We celebrate the remarkable centenary of Ulysses by James Joyce with a response by Molly Twomey, one of Ireland’s most vibrant contemporary voices.

The work searches for answers to the question ‘What is My Nation?’ from the perspective of a woman who has been doomed to the margins of Ireland’s historical archives.

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And the IRA campaign in Britain was intense in the West Midlands at that time. I learned to play the button accordion in lessons I took at the Kerryman’s Club, which was a big gathering point for the Irish in Coventry. The only tune I ever really learned off by heart was Roddy McCorley, also sometimes called Sean South of Garryowen. I only played the tune, and the words weren’t sung. The original words of Roddy McCorley were replaced by those of the new version Sean South, in memory of an IRA volunteer of that name who was killed in a clash with the RUC during the IRA’s unsuccessful 1957 border campaign. I am sure I must have played that tune for at least a couple of MI5 agents who had to have been in attendance at the Kerryman’s Club in those years, if they were doing their job.

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Walking on a beach on the far south coast I found a metaphor for Anna Couani’s “Local” — a deep ocean shell, cast up from the sea, weathered to reveal its interior spirals. At the apex, a perfect miniature of mature shell- the mollusc’s first home—succeeded by whorls revolving outwards. The creature inside carries its past on its back and all its history is simultaneously present— past and present touch one another.

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Rose Hunter’s most recent book, Body Shell Girl (Spinifex Press, May/June 2022), is a memoir in verse that tells the story of her first two years in the sex industry. She is also the author of five other books of poetry, including glass (Five Islands Press, 2017). She has been published widely in journals in Australia, the USA, and Canada, and has been awarded an Australia Council for the Arts grant. Rose was born in Australia and lived in Canada for ten years, then Mexico for ten more. She is currently on the Gold Coast, where she is enrolled in a PhD in Creative Writing at Griffith University

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Body Shell Girl is a special book – layered, creative, complicated. On one level we can approach it as a confessional, a delivery of one woman’s story where the subject matter is clear – we know Rose has created a verse novel inspired in her own words by ‘the radioactive journals’ she kept in the first two years of a decade long stint in the sex industry – in this way the book joins a conversation, a context with other books that explore this industry from different points of view.

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Louise Wakeling is a Sydney poet who lives in the Blue Mountains. Off Limits (Puncher & Wattmann, 2021) is her fourth collection of poetry. Her work has also been published online in Burrow and in anthologies such as The Best Australian Poems (2010), Antipodes (Phoenix Publications, 2011), Contemporary Poetry (Puncher & Wattmann, 2016), Caring for Country (Phoenix Publications, 2017), Live Encounters (2018), Arrival (Lost in Books (2018), Wild Voices: An anthology on wildlife issues, ed. David Bassett (2019) and Messages from the Embers: From Devastation to Hope: Australian Bushfire Anthology (Black Quill Press, 2020). Her first novel, Saturn Return, was published by Hale & Iremonger in 1990. Wakeling currently alternates between writing poetry, casual English teaching and working on a second novel about coercive control and intergenerational trauma in the lives of three generations of women in Sydney and on the NSW Central Coast.

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Nathanael O’Reilly is an Irish-Australian poet residing in Texas. His books include Boulevard (Beir Bua Press, 2021); (Un)belonging (Recent Work Press, 2020); BLUE (above/ground press, 2020); Preparations for Departure (UWAP, 2017); Distance (Ginninderra Press, 2015); Suburban Exile (Picaro Press, 2011); and Symptoms of Homesickness (Picaro Press, 2010). His poetry, published in fourteen countries, appears in journals and anthologies including Anthropocene, Cordite Poetry Review, The Elevation Review, Ink, Sweat & Tears, New World Writing, Mascara Literary Review, Ponder Review, Westerly and Wisconsin Review. He is the poetry editor for Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian/New Zealand Literature.

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The verse novel is a form now in constant transition and evolution, and here we see a huge range of writers interviewed, and their individual work explored. The Verse Novel Australia & New Zealand (2021) throws a wide and inclusive net, almost literally across the sea, from Australia to New Zealand, including parts of the Pacific.

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