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  • Writer's pictureBridget Walsh

On titles: Exile - 1847, Home - 1848.

Just reading an excellent article about Antony Gormley. ‘I’m inviting people to explore the conditions of their own living.’ (Guardian Editions. Saturday, 23rd April 2022. Claire Armitstead in Art).

On Titles: “He likes singular words that are both definitive nouns and transitive verbs.”

‘I don’t want my titles to be a closing. I want them to create an opening.’ Antony Gormley.

I had to read this twice because I wasn't sure what it meant.

Then I looked at some of his titles for his sculpture and art: Stem Frame Bed Field


I like that idea.

I looked at my titles. “Daughters of the Famine Road.” The Famine is a definitive noun. But 'famine' is not a transitive verb.

But my next two titles contain words that could be used like this.

“Daughters in Exile.” Could be “Exile - 1846” Could be a definitive noun. The Exile. A place or time, where you find yourself when in exile.

The transitive verb, is to be exiled to somewhere. So, something is done to someone. Jane was exiled to the far side of the world.

“Home - 1847.” Is already there. My character, Jane Keating, will make her way home, in this case to Ireland. She will find her Home, and 'home' her orphaned cousin.

Both Exile and Home can be used as definitive nouns and also as transitive verbs. Does it open the meaning up? Yes. Will it need a sub-title? Possibly to locate it geographically. Then will that close it down? No.

How does this relate to creative writing as an art form?

Reading the article made me think about why I write. To show humans in historical settings. Their humanity is the same as our humanity. They have seemingly different challenges. The reader will come to understand that the situations the characters find themselves in are not unique to that period of history.

Famines have been a condition of humanity for centuries. The causes of famine are interesting, though. Some have been blamed on natural disasters, drought or blight, for example. However, many in the last couple of hundred years have been caused or exacerbated by politicians or governments.

Just look at the famine in Ukraine, in the 1930s. Along with unceasing war on its people by Russia, famine was used to punish and devastate the people of Ukraine for being different. They spoke a different language, that was banned, books destroyed and schools closed. All because they wanted to be a free, democratic country and not just part of Stalinist Russia. Red Famine, by Annie Applebaum, is an a brilliant book about this particular famine in Ukraine, the Holodomor.

I think there are some comparisons to be made with the Famine In Ireland in the 1840s. The British government saw the Irish as ‘foreigners’, most spoke Gaelic at that time and, of course, were Catholic. The British government also saw Ireland as part of Great Britain, like a colony. On no account would Ireland be free to make its own decisions as to how it was governed.

I think one of the many differences is that Ireland’s small population had been subjugated for so long, that it was living on the edge of famine for many years before this had happened.

When the blight struck Irish potato crops in 1845, the government tried to help. It was a half-hearted effort and Ireland was soon overwhelmed by the disaster. Millions suffered, starved, died or emigrated. By 1847, the British had become fatigued by the continuing disaster in Ireland, declared it was over, and shut down further aid.


Reading about the past can invite people to explore how they live, to make comparisons with other people’s lives and their own. Then think, maybe, about what is similar, and what could be different.

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