SUSAN LINDSAY is originally from Dublin but now lives in Galway. She has read her work at Over the Edge literary events and at Clifden Arts Week and has been a member of the Hibernian Writers group since its founding in 2010. A social work graduate (TCD, 1975), Susan has been a psychotherapist, a group leader, a workshop facilitator and a trainer for over thirty years. Whispering the Secrets (Doire, 2011) is her first book of poetry. In 2013, Doire Press published Susan’s follow-up collection, Fear Knot.
What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?
My earliest memory of poetry is my grandfather reciting ‘Up the airy mountain, down the airy glen,’ by William Allingham, while he jigged me on his knee. I entered a fancy dress competition in school as Padraic Colum’s The Old Woman of the Road. I was dressed in an old brown dress of my mothers’ that had coloured spots on it. I recall I didn’t win any prize! I think the romantic picture of home it paints and my idealisation of the freedom of the road appealed to me. The first stanza of Leisure by William Henry Davies, quoted in a school magazine article written by the headmaster, has been a refrain in my head throughout my life.
‘What is this life if, full of care
We have no time to stand stare.’
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?
Discovering Not Waving but Drowning, a poem from the 1950’s book of the same name by Stevie Smith made me smile, wryly. I felt a real sense of recognition in it while loving her humour. I’ve had her poem, Oh Christianity, Christianity, in a small writing case throughout my adult life. Oh Maturity, Maturity – one of the poems included in The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work – was inspired by it.
Hearing David Whyte read both his own work and poems from Mary Oliver – while attending a Transpersonal Psychology Conference in Kerry – re-awakened my interest in poetry in the 1990s. That, along with hearing Paul Durcan read from his diaries on Irish Radio (The Pat Kenny Show). I think a Paul Durcan is the only poetry book I’ve got into my car to go out and buy the minute I heard it was published. I remember laughing out loud at quite a few of the poems in Praise In Which I Live and Move and Have My Being – I think of it as the giraffe book due to the cover image (Pub. Harvill Secker). More recently, reading her poetry and hearing Kay Ryan read had that rock and roll feel. I had to have a go at playing with a malapropism myself – that poem is also included in the Hibernian Anthology.
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 call from John Walsh of Doire Press inviting me to submit poems for possible publication as a collection – although hearing from Nicholas Birns, a friend of Samuel Menashe, that Menashe enjoyed the book and had it by him in his last weeks may have topped it. I appreciated having a sonnet accepted by the small poetry broadsheet, Revival before that – it was such terrific encouragement to have a poem accepted for publication for the first time.
What is the most memorable poetry reading that you have attended and why?
Rita Ann Higgins introduced the now Ireland Professor Poetry, Paula Meehan alongside the American poet Sharon Olds at a Cuirt International Festival of Literature in Galway a few years back. The women had obviously been having fun backstage beforehand – the power and energy packed a great punch behind the introduction and the poems. It was a truly inspirational evening of poetry.
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?
A New and Selected from Derek Mahon. A Bloodaxe Anthology edited by Neil Astley would be essential – probably Being Human and a book I take most places: One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryokan (2006) edited by John Stevens.