Over the course of the next few days, I’ll be posting interviews with those writers reading as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions series 2013. One of this week’s featured poets is Cork poet Victoria Kennefick, who reads on Tuesday 4th June at 6:30pm at the Irish Writers Centre, Parnell Sq., D1.
Philip Cummins: What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?
Victoria Kennefick: ‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep. /But I have promises to keep, /And miles to go before I sleep, /And miles to go before I sleep.’
I fell asleep to Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ every night as a child, always so relieved that I didn’t have to undertake such a long journey (not knowing I had already embarked on one of my own). I felt sorry for the speaker and his little horse frozen in someone else’s woods while I was tucked up in bed, listening to my mother whispering the poem to me as she stroked my forehead. When my mother left, content that I was drifting off, I lay awake imagining the forest, scared but fascinated because these words made me feel strange. I felt under their influence somehow. I wanted to know more about these spells and incantations.
I wrote one of my first poems when I was about eight. It was a collaborative effort. For homework, I had to write a poem with the title, ‘Perseverance.’ I sat at my Dad’s feet in the living-room, and with his help concocted the following:
The Fisherman sits in his little boat,
waiting and watching his little float.
The noon sun beams down from the sky
and the fisherman says, ‘Why oh why
do I wait like this for the fish to run,
when all I get is the mid-day sun?’
Then evening comes, it’s not so hot
and finally a fish is caught.
My Dad loved words and rhymes. He knew many local poems by heart and I regret that I didn’t have the foresight to record them.
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?
VK: Sylvia Plath blew my mind! I read her in my teens and I did not know it was possible to create images so vivid and vicious, beautiful and deadly. She became so real to me, I was completely obsessed. I read her collected poems right through one night. I went to bed early that morning and couldn’t sleep. I could feel her breath in the room, when I closed my eyes there was no dark. Like with Frost, I was once again acquainted with poetry’s dark power, it’s incessant whisper. I had to cut down on Plath at that point. Now I like to occasionally dip in. I also loved Whitman and the idea of him shouting his poems at passing traffic.
PC: Which poets do you think best characterise the qualities that are found in your own poetry?
VK: To be honest, I don’t know. I think that might be for readers to assess. When a poem of yours is compared to a poet you love, it’s always a huge compliment, a jewel to put in your pocket. I know which characteristics I’d like to share with poets I admire, but I can only work on trying to create these qualities in my own poetry.
PC: What was your first “Eureka!” moment in writing and publishing poetry; the moment when you realised “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?
VK: That was definitely when my poem ‘Moby-Dick’ was published in The Stinging Fly, a magazine I’ve always admired. Seeing my poem in print gave me the confidence to continue submitting my poetry to journals, magazines and competitions. It was a great start.
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??
VK: Impossible! I’m just going to list the poets I’ve been reading lately: e.e. cummings because he elasticizes my brain and I love him; Emily Berry, who’s nominated for the Forward Prize this year – I am really enjoying her collection, Dear Boy, and; on the excellent recommendation of Carol Ann Duffy, Edward Thomas, whose work is beautifully delicate and intricate.
Victoria Kennefick 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 Victoria are:
Venue: The Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1
Time: Thursday @ 6.30pm
T: (01) 8721302