I am so pleased to welcome you to my web site. I am Irish (the Gaelic phrase above means welcome in!. I am bit of a Luddite since I don’t do Facebook or Twitter or anything that might possibly further what might loosely be called my career so this is our best chance of meeting. Unless you read my writings. Talking of which, every book I have written has been entirely different which also doesn’t help to categorize me. Once I have found how to write a book I can’t be fashed doing it again; so I have written a book of short stories for children –The Far Side of the Lough--the first review said simply " "A superb book, not out of place or quality for adult readership... A remarkable introduction to a story as it should be written" and at the same time I wrote All of Us There, for adults, a sort of testament, non-fiction, –people describe it as an autobiography but it isn’t at all—the children in the book are all under eleven years old and the narrator is never named. The reviews for that were overwhelming and it has since become a Virago Modern Classic. (My most cherished review came from a writer I greatly admire, David Thompson, whose book Woodbrook is one of the best ever written about Ireland. He wrote: I treasure All of Us There. It is the only intimate and un-angry expression of the feelings of a colonised people that I have ever read and I think it is your lack of anger that gives it its strength. I’ve missed out because I can’t write about poetry… how I love your evocation of the countryside and people, but you have created in my mind an indelible picture...
I wrote the Vogue Book of Fashion Photography because my very first job when I was so young that I tremble to think of it, was as Features Editor of Vogue and I worked with every photographer you could think of, including Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Bert Stern, Norman Parkinson, David Bailey and Tony Snowdon so I knew the story from the inside out. Nice reviews too. Italian, German and French editions made me think I was a linguist. (I was born in a remote almost medieval area in Co Tyrone in Ireland when there were still no telephones or electricity in the region so Vogue was a big jump for me into another language of living. )
So then a novel, Dora or The Shifts of the Heart. It was serialized on Radio 4 for thirteen weeks and the first review read “Behind the odyssey of Dora's soul, we detect the sensitive and autobiographical voice of the Irishwoman transplanted to London and Somerset, acutely observing the nuances of attitude between her native and adopted peoples. This is a graceful, accomplished and serious novel.”
At the same time as I was writing I was working for Diana Vreeland in New York, getting married (same husband 47 years later, every day is touch and go) and writing various columns and essays for newspapers and magazines all over the world. Some of these were collected in Only Sometimes Looking Sideways. I went to the National Film School, and as a result made an hour-long documentary The Daisy Chain that has had such a violent and chequered history that I withdrew it from circulation- though when I showed it at Harvard two years ago it got a positive and generous reaction.
I had three daughters –(I have done a link on them here without telling them) and became passionately involved in conservation, working on land we bought in Somerset where we restored and conserved fields, made lakes and planted thousands of trees. We wrote about it in A Year in the Life of an English Meadow. If I admire David Thompson I worship Seamus Heaney and so his remarks about this book were utterly ratifying. “… that Dantesque ‘love that moves the sun and the other stars’ is what comes through in that writing, both in the evocation of the lost fields of the Irish forties and your account of the fight to restore the pied beauty of Cannwood Meadow. The whole thing, writing and pictures, the botany and the beauty, is dulce et utile, a delight and an instruction”
"Polly Devlin's writing shows a mastery of style and an ability to infuse
the everyday with the resonances of a lifetime" The Times
I was a Booker Prize judge (one hundred and four novels in four months and, yes, I read every one) and a judge on the Irish Times Aer Lingus Literary award.
Some years ago I started to teach Creative Non-Fiction at Barnard College, Columbia in New York- one semester every two years and I love doing that. It’s a bonus in my life. I have an obsession with collecting and doing up houses and I show a few rooms on this site. I’m a member of the team of two for Northern Ireland in the BBC Round Britain Quiz. I received an OBE for services to literature in 1993. Blow me down!
One last tootle on the trumpet from that amazing avant garde film makerAmie Siegel. ”It struck me on the train ride back in to London, your comment about "beginner's luck" having made the wonderful ceramic model of your former home, that it is not at all that-- you also made an amazing, critical film having never made one before. Not to speak of your books, your associative writing... It's your unique karma, I should think”.
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