A New Anthology Hits the Irish Scene: An Áitiúil

Sebastian Wolfe discusses the newest Irish anthology series worth showcasing.

I caught up with Úna Nolan, one of two editors of The Martello Journal to talk about their recent success with their new anthology of Irish works that was just launched in collaboration with The Madrigal Press.

The Martello Journal was launched by Úna Nolan and Jack McGee in 2021. It is one of Dublin’s newest literary journals and aims to showcase and platform anyone who has a passion for expression through the arts. They accept submissions of poetry, prose, artwork & photography, having published three editions, the latest edition of The Martello, titled Lessons From Loneliness, explored “reflecting on what you have taken away from your loneliness”. Edition four is open for submissions as of October 2nd. 

Úna is an accomplished, prolific writer and clearly has a passion for it, having been previously published in Green Carnations Anthropology, The New Word Order, Crossways Literary Journal and The Madrigal Press. Jack, co-editor of The Martello Journal, is a writer for The College Tribune. Both are young, up and coming writers who have channelled their love for the craft into a new creative space designed to present new Irish talent and inject some life into a steadily declining creative scene.

The Madrigal Press on the other hand is run and edited by Tomás Clancy and Helen Jenks. It has published five volumes to date; The Nest, Roots, Whimsy, Verity and Poësis, with submissions being currently open as of October first for  issue six, Epiphany . The Madrigal Press is a Dublin based publication that focuses primarily on poetry. The editors have described themselves as feeling “a deep connection to the thematic beauty and expanse of Irish poetry.” They aim to “establish a body of work that shares in the familiarity, joy, transience and sadness to which poetry at its most raw can convey.” Through this they hope to platform The Madrigal Press as a “space for exploration, introspection and adoration of life from the perspective of poets both established and emerging”.

Both editing teams recently collaborated to bring us An Áitúíl, an anthology of poetry, prose, artwork and photography celebrating Ireland. In their call for submissions they stated they were looking for work that was “magnetic and emotive, (that had a) sense of locality, song, and homeliness rooted deeply in physical place and tradition.” However, how did this collaboration come about?

The story is as stereotypically Irish as it gets. Úna told me that the four editors of their respective magazines have been friends for a long time prior to their collaboration. The idea was sparked as they sat around pints in their local pub, hence the name An Áitúíl, meaning “The Local” in Irish. Úna tells me that home is “something found or something you find yourself.” as a way to describe An Áitúíl. Thus began the planning of a new collaborative issue of The Martello Journal and The Madrigal Press.

That being said, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Not every member of the team was living in Ireland at the time, but they managed to navigate this through the use of Zoom. The first submission guidelines were sent out via instagram on the 22nd of June 2022 and an official call for submissions was launched the 1st of July in the same manner. After months of accepting and editing submissions, An Áitúíl was formed.

The editing team then got to work planning the launch party. They made the ambitious choice of deciding to host the launch party on the same night as the Dublin Fringe Festival and Culture Night. This was of course an intimidating venture but after the rousing success of the launch both The Martello Journal and The Madrigal Press are in the prime of their publication era and I can only see them becoming even more established to a point where they can rival these monolithic events in the Irish cultural calendar.

So, what actually happened at the launch party? Úna tells me that it was amazing. Hosted by Hen’s Teeth Studios in Dublin 8 (Which has seen success with previous exhibitions and magazine launches rooting itself as a major player for hosting new projects in the Dublin creative scene.) The Martello Journal and The Madrigal Press team arrived at the venue to set up, as the evening got started there was a small turnout but not for lack of interest, several people had confused the Hen’s Teeth Studio with The Hen’s Teeth Café around the corner. Úna went to the café to put up a notice explaining where the launch was located and was followed back to the venue by ten patrons. When she returned a mere ten minutes later the venue was practically full, which Úna described as a really special moment for her. Guests on the night were varied and eclectic, consisting of students, elderly veterans of the Irish literary scene from outside of Dublin (who expressed to Úna that this was the best event of this type they had ever attended) and Úna’s grandmother, a compassionate woman who convinced a shy man to read his work in front of the crowd. We love to see the support. 

The night was split into sections with three readers per section. Úna and Helen closed off the night with Helen reading an ode, which had actually turned into an elegy between its writing and performance to the rat that had taken up residence within her home, Arnold. All together the launch was a fantastic success with Úna having this to say regarding the Irish literary scene: “We’re alive and well and fairly fucking talented.”