JOHN 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:
- Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems.
- Seamus Heaney’s Opened Ground ( or perhaps the double set published by Faber since his death).
- 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.