Galway-based Crannóg showcases the best in new Irish and International literature. Read more here!
The mandate of the thrice-yearly magazine, as it has been since its inception 14 years ago, is to create a world audience for Irish writers and to bring work of an international standard to their attention.
Since 1982, members of the Galway Writers’ Workshop had gathered on Saturday afternoons in the upstairs of the town’s Bridge Mills Building. After two decades together, the group decided to launch a formal publication.
As poet Tony O’Dwyer recalls, a number of names were floated before a member of the group pointed to a window, observed that they were surrounded by water, and wondered if they should call it Crannóg – a term used to describe an ancient Irish lake dwelling.
“The first issue of the magazine was launched in what was then the Atlanta Hotel on Dominick Street, a favourite haunt of the arts community in Galway at the time. That issue contained poetry and fiction by the 16 members of the workshop.”
The second edition included work from other Galway writers, and by the third issue, submissions from writers all over Ireland were accepted. A year later the magazine had an online presence and international offerings poured in.
“Today, Crannóg is read all over the world,” notes O’Dwyer. “Many Crannog authors have been included in the Forward Book of Poetry and nominated for a Pushcart Prize, highlighting the quality and reach of the magazine.”
Alongside O’Dwyer, the four-member editorial board is made up by novelist and short story writer Ger Burke, actor and poet Jarlath Fahy, and Montreal writer and visual artist Sandra Bunting. O’Dwyer and Burke recently put their heads together to discuss how far they have come and the challenges ahead.
“Money is always an issue for a literary magazine,” says Burke.
She notes that Crannóg is lucky to be supported by the Arts Council of Ireland and the Galway City Arts Office.
“In the early days, prior to getting funding, it was very challenging to produce the magazine while keeping costs to a minimum. Distribution is another problem for literary magazines in print. We rely on the postal service rather than incur the costs of a representative to call on retail outlets, but the postal service is becoming more costly.”
Another challenge, notes Burke, is the sheer volume of labour that is done on a voluntary basis.
“For each of the three issues we receive in the region of 800 submissions. The four editorial board members read every poem and short story. That entails a lot of work as we don’t use readers or filter the submissions.”
At the end of each reading period, an editorial meeting is held to discuss submissions with each member listing favourites and possibilities.
“We are continually surprised by the level of unanimity. Where our preferences don’t coincide, a process of debating, defending and advocating ensues.”
The satisfaction, they agree, comes in providing an outlet for writers’ work. Each issue is formally launched with contributors given the opportunity to read their work to an audience and socialize with other writers.
Their online presence, which includes YouTube videos of magazine launches and readings, gives them a world-wide audience – “a shop window to the world” that garners hits from every continent. One goal is to further develop their website as a resource for readers and writers as a place to display author interviews and excerpts of work.
“In addition to launches, we also organize a number of readings at festivals throughout Ireland,” adds Burke. “Our aim is to extend these readings to include other countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada.”
Burke is concerned the arts are less accessible in Ireland today than they should be.
“Poetry, in particular, is seen as a minority and elitist pursuit. We believe there is an untapped audience for poetry if those perceived barriers could be broken down.”
Erasing that sense of elitism, whether real or perceived, continues to be a challenge.
“We do make an effort to make our launches and readings relaxed and unpretentious. Though the content of the magazine is of a high literary standard, our readings are enjoyed as a social as well as a literary event.”
Crannóg’s newsletter, Word on the Street, is circulated to over 3,000 contacts world-wide – something that helps with subscriptions. The magazine is available in many brick-and-mortar bookshops, and can also be purchased online in both print and e-book formats.