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.

Double Shot @Books Upstairs: Kate Quigley

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. Kate Quigley, one of tonight’s readers, spoke to yours truly about her undying admiration for Billy Collins, her time on NUIG’s Creative Writing programme and the importance of hearing poems aloud.

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

My mother was an English teacher, so there were always stacks of books in the house & being read to was a very established ritual. When I was a little older she used to test out writing exercises she’d come up with for her students on me. I was very lucky to have this kind of start, that kind of access to language & ideas. We actually have some home videos of me ‘reading’ aloud as a two-year old, or something equally ridiculous, but I think I’d just had these stories read to me so many times that I’d managed to memorise them. I think a lot of people have their introduction to poetry like this, at a very young age, all of these picture books that are like little poems, written in verse, written to rhyme. School, then, suddenly makes poetry something more obscure & highbrow, which puts a lot of people off. I still love picture books – people like AA Milne, Beatrix Potter, they’re genius.

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?

I think anyone who knows me is probably sick of hearing me talk about how much I love Billy Collins, but I really do. I was doing a BA in creative writing in NUIG & we had to take these modules – fiction, non-fiction, screenwriting, that kind of thing – & I never thought that poetry was something I was going to write, but I thought, ok, I’ll do this & learn something from it that I can apply elsewhere. And then Gerry Hanberry, who I owe so much to, who is basically the main reason I am where I am today, arrives in to give the workshop with this sheaf of poems for everyone to look at. They were all great poems, Gerry is such a brilliant teacher & Billy Collins was in there, I think it was ‘Litany’, & that was just a revelation to me. I think, for me, he brought poetry back to that same excitement as with the picture books & that is not to slight Billy Collins or the picture books in any way. He did all the things that made me excited about writing as a child – he was just so against the status quo of what they tell you about poetry is in school – his work is funny, it’s full of these wild ideas slotted in to the most mundane scenarios & it’s completely accessible without ever feeling like it’s talking down to you or lessening itself in any way. That’s the kind of poetry I think they should teach in schools.

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

I don’t know if this is a great question for me personally. I admire & take things from a lot of different poets, I could fill pages with names, but I don’t feel that they’re characterising me or I’m trying to emulate them in a direct way. Any writing workshop I’ve ever been in always comes back to this conversation about finding ‘the voice’, finding ‘your’ voice. Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what that means, we’re all just a patchwork of our various influences, but I suppose as a young poet it’s something I’m very aware of, to try & only write like myself, or at least to try & figure out what that sounds like.

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?

As I said before, I’m young, I’m (hopefully) ‘emerging’, so everything that happens in terms of publishing or reading or even someone saying, ‘hey, I read this thing you wrote & I like it’, is immense for me. Everything is a little victory in itself and, then, it’s done & you’re hungry for the next one. Honestly, that Double Shot offered me this slot and that someone wants me to answer these questions about myself and my writing is a pretty surreal experience. I’m pretty sure I’m under-qualified for all this. Again I’m going to say that having Gerry [Hanberry] as a mentor was huge for me, the rest would not have happened if it wasn’t for that & the guidance he gave me. The first poem I ever published was in ‘The Stinging Fly’ and that was huge for me; to have the first poem in that level of journal and to actually be paid for something I had made.

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

I go to a lot of readings & I really enjoy them. I think it’s sad when poetry becomes this thing only for ‘the page’. People sometimes forget about the origins of poetry as an oral tradition & I suppose, again, going back to the pleasure of being read to as a child. It’s a very innate thing, I think. It’s always good to hear things out loud. I don’t know if I can boil it down to just one… I did a workshop with Simon Armitage as part of Cúirt a few years ago & he was great, just really insightful, things nobody else in the room would have thought about. You have to be so meticulous like that. I also heard the American poet Brian Turner read at the same festival. He’s immense, in every way. His poems are gorgeous & terrifying & even more so when they’re coming from his mouth. I remember speaking to him afterwards & basically telling him how unstable he had made me feel. I mean it as a compliment & I’m pretty sure he took it that way. He’s a very nice guy, he wrote me a very nice inscription in a collection of his I bought after Gerry [Hanberry], in the queue behind me, shouted something about me being a poet too across everyone. Being able to make those kind of connections with established poets, & how supportive they often are, is amazing & still surreal.

