Poetry Ireland Introductions 2013 Series Three: Featured Writer: Caoimhin Eoin Mac Unfraidh

Dublin poet Caoimhin Eoin Mac Unfraidh

Dublin poet Caoimhin Eoin Mac Unfraidh

The final in my series of interviews with those poets reading as part of Poetry Ireland Introductions series 2013.

One of this week’s featured poets is Caoimhin Eoin Mac Unfraidh, who reads on Tuesday 11th 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?

Caoimhin Eoin Mac Unfraidh: I rang a haon, Scoil Lorcáin, bhuaigh mé an triú áit i feis na scoile nuair a d’aithris mé an dán ‘Buail ar an Doras’ ós ard. Bhronn Bean Uí Conchúir mo dhuais orm. Dhá Toffos.


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?

CEMU: Robert Graves. There was always a poetic influence in our house and I enjoyed poetry from my schoolwork but it wasn’t until -seeing me reading Graves’ ‘I, Claudius’ as a teenager -my mother mentioned that he was a favourite poet of hers, that I actively sought out non-curricular poetry. She had mentioned his poem ‘The Naked and the Nude’ as a good example and I went to some trouble to find it (pre-Google). I was delighted by the cleverness of it.


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

CEMU: It is surely for others to say. I have not deliberately copied a particular style and I doubt an impartial observer would detect one.


PC: 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?

CEMU: Bhuaigh mé roinnt comortaisí i mBÁC agus mé ar scoil i gColáiste Eoin. Bhí formhór m’iarrachtaí cumtha i nGaeilge agus bunaithe ar ábhair a bhí bainteach le stadéir Laidne agus le stair na Róimhe. Fuaras tacaíocht ag pointí tábhachtacha ó mo mháthair agus ó mo mhúinteoir Laidne, a spreag mé leanacht orm ag scríobh. Spreagann said beirt fós mé.


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?

CEMU: Robert Graves, Complete Poems, Volumes 1-3,

Nuala Ni Dhomnaill’s  An Dealg Droighin

Peter Denman’s Epigrammata.

These three volumes would ensure that all poetic needs are nourished. I would slip Gabriel Rosenstock’s haikus in as well to make a sneaky fourth volume.

Caoimhin Eoin Mac Unfraidh reads as part of the third in a series of three readings as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions readings series on Tuesday 11th June at 6.30pm at the Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1.

Also reading with Caoimhin are:

Liam Duffy

Kerrie O’Brien

Katie Sheehan

Venue: The Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1
Time: Tuesday 11th June @ 6.30pm
Admission: Free
T: (01) 8721302
E: info@poetryireland.ie
www.poetryireland.ie

Poetry Ireland Introductions 2013 Series Three: Featured Writer: Katie Sheehan

Chicago, Illinois poet Katie Sheehan

Over the course of the next few days and weeks, I’ll be posting interviews with those writers reading as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions series 2013. One of this week’s featured writers is Chicago- born, Dublin- based poet Katie Sheehan, who reads on Thursday 11th June.


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

My first clear memory is of my older brother Tim reciting Robert Service’s ‘The Sceptic’ at a family party.  The flippant regret of the poem and the room full of rapt listeners stayed with me all these years.

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 stumbled into Wendy Cope’s work when I was in college.  Serious Concerns was everything I wanted to be able to express — humour, heartache, intelligence, tenderness.  I tried to emulate her work for years and wrote a lot of embarrassing poems in the process.

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

When I write, I try to keep my heroes in mind.  The grounding detail of Rilke’s New Poems, Jack Gilbert’s sensuousness, Marvin Bell’s breadth, and the commanding voice of Louise Gluck’s work.

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?

Writing really changed for me after I finished my MFA.  I was still very much grieving for my father and I had also just moved to Vancouver.  With all that going on, and no one looking over my shoulder, what other people might think just stopped mattering, and the poems became a lot more sure of themselves.  The publishing didn’t pick up for years after that, but that’s really the time where the whole project shifted.

