A question of taste: Author Denyse Woods

By Des O’Driscoll

Denyse Woods was born in Boston, but has been living in Cork for almost 30 years, and is based in Inniscarra.

She has just published her sixth novel, Of Sea and Sand (Hoopoe Fiction), which is a supernatural love story set in Oman and West Cork. Woods will read at West Cork Literature Festival in July.

Best recent book you’ve read:

Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge by Ezzedine C Fishere, about what it is to be an Arab immigrant in America.

Best recent film:

Borg vs McEnroe.

Best piece of music you’ve been listening to lately (new or old):

I love listening to my daughter Finola Merivale’s pieces on SoundCloud. I also recently revisited my Belgian childhood by listening to several of Adamo’s old hits.

First ever piece of music or art or film or gig that really moved you:

I once had the privilege of attending Verdi’s Aida in the Forum in Rome. Live elephants and all.

The best gig you’ve ever seen:

Leonard Cohen in Dublin.

Tell us about your TV viewing:

Anything that will make me laugh or think. The recent RTÉ documentary Ireland’s Deep Atlantic with Ken O’Sullivan was brilliant. For a Friday night, Graham Norton every time. Funnier than all of his guests. The Young Offenders, of course. Funny and poignant. Such a strong script.

Radio listening and/or podcasts:

I adore the radio and mostly listen during the night, so it’s mostly the BBC World Service. When driving, I choose Seán Moncrieff on Newstalk. I love the West Wing Weekly podcast.

You’re curating your dream festival — which three artists are on the bill, living or dead?

I curated the West Cork Literature Festival for four years and got to invite many writers I hugely admire. So, let’s go with the unavailable: Literature: Mary Lavin, Wilfrid Thesiger and Samuel Pepys. Music: Lennon, Victor Borge and Nina Simone.

Your best celebrity encounter:

My encounter with Ringo Starr in 1977 when I was 19. I’d been a mad Beatles fan since I was old enough to understand, and happened to be in Rome when he was passing through, doing some PR for an album. I scoured the papers with no real hope of his hotel being revealed, but it was, so I tore across town and arrived just a few minutes before he came through the lobby on his way to the airport. I’m afraid I grabbed his arm, but failed to speak.

He very calmly asked for his arm back, then talked me through the process of getting his autograph. A prized possession. No selfies in those days, but I did get some pics. We then followed him to the airport, where, when he saw me and realised I’d tracked him down, again, he smiled and waved his passport at me. Melt, melt, melt. I’m surprised I’m still here. His girlfriend then enveloped me in a huge hug. I was high for months.

You can portal back to any period of human cultural history or music event?

1960s, of course. Although, as my father used to point out, rather than being a time of love and flower power, it was a dark time, the era of the Vietnam War, assassinations, civil rights atrocities in the US and of course our own grief here on this island. However, on the brighter side, I’d like to have been working in a building adjacent to the Beatles’ Apple Studios in London, on the day they shook the neighbourhood with their impromptu rooftop concert — January 30, 1969.

Any interesting ancestors?

Denis Devlin, poet and diplomat, much admired by Becket, Ezra Pound and many other greats of his day. My grandmother and grandfather were amongst the many who hid Michael Collins in Dublin when he was on the run.

Unsung heroes:

The park rangers across the world who too often lose their lives protecting our wildlife. Particularly those attempting to save elephants from poachers.

You are queen for a day — what’s your first decree?

I would have to be Queen of the All Nations so I could put an end to the manufacture of armaments and put all those people in those industries into jobs protecting the planet from climate change instead.


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