The Royal Irish Academy/Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann champions research. We identify and recognise Ireland’s world class researchers. We support scholarship and promote awareness of how science and the humanities enrich our lives and benefit society. We believe that good research needs to be promoted, sustained and communicated. The Academy is run by a Council of its members. Membership is by election and considered the highest academic honour in Ireland.

Read more about the RIA

Shelfmarks with Amanda Bell

06 October 2021

In episode 2 of our podcast Shelfmarks Zoë Comyns chats to guest writer Amanda Bell about Madam Dragon Fly, Cynthia Longfield, iridescence and poison.

Shelfmarks is a podcast by the Royal Irish Academy podcaster-in-residence Zoë Comyns. Every other week Zoë will sift through the Academy collection for Shelfmarks (biographies, manuscripts, books and reference from the collection) and invite a 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.

Shelfmarks goes live every other Sunday and episodes are available on SoundCloud, Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

In this week's episode, podcaster-in-residence Zoë Comyns delves into the life of Cynthia Longfield and spends time with writer Amanda Bell in her Mayo garden. 


Cynthia Longfield (1896–1991) was an entomologist, specialising in dragonflies (Odonata). She was part of the St George Expedition that sailed to the Pacific in 1924.  Her collection of memorabilia from the 1924 St George expedition is held by the Academy Library, and includes personal diaries, news-cuttings, albums of photographs and her killing jar used for collecting insect samples. She subsequently went on a variety of other research expeditions in Asia, Africa, Canada and South America. Cynthia Longfield worked in the British Museum as an unpaid associate for over 30 years. She was the Museum’s Odonata expert. She retired to her family’s Cloyne in 1956. In 1979 she donated her library (books, notes and ephemera) to the Royal Irish Academy. The collection is known as the ‘Longfield-Roberts’ collection.

In this episode Zoë invites poet and writer Amanda Bell to explore some themes around Cynthia Longfield’s life and research – Amanda has written for the podcast about collecting, iridescence and poison – Zoë visits her in her Mayo garden to chat about tending the site and her understanding of nature and how it influences her writing life.

Amanda Bell’s most recent collection is Riptide (Doire Press). Riptide explores the zeitgeist using the art of Edvard Munch as a counterpoint, delving into the ecological and spiritual anguish informing his paintings, finding parallels in the world we live in today.

Amanda's awards include: Arts Council of Ireland Literature Bursary 2020; Harold’s Cross inaugural Writer in Residence; Poetry Ireland Introductions Series 2016; Winner of Allingham Prize and Merit Book Award; shortlisted for Irish Poem of the Year, Shine Strong Award, Touchstone Distinguished Books Award

The readings in this episode are by Jennifer O’Dea.
Additional Music Credits: Through the Tunnel by DoKashiteru (c) copyright 2008 Licensed under a Creative Commons Truth and Fact (with Piano) by Siobhan Dakay (c) copyright 2021 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial  (3.0) license. Ft: Kara Square

Fan ar an eolas le nuachtlitir Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann

Sign up now