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??

Jack Gilbert’s The Great Fires, because he has his priorities straight.  Louise Gluck’s The Wild Iris, because I feel very at home in the beautiful, heartbroken garden she writes.  And Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems, because her work is packed with images and turns of phrase that turn me inside out over and over again.

Katie Sheehan reads as part of the third in a series of three readings as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions readings series on Thursday 11th June at 6.30pm at the Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1.

Also reading with Katie are:

Liam Duffy

Caoimhín Eoin Mac Unfraidh

Kerrie O’Brien

Venue: The Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1
Time: Thursday @ 6.30pm
Admission: Free
T: (01) 8721302
E: info@poetryireland.ie
www.poetryireland.ie

Poetry Ireland Introductions 2013 Series Two: Featured Writer: Sheila Mannix

More than o.k.: Cork poet Sheila Mannix reads at the irish Writers Centre on Tuesday 4th June at 6:30pm  as part of Poetry Ireland Introductions 2013

More than o.k.: Cork poet Sheila Mannix reads at the irish Writers Centre on Tuesday 4th June at 6:30pm as part of Poetry Ireland Introductions 2013

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 Sheila Mannix, 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?

SM: ‘Up the airy mountain,

Down the rushy glen,

We daren’t go a-hunting

For fear of little men;

Wee folk, good folk,

Trooping all together;

Green jacket, red cap,

And white owl’s feather!’


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?

SM: A Season in Hell and The Illuminations by Rimbaud: I was introduced to him at college when I was seventeen and wrote an essay in which I called him the first punk. Then I fell in love with Mayakovsky and he became my pin-up poet.


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

SM: I don’t know. I am experimenting at the moment, using collage/cut-up/mash-up techniques popularised by the Dadaists, the surrealists, OuLiPo, William Burroughs, and recent pop music. I have no issue with the autonomy of art, but I see my poetry as a way of critically engaging with politics in a manner I have found hard to do in my prose writing, which tends to be more lyrical/satirical/sociological. Hopefully these elements will all fuse at some point.

PC: 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?

SM: I was 21. I was living in Dublin and Cyphers published two of my poems.


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?

SM: Henri Michaux, Oeuvres complètes, Gallimard (2004), The Collected Poems of Samuel Beckett, Faber and Faber (2012), Trevor Joyce, with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold, Shearsman (2001), because I can’t afford the first two and I gave away my copy of the third one

Sheila Mannix 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 Sheila are:

Caoilinn Hughes

Victoria Kennefick

Alan Weadick

Venue: The Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1
Time: Thursday @ 6.30pm
Admission: Free
T: (01) 8721302
E: info@poetryireland.ie
www.poetryireland.ie


Poetry Ireland Introductions 2013 Series Two: Featured Writer: Caoilinn Hughes

Galway poet Caoilinn Hughes

Galway poet Caoilinn Hughes

Over the course of the next few days and weeks, I’ll be posting interviews with those writers reading as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions series 2013. One of this week’s featured writers is Galway poet Caoilinn Hughes, who reads on Tuesday 4th June. 

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

Caoilinn Hughes: At home: Dad loosening his collar, squinting out the early evening window, reciting Heaney and Wordsworth and Yeats and Kavanagh and Keats and Auden without any effort of remembering. The language and sentiment had its own muscle memory in his brain. I remember wanting to be old and able to revere more than the rhythms and unconscionable longevity and incoherence of it.

At school: Reading Eavan Boland’s ‘The Famine Road’ when I was in fifth class. That blew the top of my head off more than the blunt knife of Dickenson or the clinical craniectomy of Elizabeth Bishop could. It made me feel patriotic and alienated at once: affiliated and disloyal. It made me glad to be female, I think, for the first time.

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?

