Shelfmarks is a podcast by the inaugural Royal Irish Academy podcaster-in-residence Zoë Comyns. Zoë has spent time looking through the collections and library holdings in the Academy to explore how people have written about and observed our natural world over the centuries.
In this Culture Night video special to start the series Zoë explores nature writing as it was when the Royal Irish Academy opened in 1785 to now, and how its focus has changed over the centuries.
Listeners will hear a little history about some of the texts in the RIA, about some of the naturalists and members who have been part of the Academy but also get a sense of the arc of writing about the natural world. We’ll also hear how the landscape and wildlife of Ireland itself has changed over the centuries.
Lucy Collins (co-ed The Irish Poet and the Natural World)
Conor W. O’Brien (Ireland Through Birds, Life in Ireland)
and Booker longlisted writer Niall Williams (Four Letters of Love, A History of Rain, This is Happiness) and Christine Breen (Her Name Is Rose) who have co-authored a memoir about their garden, illness and the natural world – In Kiltumper.
Readings by Derbhle Crotty and Declan Brennan.
This project is funded by the Arts Council Literature Project Award.
About the podcast
Each week Zoë will sift through the Academy collection for Shelfmarks (biographies, manuscripts, books and reference from the collection) and invite a weekly guest writer to discuss their own relationship with the natural world. Writers include Amanda Bell, Kerri Ní Dhochartaigh, Manchán Magan, Siobhán Mannion, Jane Clarke and Neil Hegarty. Each writer has been specially commissioned to write pieces exploring their own relationship with nature.
From the walks and works of R.L. Praeger to the dragonflies collected by Cynthia Longfield or birds by ornithologist RM Barrington, each week will give listeners a sense of the people who have passed through the academy and how their work and the natural world still inspires writers today.
Shelfmarks can be found on our SoundCloud channel.