Over the course of the next few days and weeks, I’ll be posting interviews with those writers reading as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions series 2013. One of this week’s featured writers is Dublin poet Brian Kirk, who reads this Thursday.
Philip Cummins: What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?
Brian Kirk: It has to be Patrick Kavanagh. Like thousands of others on this island, Kavanagh’s poems on both the Inter Cert. and Leaving Cert. syllabuses were a starting point. My father was station master at Iniskeen railway station in the 1950’s when Kavanagh was travelling between Iniskeen and Dublin regularly; I felt that I had a further and closer connection to him, in that way. My mother said that Kavanagh was a very vulgar man and I think that always impressed me, too. Apart from poetry there were, of course, song lyrics, which is how a lot of young people develop an interest in words and what they can do. Punk was happening when I was a young teenager, so that whole idea that you could do anything that you wanted was prevalent at that time.
PC: 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?
BK: It’s funny; there was no particular poet at the outset. Yes, there was W.B. Yeats and Patrick Kavanagh, but I also loved Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg in my late teens and early twenties. I also liked William Blake from an early age and Percy Shelley and John Keats; I still read Blake and Shelley. The Romantics were very rock n’ roll!
PC: Which poets do you think best characterise the qualities that are found in your own poetry?
BK: I’d like to think that I write pretty direct poems that speak to people – not in a moralising way – but as commentaries / meditations on modern life, private and public, in the manner of Blake or Yeats around the time of Responsibilities. Recently, I’m very influenced by Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop and also the more playful work of Paul Muldoon and Paul Durcan. Scottish poet Don Patterson is also a particular favourite, at the moment.
PC: 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?
BK: I started out as a nineteen year old reading my (not very good) poetry in the Underground on Dame Street in the 1980’s to people who were there to see bands and not poets. Youth brings with it great self-belief! Though it was probably when I had a poem published for the first time in Night and Day, an anthology edited by Dermot Bolger for New Island about six years ago that I really felt that I’d done some good work. I’d been writing poems on and off for years, but that publication gave me the belief to write more regularly and to be rigorous in how I edited my work, which I think is the most important element of any kind of writing.
PC: 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?
BK: This is impossible to answer. There are so many brilliant and diverse styles of poetry it would be impossible to reduce it down to three. One poem I would have to have would be John Milton’s Paradise Lost, but I’d also love Edward FitzGerald’s translation of the Rubiyat of Omar Khayam, and I’d want some T.S. Eliot and Sylvia Plath. Also, Theo Dorgan’s Greek, and two recent Salmon Poetry publications; Colm Keegan’s Don’t Go There and John Murphy’s The Book of Water. Of course, I’d also want Howl by Allen Ginsberg, and many, many more. Sometimes you look for meaning in a poem; sometimes rhythm; sometimes sound; other times you just want beauty.
Brian Kirk reads as part of the first in a series of three readings as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions readings series on Thursday 30th May at 6.30pm at the Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1.
Also reading with Brian are:
Annemarie Ní Churreáin
Venue: The Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1
Time: Thursday @ 6.30pm
T: (01) 8721302