CH: I tend to enjoy particular poems or groups of poems rather than the whole body of a writer’s work or even the arc of a collection. I’m a very slow reader, so it comes down to individual poems. There are so many poets who have two or three poems that I could live off more reliably than porridge. Derek Mahon’s ‘A Disused Shed in County Wexford’. Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s ‘The Companion’. Robin Robertson’s ‘At Roane Road’. Louise MacNeice’s ‘Train to Dublin’. Bill Manhire’s ‘Kevin.’ *shivers*

Would that I write a poem one day that will do someone, at least, for porridge.

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

CH: In making comparisons, I can only really think about either formal or tonal similarities. It’s very rare to come across another poet with a very similar tone, focus and style. That’s the beauty of poetry: its variety. But for one or the other aspect, people who have been very influential: Seamus Heaney. James Fenton. Don Patterson. Eavan Boland. Louis MacNeice. Sinéad Morrissey. Jamie McKendrick. Vona Groarke. Paul Farley. A lot of playwrights and fiction writers too. Sentences are sentences. I forget who influenced me ten years ago, but I was reading and writing ten years ago, so I guess all that counts—the phases you go through: the beats (from Whitman to Ferlinghetti), the imagists, the academics, the guy on the street in Frisco who walked backwards with my crumpled dollar and spoke in broken poetry as a second language and blinked in threes, like ellipses.

PC: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?

CH: Eureeeka! I definitely didn’t have a Eureka moment in terms of publishing. I feel like that’s a very long and difficult process, and every time to reach a self-set goal (like a small magazine publication, or write twenty poems before Tuesday), that goal has already become something more unachievable and you never really congratulate yourself. Having said that, the Kavanagh Award was a milestone. But in my experience, it’s not a single moment. It’s a long effort. In terms of writing, I have had various moments. Particular poems that have felt incredibly exciting to write, and in a way you hope those poems will be equally exciting to read. The sense of urgency and exhilaration is what it’s all about. I find that those poems—the good ones—are often the first poems you’ve written in a while.

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??

CH: Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s Collected Poems because my violin teacher gave me his copy when I was a young teenager (because he thought that I was a hopeless violinist but a hopeful writer) and I lost it and Hugh didn’t get mad outwardly but I knew he was disappointed and I knew it was because he really cared about the poems and that helped me to care and I then cared a lot and so Yevtushenko has a certain nostalgia and personal importance.

Sinéad Morrissey’s State of the Prisons because the poems are perfect pre-digital weighing scales for considering human experience. Sinéad was Writer in Residence when I was at Queen’s University—where I spent an amazing and formative four years. Sinéad is a hauntingly good writer. Besides, I love reading poems that I hear in a Northern Irish accent.

Ohgod. Just three? Well, for the sake of as much poetry and variety as possible within the three books, I’d go for Shakepeare’s Collected Verse. But really, I need variety. I might even choose an anthology, in fact. At a push. Even though I much prefer single author books. But if I were limited to three? Kipling? Auden? Who knows? It’s cruel cruel cruel.

Caoilinn Hughes 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 Caoilinn are:

Victoria Kennefick

Sheila Mannix

Alan Weadick

Venue: The Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1
Time: Thursday @ 6.30pm
Admission: Free
T: (01) 8721302
E: info@poetryireland.ie
www.poetryireland.ie


Poetry Ireland Introductions 2013 Series Two: Featured Writer: Alan Weadick

Dublin poet Alan Weadick

Dublin poet Alan Weadick

Over the course of the next few days and weeks, I’ll be posting interviews with those writers reading as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions series 2013. One of this week’s featured writers is Dublin poet Weadick, who reads on Tuesday 4th June in the Irish Writers Centre, D1, at 6:30pm.


