Hibernian Writers: Afric McGlinchey

Afric McGlinchey

Afric McGlinchey

Afric McGlinchey grew up in Ireland and Africa. A Hennessy Poetry Award winner,  other awards include the Northern Liberties Prize (Editors’ Choice) 2012, and the Poets Meet Politics prize in 2015. She was also a Pushcart and Forward nominee, and highly commended in the Bridport, Magma, Joy of Sex, Westport, Poets Meet Painters, O’Bhéal, North West Words, Gregory O’Donoghue and Dromineer poetry competitions, among others. She is a freelance book editor and reviewer, and mentors and tutors poetry online at  www.africmcglinchey.com Her début poetry collection, The Lucky Star of Hidden Things, (Salmon) was translated into Italian. Her second collection, A River of Familiars, is forthcoming in 2016.  Afric lives in West Cork, Ireland.

What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?

I think the first real poem I fell in love with was ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ by Walter de la Mare, for the rhythms, the color and vividness of the images and imagination of it all. Also, it appealed to the romantic in me. It’s because of that poem that I have always loved cats and owls!

Is there a particular poet, poem or book of poems that was, for you, like discovering rock ‘n’ roll for the very first time? Can you describe what it was like?

Alice Oswald’s Dart.  I completely believed her authority. Her rhythms and use of language are so alive, and the way she uses her tongue, as she says herself, like ‘a musical muscle’. As for content, her range and ambition are exciting, the poems so multi-layered there’s a discovery with each re-reading.

What was your first “Eureka!” moment in writing and publishing poetry; the moment when you realized “Hey, I’m actually on to something here!” in terms of your work coming together and first getting accepted and published in magazines and journals?

One eureka was realizing that there’s no point in trying to make your work like someone else’s – you’ll just dilute the unique thing that belongs to you alone. And you know when you’ve written a poem you can stand over. That’s the one you can deliver with conviction and authority. But I don’t believe in being pigeon-holed into a category or style of poetry. It’s important to be open to writing any kind of poem, to find different ways of expression, and allow the poem itself to find its way of being true to you.

What is the most memorable poetry reading that you have attended and why?

It’s not one that I attended, but a Youtube video of Alice Oswald reciting her poetry to an audience of American students that mesmerized me. She knew all her poetry by heart, and her delivery was different with each poem: fast and fluid one moment, slow and with significant pauses the next. The language, sounds, rhythms and atmosphere of the poems remind me of Dylan Thomas. Here’s the link. It’s over an hour in total, including interaction with the audience, but the best bit is at 17.45:

Billy Ramsell, whom I’ve seen perform on a number of occasions, is also a compelling presence; his energy and intensity are not unlike Alice Oswald’s. There’s something about knowing the work by heart that allows you to inhabit your poems more dramatically, make them more alive.

Finally, if you could own and keep just three collections of poetry on your bookshelf- excluding, of course, your own– which collections would they be and why?

Alice Oswald, for the incantatory power of her rhythm, rhyme and repetitions, and her intent focus, Rosemary Tonks because she is passionate and dangerously honest and a rebel; and a new discovery, Lo Kwa Mei-En for the magically surreal quality of her images and assurance of tone.

Hibernian Writers: Amanda Bell

Amanda BellAmanda Bell is a freelance editor living in Dublin. She completed a Masters in Poetry Studies in DCU in 2012, which proved a catalyst for her own writing, and since that time her work has appeared in The Stinging Fly, The Burning Bush 2, Crannóg, The Ofi Press Literary Magazine, Skylight 47, The Clearing online, and in haiku journals Presence, Blithe Spirit, shamrock, cattails, and haibun today. In 2014 her work was shortlisted for the Cúirt New Writing Prize and the Strokestown International Poetry Competition, and in 2015 she was shortlisted for the Fish Memoir Prize, and longlisted for the Rialto/RSPB Poetry Competition. Her critical writing has appeared in journals and essay collections. She has a research interest in ecocriticism, and particularly the work of Kathleen Jamie. She reviews regularly for Children’s Books Ireland’s publication Inis. Amanda is a member of the Hibernian Writers’ Group, and is editor of their forthcoming collection The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work.

What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?