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 three is an unfair number! I love the Bloodaxe anthologies, ‘Being Alive/Staying Alive/Being Human’, they just don’t have a bad poem in them & a very diverse range of poets & voices, I’ve stolen a lot of ideas from them over the years. I suppose if I had to pick just two more they would be Billy Collins’ collected works, for obvious reasons, & Pablo Neruda’s ‘Twenty Love Poems & a  Song of Despair’. I love the way he uses language & his consistent astonishment at the world. I think that’s an important thing to have if you’re going to write good poetry. But then that leaves out Plath, Hughes, Dickinson, Armitage… Too many names!

Kate Quigley

Kate Quigley

Kate Quigley, is a graduate of NUI Galway’s BA with Creative Writing programme. Her poems have appeared in several Irish & UK journals, including The Stinging Fly, Revival, The Shop, Orbis & The Moth. Prose writing & photography have appeared in The Jerome Hynes One Act Play Series & ROPES. She has read her work at events in Dublin & in Galway and recently spent a year living in a forest in Poland volunteering, working on poems and other creative pursuits. She is currently involved with The Big Smoke Writing Factory & LINGO Spoken Word Festival is working towards a first collection of poetry.

 

 

 

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 in the Irish capital.
The first line up in series on the 25th February @7pm features Jess Traynor, Graham Allen and Kate Quigley. Tickets available here.

Mnemosyne Lay in Dust: A reading of Austin Clarke’s Mnemosyne Lay in Dust at St. Patrick’s Hospital, Wed 7th January 2015 @7pm

First Fortnight: Ireland’s Mental Health Arts Festival

Mnemosyne Lay in Dust

A reading of Austin Clarke’s Mnemosyne Lay in Dust at St. Patrick’s Hospital, Wed 7th January 2015 @7pm

First published in 1966, Austin Clarke’s Mnemosyne Lay in Dust is an intensely personal and haunting narrative poem about memory, detailing the fictional Maurice Devane’s “nervous breakdown” and subsequent recovery. Mnemosyne Lay in Dust is based strongly on Clarke’s own experiences as a patient in St. Patrick’s from March 1919-1920. In reading Clarke’s great poem in St. Patrick’s, the poem is, in a sense, brought back to its roots.

Poets Peter Sirr, Doireann Ní Ghríofa and Gerard Smyth will read Clarke’s Mnemosyne Lay in Dust, in full, in the Lecture Theatre of St. Patrick’s Swift Centre. The reading will be introduced by way of Stephen Bean’s short film Mnemosyne Lay in Dust: Memories of Austin Clarke and concluded with a post-reading discussion facilitated by John Saunders, director of Shine and author of two collections of poems.

Poets Peter Sirr, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, John Saunders and Gerard Smyth (clockwise from top left)

Poets Peter Sirr, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, John Saunders and Gerard Smyth (clockwise from top left)

Tickets priced €5 (ex. booking fee)

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TONIGHT: Dave Lordan launches new collection Lost Tribe of the Wicklow Mountains with a little help from Kevin Nolan, Rob Doyle, Sarah Clancy and Karl Parkinson

TONIGHT: Poet Dave Lordan launches Lost Tribe of the Wicklow Mountains, his third collection of poems. The launch takes place upstairs in Toner’s Bar, Baggot Street, Dublin 2.

Get lost: Dave Lordan launches Lost Tribe of The Wicklow Mountains, his third collection of poems, tonight in Toner's of Baggot Street, Dublin 2.

Get lost: Dave Lordan launches Lost Tribe of The Wicklow Mountains, his third collection of poems, tonight in Toner’s of Baggot Street, Dublin 2.

