James Lawless was born in Dublin and divides his time between County Kildare and West Cork. His first novel Peeling Oranges
a paternal quest set in the Liberties of Dublin and Franco’s Spain, was published in 2007. His prose and poetry have been broadcast and published in various magazines and anthologies in Ireland and abroad including Cyphers, The Stinging Fly, Fish, Revival, Windows’ Publications, Crannóg, Boyne Berries, Boho Press, Ragged Raven Press, The New Writer, Route, the French Literary Review, An Gael (USA), The Stony Thursday Book and he was the featured writer in the Spring 2011 issue of the ezine Minus Nine Squared. http://issuu.com/minus9squared/docs/minus_9_squared_volume_one Awards include the Scintilla Welsh Open Poetry competition 2002, the Cecil Day Lewis Play Award 2005 for What Are Neighbours For? a Hennessy Award nomination and the WOW Award for fiction 2010 and a Biscuit International Prize for short stories 2011. In 2014 he was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize for fiction.
He is a regular book reviewer for Books Ireland, the Sunday Independent and Irish Examiner and a highly regarded and experienced teacher of creative writing with limited availability to conduct creative writing workshops throughout the country. He has broadcast his work on RTÉ radio and performed at many literary festivals, including the West Cork Literary Festival, Fermoy Poetry Festival, Baffle, Castlecomer, Boyle, Clifden, Galway festivals, the Cultúrlann in Belfast, the Dublin Books Festival and The Kildare Readers’ Festival. His story, “Jolt”, was shortlisted for the Willesden Prize and appeared in New Short Stories 1, edited by Zadie Smith (London/ New York, Willesden Herald, 2007). A play, The Fall, was performed in the Source Arts Centre, Thurles, the same year, directed by Donal Gallagher of Asylum Productions. A second novel, For Love of Anna, a story of love, ideology and corruption, was published in 2009 as was his book on modern poetry, Clearing The Tangled Wood: Poetry as a way of seeing the world (‘a linguistic ballet, learned and lively on behalf of poetry’ — John Montague), and for which he received an Irish arts bursary award. A third novel, The Avenue (‘A work of passion and truth’ — Declan Kiberd) was published in 2010. Clearing The Tangled Wood has been released in paperback and his fourth novel, Finding Penelope, about a woman’s growth in self-realisation and set amid the expat drug culture on the Spanish Costas, and a collection of poetry Rus in Urbe were published in 2012. His much praised new novel Knowing Women, about a vulnerable man tainted sexually, was published in March 2013.
A book of children’s stories The Adventures of Jo Jo was published in 2014 and a prose and poetic meditation Noise & Sound Reflections was published in 2015.
This is my mother Catherine Lawless (née Geraghty) in the fifties with me as a child. She came from a Liberties family where there was always music: accordion, violin, piano and even a bass, which I remember my father transporting home to the suburbs on a bicycle. Most Liberties folk loved to go to the seaside, which is where this photo was taken (possibly Portmarnock), for the fresh air and to escape the congestion of the city.
My mother’s people owned a shop in Bishop Street near where the National Archives are now and where ironically years later I was to do research for my first novel. My mother was the youngest in her family. The eldest, her sister May a monitress, died young from Bright’s disease. My mother’s middle brother Joe also died young. He was a member of the Volunteers and got frequent wettings when training in the Wicklow Mountains. It was an exciting moment in my mother’s life when, as a young girl, she discovered Joe’s revolver in a drawer in a room above the shop. Her father Daniel Geraghty also died at a young age. He was the treasurer in the plumbers’ union. He was shell-shocked during the Easter Rising when, despite suffering from flu, he went out to pay the idle members their sustenance allowance. So my grandmother Muddy Geraghty (née Woodburn) became a young widow with seven children to rear—another child Margaret had died at two and a half from pneumonia. My great grandmother on my grandmother’s side, Mary McClean from Belfast, became a convert to Catholicism and eloped to marry Andrew Woodburn, a rich publican from Gorey. My great grandfather on my grandfather’s side, another Daniel Geraghty, born in England, was an engineer in the British army. He married Ellen Nugent from Crosshaven who lived till she was ninety and reputedly never ate butter.
I had asthma as a child and my mother, always seeking the fresh air, insisted on our moving to the suburbs when I was six. But she used to go back regularly to the Liberties to work in my uncle Andy’s shop in Kevin Street. She missed the sounds of the bells of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and the baking smells from Jacob’s biscuit factory where she had worked as a supervisor. A great reader, she enrolled me early in the Carnegie library and instilled a lifelong love of books in me.
This article was published under Family Fortunes in the Irish Times 23/02/2018.
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