My parents read to me from babyhood, and from an eclectic range of texts. I particularly remember my mother reading ‘The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens’ in her best Scottish sailor’s accent. Another favourite was Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garland of Verse. Whenever my brother and I were confined to bed with childhood ailments, ‘The Land of Counterpane’ was an example of how your immediate surroundings and circumstances can be transformed by the power of imagination. There was obviously a strong Scottish influence in the poetry of my early childhood, which may explain why I gravitated towards Kathleen Jamie’s work in recent years.

 

Is there a particular poet, poem or book of poems that was, for you, like discovering rock ‘n’ roll for the very first time? Can you describe what it was like?

Because my early exposure to poetry had been quite classical, even Victorian, it was a revelation in my teens to discover contemporary Irish poets like Paul Durcan, Rita Ann Higgins and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill.  The immediacy of The Berlin Wall Café (1985) marked a turning point in how I experienced poetry, and seeing Paul Durcan, dressed in black from head to foot, read to a packed lecture theatre in TCD, c. 1986, was my first experience of poetry in performance. He was a rock star.

 

What was your first “Eureka!” moment in writing and publishing poetry; the moment when you realized “Hey, I’m actually on to something here!” in terms of your work coming together and first getting accepted and published in magazines and journals?

I was shortlisted for the Strokestown International Poetry Competition last year and, like all shortlistees, invited to give a 20-minute reading. When I sat down to put the reading together I was pleasantly surprised (‘hugely relieved’ might be a more apt description…) that I had plenty of material to choose from, much of which had been published in journals. The reading was well-received, as were the numerous rehearsals I put my family and friends through, which in itself was a way of ‘outing’ myself as a writer.

 

What is the most memorable poetry reading that you have attended and why?

I saw Jackie Kay and Liz Lochhead reading in Glasgow last summer, at the First World Congress of Scottish Literatures. Kay has an immensely attractive stage presence, and an ability to convey layers of meaning and emotion with deceptive simplicity. Her perfectly modulated reading of ‘Brendon Gallacher’, to my mind one of the most moving poems ever written, had me undone for the rest of the conference, so much so that I bunked off some of the evening sessions to sit in the Botanic Gardens and absorb it. It was worth the trip to Glasgow to hear that poem alone.

 

Finally, if you could own and keep just three collections of poetry on your bookshelf- excluding, of course, your own- which collections would they be and why?

Assuming we’re talking about poetry collections in terms of their contents rather than their desirability as art objects, a question such as this highlights the importance of anthologies, as they operate on both horizontal and vertical axes, with each poem relating thematically or chronologically to its neighbour, and simultaneously operating as a portal to an entirely other body of work. With that in mind, I would select An Duanaire and The Norton Anthology of Poetry, in the hopes that any individual poem therein would work as a key to the memory repository. For the third, I don’t think I would ever tire of Elizabeth Bishop’s Complete Poems.

In terms of poetry collections as objets d’art, I would choose a first edition of The Tower which my husband gave me after the birth of our first daughter; Anne Carson’s Nox – an extraordinary feat of physical book-crafting; and an anthology that my younger daughter compiled and illustrated herself for a primary school project.

 

Amanda Bell, editor of The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work, reads as part the Hibernian Writers group at the launch of The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work: An Anthology of poetry by Hibernian Writers on Tuesday 20th October at The Teacher’s Club

Hibernian Writers: Annette Skade

Annette Skade

Annette Skade

 

What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?

From Ancient Volumes of the Children’s Encyclopaedia, with beautiful black and white illustrations. Mainly narrative poems, tales of derring-do, like the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I have a clear memory of sitting on the step of our house in Manchester and checking out the names of the Constellations from the same book. In Grammar school I was lucky to have great English teachers who encouraged us to read and write poetry, although I didn’t have the confidence to write much at school. The poets I was reading could do it so much better: Eliot, Shakespeare, Donne, Hughes, Plath. One poem that really sticks in my mind was the anti-hunting poem “Sport” by W.H. Davis and also the Lancashire dialect poem Welcome Bonny Brid by Samuel Laycock, which made me realise that poetry could speak with my accent. I studied Latin and Greek too and I loved Catullus, as well as the Greek Poets.

Is there a particular poet, poem or book of poems that was, for you, like discovering rock n’ roll for the very first time? Can you describe what it was like?

