Hibernian Writers: Brian Kirk

Dublin poet Brian KirkWhat is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?

At school, I enjoyed Kavanagh and Yeats, but I also found myself drawn to George Herbert, John Donne and Hopkins. My parents would have known Kavanagh in passing as my father was station master in Inniskeen in the late fifties, but my mother did not approve of him as a person, although she found it difficult to reconcile him as he was with the beauty of some of his verse.

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?

It’s hard to remember if it was John Cooper Clarke’s Chicken Town or Ginsberg’s Howl. I think I preferred the “other poems” more than Howl itself, poems like America and A Supermarket in California. When you’re young you’re attracted by the big statement and the swear words, and I suppose that’s only normal.

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?

It has to be when Dermot Bolger published my first poem in an anthology in 2008. A lot of new writers owe a debt of gratitude to Dermot.

What is the most memorable poetry reading that you have attended and why?

Very hard to say, but the reading at Over The Edge in Galway earlier this summer was pretty awesome: Anne Tannam, Alan McMonagle, Eamonn Wall, Carlos Reyes and Louis de Paor.

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?

It’s hard to limit it to three, but I’d have to say there has to be a Yeats, maybe The Tower. This collection has grown on me over the years where once I preferred the more direct poetry of Responsibilities.  And probably one of the Don Paterson collections, Rain I think. And then maybe some Blake, or Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters, or Elizabeth Bishop’s Complete Poems or Robert Lowell or… the list could be endless really.

Hibernian Writers: Breda Wall Ryan

Breda Wall Ryan

Breda Wall Ryan

BREDA WALL RYAN grew up on a farm in County Waterford and now lives in County Wicklow. She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from UCC; a Post-graduate Diploma in Teaching English as a Second or Other Language from Trinity College, London; and an M.Phil. in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. She was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2014. In 2015,she won the Gregory O’Donoghue Prize; in 2014 she won 2nd place for the Patrick Kavanagh Award; and in 2013, she won the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Competition, Dromineer Poetry Competition, the iYeats Poetry Competition and the Poets Meet Painters Competition. In a Hare’s Eye is Breda Wall Ryan’s first collection of poems.

What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?

My mother had a great store of narrative poems by heart, which she recited for us as bedtime stories –  Robert Service’s The Shooting of Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGee; Longfellow’s The Wreck of the Hesperus, and Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Some Yeats and Eva Goore-Booth, too. She also read to us from the Old Testament – more adventures in rhythmical language! School knocked all the enjoyment out of poetry for me, until Leaving Cert, when I had an excellent teacher who introduced me to the music in the language of Shakespeare, Milton, Keats and Shelly.

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?

When I first came to work in Dublin, I bought a collection of poems by Dylan Thomas from a barrow on Henry St. The barrow owner recommended it. I  became so absorbed in the poems that I missed my bus stop on the way home, and could hardly wait to read them aloud when I reached home.

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?

Seriously learning my craft, I had written poetry for about a year when I had 2 poems shortlisted for the Mslexia Poetry Prize. That was a huge thrill. Vicki Feaver said some nice things about them in her judge’s comments. It was my first competition, and first publication in a journal, so it was very affirming at that stage in my poetry journey.

What is the most memorable poetry reading that you have attended and why?

I’ve been to amazing readings by Heaney, Longley, Sinead Morrissey, Mark Doty, Gillian Clarke, Don Paterson, Robert Pinsky, Derek Mahon, almost every major poet who has read here in recent years. No-one expects to be wowed with major poets, however. Two wonderful surprises that stand out are: in the early 70’s I was present at a spontaneous outbreak of poetry in Henchy’s pub in St. Luke’s in Cork. John Montague was one of those who recited; that was pretty exciting. A few years ago, I went to hear Margaret Atwood read at Poetry Now in Dun Laoghaire. As one would expect, she was very good, but I came away stunned by the other poet on the bill, Máire Mac An tSaoi, a feminist, subversive and lyrical poet I had not appreciated until that evening.

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?

