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 Weadick, who reads on Tuesday 4th June in the Irish Writers Centre, D1, at 6:30pm.
Philip Cummins: What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?
Alan Weadick: My earliest memory of an actual living person writing poetry was a friend of my grandmother’s who once sent a poem addressed to and about me, someone she’d only briefly met, possibly on the occasion of my Confirmation. It was on several pages of good quality writing paper and in the rhyming couplet style of Hallmark or the anniversary notices in the backs of the newspapers. What I most remember about it was that, even though it was in that commonly accepted form, the main emotion it stirred around our house was of acute embarrassment. It was handed to me by my mother with averted eyes, a terse explanation and a quick exit from the vicinity, like someone serving a summons. It was one thing to buy and exchange cards or choose a couple of lines for a headstone but for a real, live person to write and send verses to another just for the pleasure of it was to skip merrily toward the realm of the dangerously deluded. And I must confess that as an eleven or twelve year old I would have accepted that conventional wisdom and after a brief dutiful scanning of it probably stashed it away somewhere with the other unwanted, age-inappropriate gifts of 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?
AW: The discovery of real poetry and rock or grown-up pop music were ,for me, simultaneous and parallel, for a while at least. Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, The Velvet Underground, The Doors, Patti Smith, Television, The Smiths, The Fall and a number of other bands and solo artists whose lyrics gravitated towards poetry had to lead you toward (or back) to the kind of poetry that worked on its own, without music. So those people would direct you to The Beats, The New York and the Black Mountain poets, who would in turn direct you back to Whitman, Poe, William Blake or to the French Symbolists, the Surrealists or to Spanish language poets like Lorca, Vellejo and Neruda. They also very handily, and just in time, referenced Emily Dickinson, Yeats, Hopkins, Eliot and Dylan Thomas, all of whom of course were on the English syllabus at the time. Probably the ones that initially most forced my ears to prick up were Dickinson, Hopkins, Thomas and, in his best work, Kavanagh; those who most obviously stretched the language way beyond its service to any material function. As you read and live a bit more you don’t always demand the rich, heady excitement of those kind of poets but I think they always remain with you as a kind of benchmark of what you should expect even from quieter, contemporary poets with less dramatic effects and practices: the possibility of transforming the way we look at the world at any given time and place.
PC:Which poets do you think best characterise the qualities that are found in your own poetry?
AW: I’d leave it to others to characterise any qualities that may or may not be found in my work but one of the things I would aspire to or lean towards would be the use of, when at all possible, the subconscious and chance in the making of a poem. Not the wilder excesses of 20th century surrealism, which was a kind of orthodoxy anyway, but just leaving yourself open to the possibility, for instance, that the initial impulse to write about a particular subject was not what you thought it was it all. A willingness to look, and then look again, at the things we experience every day, no matter how strange, unsettling or even ugly we may find them, rather than the kind of poem that offers a vision, however finely and conscientiously wrought, of a world we can all, and mostly do, agree on. Although I wouldn’t claim my work is even close to theirs I would say, of Irish poets, the ones that have consistently surprised and delighted me over the years would be Paul Durcan, Matthew Sweeney, Aidan Murphy and Paula Meehan, whose book “Painting Rain” I’m reading at the moment. Alongside that is the Swedish poet Thomas Transtomer’s New Collected Poems, translated by Robin Fulton, which although only just over two hundred pages long I’ve been reading and re-reading for several months now and is really visionary stuff.
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?
AW: Publishing has been for me a very slow and gradual thing that has only picked up in the last few years so I’d have to say that being chosen to do the “Introductions” series has been a great boost and although the run-up to it was a bit nerve –wracking it also upped my productivity and I think sharpened my critical facilities to a point where I feel more motivated to submit more work than I have in the past and be more prepared to read in public now that I’ve gotten through my first one more or less in one piece.
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??
AW: I’m assuming you don’t mean anthologies or Collected’s but individual collections so if you put me on the spot now and for pure, condensed visceral power from a single volume I’d say Lorca’s “Poet in New York”, Sylvia Plath’s “Ariel” and John Berryman’s “Dream Songs ” but I would hope never to have to make that choice. You could even manage for a while with a Norton Anthology of English Poetry, a Complete Shakespeare and one of the big Irish anthologies but running out of good poems to read doesn’t bear thinking about!
Alan Weadick reads as part of the second in a series of three readings as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions readings series on Thursday 4th June at 6.30pm at the Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1.
Also reading with Alan are:
Venue: The Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1
Time: Thursday @ 6.30pm
T: (01) 8721302