This answer is a bit skewed for me by the fact that I studied Ancient Greek at University so spent much of that time reading greek poets. I loved Homer and think I got my love of poetic rhythms there, and particularly Sappho for her seeming simplicity and depth. When I came to Ireland 25 years ago I read Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and loved her work. I was frustrated that I couldn’t read it in the original so began to learn Irish so I could. My favourite was Ní Féidir Liom Luí Anseo Níos Mó.

The rock n’ roll moment was when doing an MA in Poetry Studies at Mater Dei in Dublin  about four years ago. I was sent links for a lecture I missed. I clicked on one and heard Basil Bunting’s BriggFlatts for the first time, spoken by him. I was so excited by the simplicity and energy in the language and by encountering the poem for the first time by ear. I studied the poem in-depth and wrote a paper on Bunting, who I admire hugely. I love his belief that poetry is language at its most condensed and that every word must be weighed and considered repeatedly, and that poetry should be spoken aloud: “lines of sound written on the air.” I was already writing and had realised I preferred to use simple words with layers of meaning, so hearing and reading Briggflatts was like a homecoming.

What was your first “Eureka!” moment in writing and publishing poetry; the moment when you realized “Hey, I’m actually on to something here!” in terms of your work coming together and first getting accepted and published in magazines and journals?

I’d been published a few times when I sent in 10 poems to the Cork Literary Review Manuscript Competition in 2012. I was amazed to be long-listed and was writing a lot as I was doing an MA in Poetry Studies and I was reading, eating and breathing poetry. I was gob-smacked to be short-listed and didn’t hear anything for ages so I presumed I hadn’t got any further. I got a phone call while I was in the office in work to say I’d won. It took them about ten minutes to convince me. I got off the phone and said to a colleague, “My God, I can’t believe it! Up to this moment I thought my poetry might well be rubbish!

What is the most memorable poetry reading that you have attended and why?

When I was at University in Liverpool in the early eighties I saw John Cage at the Everyman, performing with Merce Cunningham. I was absolutely perplexed! And yet I still remember his voice and the rhythm he followed when he said ( I think) “What will you give me to tell you…” He sat at a desk with an old telephone on it. It rang intermittently and he picked up the receiver and then immediately hung up!

Most recently, and without much perplexity, I saw Mark Doty at the Newcastle Poetry Festival this year, reading from Deep Lane. The way he read was electrifying but didn’t get in the way of the wonderful words. I’ve read Deep Lane many times since. It makes me want to push my own work further.

Finally, if you could own and keep just three collections of poetry on your bookshelf- excluding, of course, your own- which collections would they be and why?

Deep Lane for the fantastic images,  and for the honesty and love he brings to simple things, like his dog or the local barber or the sneakers a young man is wearing, but also for the way he spaces his work, the line breaks and stanzas which seems to add fresh air to the words. A heady mixture! I’d keep Briggflatts for its language and music, the weaving of past and present, and the feeling of belonging it gives me. I’m just reading Painting Rain by Paula Meehan. I love the rhythms and rhymes, the well-chosen words, her plain speaking and groundedness, her stories. I’ve heard her read a few times recently and her voice is with me as I read. What a companion! So I’ll take those three. I’d want poets from the past too. Shakespeare, Donne, George Herbert, Blake. It’s very hard to be limited to three!

Hibernian Writers: Maeve O’Sullivan

Maeve O'SullivanMAEVE O’SULLIVAN works as a media lecturer in the further education sector in Dublin. Her poems and haiku have been widely published and anthologised since the mid-1990s, and she is a former poetry winner at Listowel Writer’s Week. Initial Response, her debut collection of haiku poetry, also from Alba Publishing, was launched in 2011, and was well-received by readers and critics alike. Maeve is a founder member of Haiku Ireland and the Hibernian Poetry Workshop. She also performs at festivals and literary events with the spoken word group The Poetry Divas. Her poem Leaving Vigo was recently nominated for a Forward Prize for a Single Poem by the Limerick-based journal Revival.

What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?

Nursery rhymes! Also the ditty: ‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice-cream’.

Is there a particular poet, poem or book of poems that was, for you, like discovering rock ‘n’ roll for the very first time? Can you describe what it was like?