Oh, that’s such a hard question! Today, I’d choose After Ovid: New Metamorphoses, edited by Michael Hofmann and James Lasdun: Yearling by Lo Kwa Mei-en and Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s Selected, because those are the books I’m carrying about and reading right now. But if I had to choose at another time, the list would be different. My desert island selection would be three very fat anthologies because I’d want to bring as many poets and poems as possible.

Hibernian Writers: Kevin Conroy

Kevin Conroy

KEVIN CONROY was born in Dublin and is currently living in Kildare, has worked in U.K., Germany, Swaziland, South Africa, U.S. and Ireland as a teacher, professional engineer, manager in multinationals, executive coach and organisational psychologist.  His work has been published in The Moth, Southword, Burning Bush II, Writing4All – the best of 2010, Boyne Berries, The Blue Max Review and erbacce. Selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2014, he was a prize-winner in Trocaire & Poetry Ireland Competition 2012, published  in  their  pamphlet ‘Imagining a Just and Free World’.

What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?

My family motto is Maireann a scríobhtar  and my early published writing was adventure stories in Our Boys. Poetry didn’t fit with being an action man in Arbour Hill boxing club. It was for exams, except for one embarrassing performance on the school stage of Pearse’s “The Fool “. Years later I fell in love and poured derivative love poems into my journal. One escaped and was sent to the girl who is now my wife.

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?

It was more “uncovering” than “discovering”. Slowly from Yeats, Kavanagh, Heaney to Robert Frost. Ger Quinn was a great teacher in U.C.D.’s part-time evening courses. I read Frost’s Collected Poems, Prose, Plays cover to cover. I discovered that a poem is not only putting technically excellent marks on a page or sounds in the air, but expressing the poet’s identity. It is an invitation to a person’s unique world. Concordance and authenticity is revealed (or not) by reading more of his/her work. Ever since, I read a poem first in order to see if I’ll reread it. The realisation that a poet is revealing his/her identity in every poem is one of the challenges for poet and reader. Currently, I come back to poems where something mysterious is emerging out of the author’s worldview that I recognise as having a truth that “resists the intelligence almost successfully.”  Kimberly Campanello’s “Orange on the Horizon” is an example.

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?

I considered writing poetry a solitary thing, a secret thing. Not consistent with the persona of a business man and engineer. Then Maggie Hurt Smith persuaded me to perform in public in the Twisted Pepper, Abbey St., Dublin. They clapped!  the Moth published my first poem and I discovered that an editor (Rebecca O’Connor) can be kind and helpful! And I chanced my arm elsewhere with success. But it was being selected as an emerging poet in Poetry Ireland Introductions Series 2014 that gave me permission to say I write poetry.

What is the most memorable poetry reading that you have attended and why?

It’s between Dennis O’Driscoll’s hilariously witty performance in Dún Laoghaire’s Poetry Now Festival (2003?) and Kimberly Campanello with composer Ben Dwyer on classical guitar in the Joyce Centre, 2014.

Kimberly voiced strange eerie sounds from her sheela-na-gig work, the room’s reverbational acoustics intensifying the effect. It was like the poet was communicating without words across time into an Irish past of the lost and disallowed, bypassing controlling powers with poetry that bridges to music. It was when I realised the source of great poetry is not necessarily words but vocal sound and visible marks.

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?

First – Dennis O’Driscoll’s “Dear Life” is a must – the title typically having double/triple meanings. I was M.D. of Oral B Labs living in Naas where Dennis lived. His work drew me in, at first, because he wrote about life at work – giving me ‘permission’ to do so too. When I came to know his utter conviction of the importance of poetry and what it can do in a technological world, I read everything he published and found an extraordinary person not only intelligent, witty, playful but deeply knowledgeable and widely recognised in the literary world. He would stop and chat about art (he was a Hon. Fellow of the RHA)and poetry on the street and, even though I didn’t know him well, he sent me books to read with a gracious note when I was recovering from an operation. His poetry has too often been bracketed as Larkinesque and language that is “the lyric equivalent of William Trevor”. Well, “Dear Life” poems such as  “Fabrications”, “Spare Us”, and “Our Father” are a testament to his lyrical quality. How beautiful is his praise for a God whose “special is//a sun-melt served on/a fragrant bed of/moist cut-grass; yesterday, a misty-eyed moon…drafting a summer dawn…/ profligate horizons,/ lofty skies, beyond which/other universes stack up..” and the wonder of the Big Bang – “the attention-grabbing/voicemail he recorded/ on day one: an opening/gambit that came out/of nowhere…bang /in the middle of nothing/…..the illuminated manuscripts/of galaxies, over which lovers/pore in the dark nights/of their infatuated souls.” This is lyric. There is his humour  in “Spare Us” and the bright intelligence of a poet holding contradictions in a single thought to disturb the meanings while keeping the poetry. Both the cold eye of domestic realism and the wonder of beautiful lyricism are there in his poems.