Dr. Philip Coleman, Director of M.Phil in Literatures of the Americas (2013-15) and Literary Arts Officer at Trinity College Dublin and author of the recent John Berryman’s Public Vision, introduces the work Lordan’s latest title.

Dublin poet and musician Kevin Nolan, whose excellent record Frederick & The Golden Dawn was released in September, plays a six song set, along with music from Catherine Simpson of Huegrass.

Novelist Rob Doyle and poets Sarah Clancy and Karl Parkinson will also read and Parkinson is also MC for the evening.

To whet your appetite here’s the video for Lost Tribe of the Wicklow Mountains, shot on location.

Catching Up With…Rhob Cunningham

Ahead of his first gig in Dublin since taking on 20 shows in Berlin over the summer, I interviewed Berlin- based Dublin singer Rhob Cunningham. Rhob spoke to me of his internet ‘win’, how the Dublin and Berlin live scenes weigh up against each other and how he can’t wait to hear Jennifer Evans’ upcoming LP.

Rhob will launch his album The Window & Day on Thursday 18th September at The Button Factory in Dublin. You can stream The Window & Day here.

Originally published by Entertainment Ireland. To read the original, please click here.

Berlin- based Dubliner Rhob Cunningham launched The Window & Day, his new album, at The Button Factory.

Berlin- based Dubliner Rhob Cunningham launched The Window & Day, his new album, at The Button Factory.

 

What’s been the highlight of your year so far?

Singing a new song in a handmade Berlin canoe and the video getting on the front page of Reddit! I won The Internet that day.

 

When did you first realise you wanted a career in music?

I don’t like to think of music in those terms. If I did, I’d have to seriously consider another profession. I’d like to be a writer when I’m older.

 

In three words, describe the five minutes before you walk on stage.

On my way!

 

How do you wind down after a gig?

It differs from gig to gig. When a gig goes well, I’m already unwound.

 

In three words, describe the live scene in Ireland.

Still. Going. Strong.

 

In three words, describe the live scene in Berlin.

Twenty. Four. Seven.

 

Whose career do you envy and why?

I’m not driven enough to maintain envy for very long. I know too many talented feckers, if I dwelled on it, I’d never get out of bed.

 

Vinyl or digital downloads?

I’m a big fan of Digital Pre-Orders which facilitate the future printing of Vinyl. Let one medium pay for the other. Cough cough. Hint hint.

 

What is your favourite record shop anywhere in the world?

Anywhere that can still be found. Any record store that has found a way to keep it’s head above water.

 

Name one rare record you don’t own, but you want more than anything.

Jennifer Evans won’t let me hear her record because it’s not being released ‘til later this year. I want to own that, but we all have to wait, I guess. For now.

 

Name one piece of music memorabilia that you wish you owned.

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti driver’s licence. (Fela Kuti’s mam, the first woman to be granted a driver’s licence in Nigeria.)

 

What is the one thing in your life that you couldn’t go without?

GPS technology.

 

Name one record, one book and one film that everyone should hear / read / see.

-Shel Silverstein’s A Light In The Attic,
-The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard Feynman
-Baraka

 

Pick the director and lead actor for a biopic about your life.

David Lynch. Tilda Swinton.

 

Describe the perfect night in.

Owning a place. Owning a front door key and a door. Maybe a room. Being “In” somewhere that you didn’t have to pay someone for, in some regard. That would be perfect.

 

Where did you grow up and what are the best and worst things about that place?

Donaghmede and then Dun Laoghaire. The worst thing is trying to spell those words. The best thing is being from anywhere at all.

 

What is your biggest fear?

That fear leads to anger.

 

Who is the person in your life without whom your life wouldn’t be the same?

Una Molloy of Turning Pirate, we’ve been friends since college and she’s always had my back. Her whole family are rather inspiring.

 

What is the most important lesson life has taught you, so far?

T.S. Elliot – “You are the music while the music lasts.”

 

If you could give one piece of life advice it would be…

You’ll know more tomorrow if you ask today.

 

Rhob Cunningham’s The Window & Day is streaming here.