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

Alan Weadick: My earliest memory of an actual living person writing poetry was a friend of my grandmother’s who once sent a poem addressed to and about me, someone she’d only briefly met, possibly on the occasion of my Confirmation. It was on several pages of good quality writing paper and in the rhyming couplet style of Hallmark or the anniversary notices in the backs of the newspapers. What I most remember about it was that, even though it was in that commonly accepted form, the main emotion it stirred around our house was of acute embarrassment. It was handed to me by my mother with averted eyes, a terse explanation and a quick exit from the vicinity, like someone serving a summons. It was one thing to buy and exchange cards or choose a couple of lines for a headstone but for a real, live person to write and send verses to another just for the pleasure of it was to skip merrily toward the realm of the dangerously deluded. And I must confess that as an eleven or twelve year old I would have accepted that conventional wisdom and after a brief dutiful scanning of it probably stashed it away somewhere with the other unwanted, age-inappropriate gifts of that time.


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?

AW: The discovery of real poetry and rock or grown-up pop music were ,for me, simultaneous and parallel, for  a while at least. Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, The Velvet Underground, The Doors, Patti Smith, Television, The Smiths, The Fall and a number of other bands and solo artists whose lyrics gravitated towards poetry had to lead you toward (or back)  to the kind of poetry that worked on its own, without music. So those people would direct you to The Beats, The New York and the Black Mountain poets, who would in turn direct you back to Whitman, Poe, William Blake or to the French Symbolists, the Surrealists or to Spanish language poets like Lorca, Vellejo and Neruda. They also very handily, and just in time, referenced Emily Dickinson, Yeats, Hopkins, Eliot and Dylan Thomas, all of whom of course were on the English syllabus at the time. Probably the ones that initially most forced my ears to prick up were Dickinson, Hopkins, Thomas and, in his best work, Kavanagh; those who most obviously stretched the language way beyond its service to any material function. As you read and live a bit more you don’t always demand the rich, heady excitement of those kind of poets but I think they always remain with you as a kind of benchmark of what you should expect even from quieter, contemporary poets with less dramatic effects and practices: the possibility of transforming the way we look at the world at any given time and place.   


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

AW: I’d leave it to others to characterise any qualities that may or may not be found in my work but one of the things I would aspire to or lean towards would be the use of, when at all possible, the subconscious and chance in the making of a poem. Not the wilder excesses of 20th century surrealism, which was a kind of orthodoxy anyway, but just leaving yourself open to the possibility, for instance, that the initial impulse to write about a particular subject was not what you thought it was it all. A willingness to look, and then look again, at the things we experience every day, no matter how strange, unsettling or even ugly we may find them, rather than the kind of poem that offers a vision, however finely and conscientiously wrought, of a world we can all, and mostly do, agree on.  Although I wouldn’t claim my work is even close to theirs I would say, of Irish poets, the ones that have consistently surprised and delighted me over the years would be Paul Durcan, Matthew Sweeney, Aidan Murphy and Paula Meehan, whose book “Painting Rain” I’m reading at the moment. Alongside that is the Swedish poet Thomas Transtomer’s  New Collected Poems, translated by Robin Fulton, which although only just over two hundred pages long I’ve been reading and re-reading for several months now and is really visionary stuff.


PC: 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?


AW: Publishing has been for me a very slow and gradual thing that has only picked up in the last few years so I’d have to say that being chosen to do the “Introductions” series has been a great boost and although the run-up to it was a bit nerve –wracking it also upped my productivity and I think sharpened my critical facilities to a point where I feel more motivated to submit more work than I have in the past and be more prepared to read in public now that I’ve gotten through my first one more or less in one piece.


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??

AW: I’m assuming you don’t mean anthologies or Collected’s but individual collections so if you put me on the spot now and for pure, condensed visceral power from a single volume I’d say Lorca’s “Poet in New York”, Sylvia Plath’s “Ariel” and John Berryman’s “Dream Songs ” but I would hope never to have to make that choice. You could even manage for a while with a Norton Anthology of English Poetry, a Complete Shakespeare and one of the big Irish anthologies but running out of good poems to read doesn’t bear thinking about!

Alan Weadick 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 Alan are:

Caoilinn Hughes

Victoria Kennefick

Sheila Mannix
Venue: The Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1
Time: Thursday @ 6.30pm
Admission: Free
T: (01) 8721302
E: info@poetryireland.ie
www.poetryireland.ie