Una MacConville discovers the story behind the bookshop, literary centre and publisher in Ennistymon. Published in July/August 2019 issue of Books Ireland.
The delightful Salmon Bookshop and Literary Centre can be found at 9 Parliament Street in Ennistymon. This vibrant market town in County Clare also hosts the lively Ennistymon Book Town Festival at the end of May each year, bringing huge attention and visitors to the Salmon Bookshop as well as the pop-up bookshops that appear all over town.
The Salmon Bookshop and Literary Centre is the home of the publisher Salmon Poetry. Established in 1981, Salmon Poetry took its name from the Salmon of Knowledge in Celtic mythology and was set up as an alternative voice in Irish literature. The Salmon, a journal of poetry and prose, was a flagship for writers in the west of Ireland, and Salmon’s first books, Gonella by Eva Bourke and Goddess on the Mervue Bus by Rita Ann Higgins, broke new ground for female poets. Since then over 600 volumes of poetry have been produced and Salmon has become one of the most important publishers in the Irish literary world. By specialising in the promotion of new poets, particularly female poets, Salmon has certainly enriched Irish literary publishing
With this focus, it is not surprising that the Salmon Bookshop and Literary Centre carries a very large poetry section, and not just Salmon Poetry titles but hundreds of others. The bookshop also carries a very large selection of new and second-hand books of all types.
Running a bookshop anywhere requires a good deal of hard work, commitment and risk-taking. Founder and managing editor of Salmon Jessie Lendennie is no stranger to taking risks and walking the tightrope between innovation and convention, facilitating and encouraging new writers as well as those more established. Recognising that there always has to be a starting point for writers, Salmon Poetry has always taken the approach (and risk) of nurturing the inherent individual voice and has been rewarded in seeing writers, whom they published first, flourish.
Providing the space for those writers is part of the package with the Salmon Bookshop and Literary Centre. Since 2012 the literary centre has hosted readings, book launches and signings, creative-writing workshops and masterclasses facilitated by writers from Ireland, the US, the UK and further afield. Seminars and readings for students from several US colleges are held each summer and, with two bedrooms and ample space to write, poets from Ireland and abroad come to stay in the literary centre to work on their poetry projects. Summer events take place in the bookshop’s beautiful walled garden. The garden is a unique feature in a town full of lovely old stone walls, fascinating alleyways and atmosphere galore!
For more information on Salmon Poetry see: www.salmonpoetry.com