His poetry has metaphors and concerns deep into our current living working world, with humour and an edge that goes (cuts?) deep. This is a lifeline for me who teaches Technology Management knowing that both the physical and so-called social technology fused by business is taking over what philosopher Jurgen Habermas calls the life-world. He reaches that simplicity on the far side of complexity and includes the redress that calls for wonder and lyric.

Secondly, I would keep my Frost collection because his work lets me in as a writer of poems in a way that the unique perfection of poets such as Seamus Heaney don’t.  (However, his essays in The Redress of Poetry and collaboration with Dennis O’Driscoll’s Stepping Stones are lasting influences).  Frost’s delight in ambiguity and his wisdom keep drawing me back to his work. He said poetry gives us “a clarification of life”, “a way of remembering what it would impoverish us to forget”. It is a universal art form across all cultures and the “sound of sense” has a vocal music uniquely human.  His “For Once then Something” has that imaginative mystery that fascinates me.

I have built my own anthology of top favourite poems. It has forty-eight poems including C.K. Williams, Robert Hass, Sharon Olds, Muriel Rukeyser, Enda Wyley, Rhoetke, Elisabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson, Peter Sirr, Charles Bukowski, Donald Hall, Maggie Hurt Smith, Wallace Stevens, T.S. Eliot. It is difficult to choose the third collection, but since I find that my current influences are mainly contemporary women poets, I choose Kimberly Campanello. Not her poetry collection, but her PhD thesis  “Writing the Sheela-na-gig: Semiotic Complexity, Ekphrasis, and Poetic Persona in the Poetry Collection Strange Country” .  Strange Country will be published by The Dreadful Press in October.

Kimberly’s work has drawn me into a world where the permissions of poetry fed by the apophatic free the imagination. Poetry that points to the inexpressible by referring to what it is not, honouring it with wonder and never-ending questions, aware that ultimate realities cannot be apprehended directly. But they may be pointed towards – “that great absence /In our lives, the empty silence /Within, the place where we go /Seeking, not in hope to/Arrive or find.” (R.S. Thomas)

This includes witness and redress for what is lost, disallowed, excluded.  Her work also interweaves art into ekphrastic poetry that involves a personal encounter with the piece of art that triggers vulnerability to uncertainties and possibly the unconscious. Iconographer Helen McIldowie-Jenkins has published my ekphrastic poem, “The Gilded Arch”, on her website. My interest in painting and icons leads me down this path, even though the change of direction may mean ‘emerging’ becomes ‘groping’ poet.

Kevin Conroy reads as part the Hibernian Writers group at the launch of The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work: An Anthology of poetry by Hibernian Writers on Tuesday 20th October at The Teacher’s Club.

Hibernian Writers: Susan Lindsay

Susan Lindsay

Susan Lindsay

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.   

Susan Lindsay reads as part the Hibernian Writers group at the launch of The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work: An Anthology of poetry by Hibernian Writers on Tuesday 20th October at The Teacher’s Club

Double Shot @Books Upstairs: Jessica Traynor

Double Shot is a new series of poetry readings at the new Books Upstairs premises on D'Olier Street, providing a platform for one emerging and one established poet to share their work.

Double Shot is a new series of poetry readings at the new Books Upstairs premises on D’Olier Street, providing a platform for one emerging and one established poet to share their work.

A new series of poetry readings at the new Books Upstairs premises on Dublin’s D’Olier Street, Double Shot provides a platform for one emerging and one established poet to share their work. Jessica Traynor, one of tonight’s readers, spoke to yours truly about the influence of Michael Symmons Roberts’ prize- winning collection Drysalter, winning the 2013 Hennessy Award for New Irish Writer of the Year, and workshopping with Michael Longley.