I clearly remember, as a teenager, discovering a Sylvia Plath poem in an anthology belonging to one of my older sisters in the attic of our family home. The poem (not one of her ‘greatest hits’) was called Facelift. I transcribed it into a notebook. The first line reads: ‘You bring me good news from the clinic’ and the last two lines are:Mother to myself, I wake swaddled in gauze, / Pink and smooth as a baby.’

What was your first “Eureka!” moment in writing and publishing poetry; the moment when you realized “Hey, I’m actually on to something here!” in terms of your work coming together and first getting accepted and published in magazines and journals?

The first time I felt like a poet was when Medbh McGuckian was commenting on one of my early poems, Drumshanbo Man, and said it reminded her of DH Lawrence. It went on to be my first published poem, appearing in one of the legendary Women’s Work anthologies and I got to read it in the Wexford Arts Centre in March 1998.

What is the most memorable poetry reading that you have attended and why?

Tough question, there have been so many! Can’t do it, sorry.

Finally, if you could own and keep just three collections of poetry on your bookshelf- excluding, of course, your own- which collections would they be and why?

All of Us (Collected Poems) by Raymond Carver (Harvill Press), Collected Poems by Michael Hartnett (Gallery Press) and The White Page / An Bhileog Bhán, Twentieth-Century Irish Women Poets edited by Joan Breen (Salmon Publishing).

Hibernian Writers: John Saunders

 John SaundersJOHN SAUNDERS is a founder member of the Hibernian Writers’ Group. His collections are After the Accident (Lapwing Press, 2010) and Chance (New Binary Press, 2013). One of three featured poets in Measuring, Dedalus New Writers, 2012, he was shortlisted in the 2012 inaugural Desmond O’Grady Poetry Competition and is a 2014 Pushcart Nominee. John’s poems have appeared in journals in Ireland, the UK and America, on many online sites, and been included in The New Binary Press Anthology of Poetry, The Stony Thursday Book, The Scaldy Detail 2013, Conversations with a Christmas Bulb (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2013), The Poetry of Sex, (Penguin, 2014), Fatherhood Anthology (Emma Press UK, 2014), and The Fate of Berryman Anthology (Arlen House, 2014).

What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?

My interest in poetry was stimulated by one English teacher in secondary school who took time to let us read and discuss the poems in a relaxed and non-academic way. I remember listening to Robert Services’s epics and appreciating the adventures in the poems. That teacher opened up Shakespeare, Keats and Shelley to us in a way that I have not since witnessed.

 

Is there a particular poet, poem or book of poems that was, for you, like discovering rock ‘n’ roll for the very first time? Can you describe what it was like?

I can remember my father reading verbatim to me poems such as Grey’s Elegy written in a Country Churchyard and Kipling’s If to me when I was a child and being amazed. The poets that really absorbed me are Shakespeare, Keats, Emily Dickenson and later Kavanagh, Larkin, and Heaney.  I loved Carver and William Carlos Williams and lots of other American writers. In my youth, I also caught the tail end of the beat poets and was hugely impressed by Ginsburg and his cohorts. I am still discovering poets and poems from past and contemporary times. I particularly like the east European Poets.

 

What was your first “Eureka!” moment in writing and publishing poetry; the moment when you realized “Hey, I’m actually on to something here!” in terms of your work coming together and first getting accepted and published in magazines and journals?

While I had been writing poetry for many years it was relatively late when I realised a poem of mine might be published. My first publication was in a student magazine and was a poem called Oryx and Crake, an ode to the book of the same name by Margaret Atwood, herself a fine poet by the way.

What is the most memorable poetry reading that you have attended and why?

The first time I heard Seamus Heaney reading was at the Hill of Tara, along with Longley and Muldoon. It was a real sense of occasion and I had a wonderful feeling of gratefulness to witness the event and listen to three of the greatest contemporary Irish poets on the same day.

Finally, if you could own and keep just three collections of poetry on your bookshelf- excluding, of course, your own- which collections would they be and why?

I think they would be:

  1. Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems.
  2. Seamus Heaney’s Opened Ground ( or perhaps the double set published by Faber since his death).
  3. An anthology titled  A book of Luminous Things – an Anthology of International Poetry edited by Czeslaw Milosz. I found this book in a bookshop in Athens and constantly return to it.