Feature Articles

CRANNÓG: 2002 AND COUNTING by Tony O'Dwyer

(Poetry Ireland News, July/August 2013)

The Bridge Mills building in Galway is flanked on one side by the River Corrib and on the other by one of the many canals that run through the city. Upstairs in this building the members of Galway Writers’ Workshop meet every Saturday afternoon, as they have done since it was founded in 1982.

When, at one of these Saturday meetings, it was decided to start a magazine to showcase the work of the group, one of the first tasks was to agree on a title. After a number of failed suggestions one member (it is not recorded who this was) looked out a window and said, ‘We’re surrounded on all sides by water. We could be in a crannóg. How about calling it Crannóg?’ – That was 2002.

The first issue was launched in what was then the Atlanta Hotel in Dominick St, a favourite haunt of the arts community in Galway at the time. That issue contained poetry and fiction by the sixteen members of the Workshop.

The second issue in the spring of 2003 included, in addition, work by other Galway writers. By the third issue, summer 2003, contributions were received from writers all over Ireland. An online presence was established in 2004 which brought submissions from an international audience and now Crannóg is read all over the world. Many Crannóg authors have been included in The Forward Book of Poetry, highlighting the quality and reach of the magazine.

Crannóg is run by an editorial board of four writers: Sandra Bunting, Ger Burke, Jarlath Fahy and Tony O’Dwyer. We provide a good mix of specialities. Jarlath Fahy and Tony O’Dwyer are both poets while Ger Burke is a novelist and short-story writer. Sandra Bunting writes poetry and fiction and is also a visual artist. She locates artwork from artists round the world for the covers, which are steadily gaining iconic status.

For each of the three issues the Crannóg office receives hundreds of submissions. The four editorial board members read every poem and short story. That means each submission is read four times. Or as we like to say by eight pairs of eyes! At the end of each reading period we hold an editorial meeting to discuss the submissions. At that point each member has compiled a list of their preferences and also a list of those they are unsure about. However, we are continually surprised by the level of unanimity. And grateful as well, as it keeps these meetings short and amicable! Where our preferences don’t coincide a process of debating, defending and advocating ensues. This can often lead to lively meetings and interesting exchanges on the merits of individual works. It also means there is a more thorough analysis of the submissions; works which were rejected by some are often now re-evaluated and included in the final consensus.

Crannóg’s mission is to publish the work of Irish writers alongside the best available worldwide and to show how well such writing sits with the best available internationally. This has a dual effect of giving writers a world platform to have their work read in print and also brings work of an international standard to the attention of an Irish audience. Each issue of Crannóg contains in the region of a dozen short-stories and fifty poems all presented between those beautifully designed covers.

Crannóg accepts short-stories up to two thousand words in length and poems up to fifty lines. A submission should contain one short-story or no more than three poems. Potential submitters are advised to read the magazine to get a flavour of the type of work published in Crannóg.

Crannóg’s rapid growth is due to a consistent raising of standards in production, in content and in the use of new technology to widen its scope and compete with the best of literary magazines internationally. It continues its efforts to grow the magazine and to contribute to Irish cultural life. We recently organised a drive to increase our subscription base. We had an important resource in our large database of global contacts harvested over a number of years. We used this, and our newsletter The Word on the Street, to encourage readers to take out a subscription for themselves or as a gift. The response was better than we expected, and our expectations were high!

Crannóg exists on sales of the magazine plus a grant from Galway City Council’s Arts Office. Funding from The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon remains a little more elusive. At our last application they told us that funding was tight and that regularly-funded organisations had to be looked after.They suggested that, instead, we should rely on increasing our subscription base!

Our thrice-yearly launches are also an important sales platform as well as being a festive event on the Galway literary calendar. Readers come from all over Ireland, and some indeed from abroad, to the Crane Bar on Sea Rd to read, to meet with fellow writers, and enjoy the music and craic. So Crannóg hasn’t moved very far from its birthplace at the top of Dominick St, but in literary terms it has travelled many times around the world.

To keep in touch with Crannóg, visit www.crannogmagazine.com

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