What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?

My earliest memories come from the speech and drama books which made up a lot of my grandmother’s book collection. I remember her reading me short rhymes like Antigonish or I Do Not Like Thee Doctor Fell. I loved the mystery of them – Antigonish in particular felt quite sinister. Then at school I remember reading The Listeners by Walter de la Mare and Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy evening  by Robert Frost. The sense of mystery continued in these; of something unspoken but deeply felt, and this is probably the aspect of poetry that intrigues me the most.

Is there a particular poet, poem or book of poems that was, for you, like discovering a new planet? Can you describe what it was like?

It’s very difficult to pick one, but a book that’s stuck with me recently has been Drysalter by Michael Symmons Roberts. It’s a collection of 150 fifteen-line poems and I really admire the freedom he finds within the constraints of form to explore subject matter both intimate and fantastical. I suppose it’s the metaphysical nature of these poems that draws me to them. And this brings me back to John Donne; I would say that first reading his poems in secondary school opened up a world of possibilities for me around what a poem could be and what it could achieve.

Which poets do you think best characterise the qualities that are found in your own poetry?

This is a difficult question. I’m hoping for some more book reviews so I can find out! I’m not sure how much of the metaphysical I bring into my work, but I think there’s a tendency to question there, to use the poem as a vehicle to attempt to work something out. I’m not sure I ever find satisfactory answers, but perhaps that isn’t the point.

What was your first breakthrough moment in writing and publishing poetry, in terms of your work coming together and getting work accepted and published in magazines and journals?

I suppose my big breakthrough was probably winning the Hennessy Award in 2013. I had been publishing slowly but steadily enough since around 2008, but the publicity that came with the award opened a lot of doors for me. It gave me the impetus to start looking seriously for a publisher.

What’s been the most memorable and inspiring poetry reading / workshop that you’ve ever attended, and why?

Again it’s so difficult to choose, but I remember attending a workshop with Michael Longley in around 2009 where he gently but firmly interrogated a number of tendencies in my work. He was encouraging but direct. At the time I probably didn’t realise it, but his observations stayed with me and I think ultimately helped me shape a more mature approach to my work

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?

These are all gifts: the first is a 1940s edition of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner with deeply frightening illustrations by Mervyn Peake. Somebody in my dad’s work gave it to him and he brought it home and read it to me that night. I loved it. Again, I suppose in my recollection of first hearing of the poem there’s a frisson of fear – it’s a pretty horrifying story – but I think this sense of being allowed to contemplate the mysteries of an adult world is what got me hooked in the first place.

The second is another gift given to my dad by a friend in work (there seem to have been a lot of poetry floating around Dublin Port in the 1990s). It’s an old edition of Pound’s Chinese translations. Reading these poems is an education in itself; in restraint, in fluency, and again in the power of the unsaid.

The third is Autumn Journal by Louis MacNeice, which my mum gave to me as a gift for my eighteenth birthday. It has a personal resonance for the two of us and I also found it illuminating as an exemplar of how the personal and the political can work together to create a lasting poetic record of turbulent times.

Jessica Traynor

Jessica Traynor

Jessica Traynor is a writer, dramaturg and creative writing teacher based in Dublin. Her début collection Liffey Swim is available from Dedalus Press. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History, Hallelujah for Fifty Foot Women (Bloodaxe), If Ever You Go: A Map of Poetry in Dublin and Song (Dublin’s One City One Book 2014), New Planet Cabaret (New Island), Peloton, Poetry Ireland, The Irish Times, The Weary Blues, Southword,  Wordlegs, The SHOp, The Moth, New Irish Writing, A Modest Review and The Stinging Fly. She won the Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year Award in 2013 and was awarded the 2013 Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary.

 

 

Double Shot is a series of poetry readings at the new Books Upstairs premises on D’Olier Street, providing a platform for one emerging and one established poet to share their work. A special emphasis is placed on poets from outside Dublin who have fewer opportunities to read here.
The first line up in series on the 25th February @7pm features Jess Traynor, Graham Allen and Kate Quigley. Tickets available here.