that future issues of Swerve will contribute to this ethos.’
• West Cork Literary Festival will launch the magazine on July 11th. For more see Instagram @swerve_magazine.