PICTURE SLIDESHOW: Alphie McCourt opens his Heart

Anne Sheridan


Anne Sheridan

HE LAST came to Limerick on the winds of volcanic ash from Iceland. This time he narrowly avoided hurricane Sandy in his native city.

Alphie McCourt truly had pause to wonder what natural catastrophe might greet his next visit back to his native Limerick, as he launched his new and acclaimed body of work in the city at the weekend.

The idea for Heartscald, a collection of poetry, prose, song, by the long time New York resident was mooted in a bar on a wet night in Queens, a year ago, but it is the result of a lifetime’s worth of memories. It contains witty odes to women and pints of stout, and poems dedicated to his brother Frank, and the victims of the 9/11 attacks. It is a tribute too to the city that never sleeps.

Dominic Taylor, of the Limerick Writers’ Centre, kept insisting he needed to put a new book together, to which Alphie replied: “No, no, no.”

It turned out that Dominic was right. It was an “Irish ‘no’.”

It was published by Revival Press, the poetry imprint of The Limerick Writers’ Centre, a non profit organisation established to nurture and support writers since 2009.

The book was appropriately launched in the Frank McCourt Museum at his former school, Leamy’s, on Hartstonge Street Though Alphie said he was reluctant to admit it, he never went to school in Leamy’s as his famous brother Frank did. He was educated by the Christian Brothers on Sexton Street, whom he partly dedicated the book to.

Jack Costello, a long-standing friend of the family, and member of the band Granny’s Intentions, said Alphie’s first memoir – A Long Stone’s Throw – was “one of the finest books I’ve ever read”.

Heartscald, he said, is written in the same vein, in his “quiet and understated style.”

“It’s a great piece of literature. Frank is a hard act to follow ... even Frank found it [Angela’s Ashes] a hard act to follow,” he said.

But Alphie’s work more than stands its own ground. The 72-year-old earlier travelled to Derby with his wife Lynn, and Frank’s widow Ellen to see the first production of Angela’s Ashes: The Musical, which they hope will be staged in Limerick as part of The Gathering next year.

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