Joining us at the start of the ILS 2022-23 season are the poet James Conor Patterson and writer Darran Anderson to launch Patterson’s book bandit country.
bandit country is the much-anticipated debut collection from James Conor Patterson, who will be familiar to ILS regulars from our event last year launching his anthology of essays on the Irish border: The New Frontier: Reflections from the Irish Border.
bandit country is a rollicking, hyper-literate and at times deeply troubling account of a young man’s navigation of the semi-lawless borderlands between the north of Ireland and the Republic – the ‘bandit country’ of the Troubles – and the criss-crossed sea border to England and beyond. Patterson shows us how the militarised boundary line of old has morphed into an invisible and semi-wild frontier, where the ghosts of a thirty-year war continue to haunt the ‘ceasefire generation’.
Patterson writes in a hybrid dialect of Newry street and Scots and Irish-inflected English – and in a virtuosic variety of forms: these poems crackle with vernacular wit and the rhythms of everyday speech, absorbing the influence of the poet’s Belfast mentor, Ciaran Carson, and the radical poetics of Tom Leonard. Already a rising star and Eric Gregory award-winner, James Conor Patterson is an extraordinary talent at the forefront of a new wave of poets exploring the linguistic inheritance of region and community. Pattterson will be reading from his work and joined in conversation by the writer Darran Anderson.
For this Newry to be believable, it had to be rendered in language native to it. Not the received pronunciation of the Coloniser, nor the Gaelic tongue stolen from our ancestors, but a dialect specific to the borderlands of South Down, South Armagh and North Louth. A language that self-consciously aped the history of the area in a dirty mélange of English, Irish, Ulster Scots and Shelta. Newry is a place where people drop their g’s, where you’re more likely to be bitten by a cleg than a horsefly, and where swear words punctuate even the friendliest of sentences. Writing about it wouldn’t be hard—it was the way I’d heard people speak all my life—but what I learned from the likes of Tom Leonard and James Kelman was the dignity in it. A kind of punchy survivalism that even the most ‘civilising’ aspect of colonialism couldn’t squash. — James Conor Patterson, article for RTE.