Hibernian Writers: Afric McGlinchey

Afric McGlinchey

Afric McGlinchey

Afric McGlinchey grew up in Ireland and Africa. A Hennessy Poetry Award winner,  other awards include the Northern Liberties Prize (Editors’ Choice) 2012, and the Poets Meet Politics prize in 2015. She was also a Pushcart and Forward nominee, and highly commended in the Bridport, Magma, Joy of Sex, Westport, Poets Meet Painters, O’Bhéal, North West Words, Gregory O’Donoghue and Dromineer poetry competitions, among others. She is a freelance book editor and reviewer, and mentors and tutors poetry online at  www.africmcglinchey.com Her début poetry collection, The Lucky Star of Hidden Things, (Salmon) was translated into Italian. Her second collection, A River of Familiars, is forthcoming in 2016.  Afric lives in West Cork, Ireland.

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

I think the first real poem I fell in love with was ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ by Walter de la Mare, for the rhythms, the color and vividness of the images and imagination of it all. Also, it appealed to the romantic in me. It’s because of that poem that I have always loved cats and owls!

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?

Alice Oswald’s Dart.  I completely believed her authority. Her rhythms and use of language are so alive, and the way she uses her tongue, as she says herself, like ‘a musical muscle’. As for content, her range and ambition are exciting, the poems so multi-layered there’s a discovery with each re-reading.

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?

One eureka was realizing that there’s no point in trying to make your work like someone else’s – you’ll just dilute the unique thing that belongs to you alone. And you know when you’ve written a poem you can stand over. That’s the one you can deliver with conviction and authority. But I don’t believe in being pigeon-holed into a category or style of poetry. It’s important to be open to writing any kind of poem, to find different ways of expression, and allow the poem itself to find its way of being true to you.

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

It’s not one that I attended, but a Youtube video of Alice Oswald reciting her poetry to an audience of American students that mesmerized me. She knew all her poetry by heart, and her delivery was different with each poem: fast and fluid one moment, slow and with significant pauses the next. The language, sounds, rhythms and atmosphere of the poems remind me of Dylan Thomas. Here’s the link. It’s over an hour in total, including interaction with the audience, but the best bit is at 17.45:

Billy Ramsell, whom I’ve seen perform on a number of occasions, is also a compelling presence; his energy and intensity are not unlike Alice Oswald’s. There’s something about knowing the work by heart that allows you to inhabit your poems more dramatically, make them more alive.

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?

Alice Oswald, for the incantatory power of her rhythm, rhyme and repetitions, and her intent focus, Rosemary Tonks because she is passionate and dangerously honest and a rebel; and a new discovery, Lo Kwa Mei-En for the magically surreal quality of her images and assurance of tone.

Hibernian Writers: Annette Skade

Annette Skade

Annette Skade

 

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

From Ancient Volumes of the Children’s Encyclopaedia, with beautiful black and white illustrations. Mainly narrative poems, tales of derring-do, like the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I have a clear memory of sitting on the step of our house in Manchester and checking out the names of the Constellations from the same book. In Grammar school I was lucky to have great English teachers who encouraged us to read and write poetry, although I didn’t have the confidence to write much at school. The poets I was reading could do it so much better: Eliot, Shakespeare, Donne, Hughes, Plath. One poem that really sticks in my mind was the anti-hunting poem “Sport” by W.H. Davis and also the Lancashire dialect poem Welcome Bonny Brid by Samuel Laycock, which made me realise that poetry could speak with my accent. I studied Latin and Greek too and I loved Catullus, as well as the Greek Poets.

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?

This answer is a bit skewed for me by the fact that I studied Ancient Greek at University so spent much of that time reading greek poets. I loved Homer and think I got my love of poetic rhythms there, and particularly Sappho for her seeming simplicity and depth. When I came to Ireland 25 years ago I read Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and loved her work. I was frustrated that I couldn’t read it in the original so began to learn Irish so I could. My favourite was Ní Féidir Liom Luí Anseo Níos Mó.

The rock n’ roll moment was when doing an MA in Poetry Studies at Mater Dei in Dublin  about four years ago. I was sent links for a lecture I missed. I clicked on one and heard Basil Bunting’s BriggFlatts for the first time, spoken by him. I was so excited by the simplicity and energy in the language and by encountering the poem for the first time by ear. I studied the poem in-depth and wrote a paper on Bunting, who I admire hugely. I love his belief that poetry is language at its most condensed and that every word must be weighed and considered repeatedly, and that poetry should be spoken aloud: “lines of sound written on the air.” I was already writing and had realised I preferred to use simple words with layers of meaning, so hearing and reading Briggflatts was like a homecoming.

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’d been published a few times when I sent in 10 poems to the Cork Literary Review Manuscript Competition in 2012. I was amazed to be long-listed and was writing a lot as I was doing an MA in Poetry Studies and I was reading, eating and breathing poetry. I was gob-smacked to be short-listed and didn’t hear anything for ages so I presumed I hadn’t got any further. I got a phone call while I was in the office in work to say I’d won. It took them about ten minutes to convince me. I got off the phone and said to a colleague, “My God, I can’t believe it! Up to this moment I thought my poetry might well be rubbish!

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

When I was at University in Liverpool in the early eighties I saw John Cage at the Everyman, performing with Merce Cunningham. I was absolutely perplexed! And yet I still remember his voice and the rhythm he followed when he said ( I think) “What will you give me to tell you…” He sat at a desk with an old telephone on it. It rang intermittently and he picked up the receiver and then immediately hung up!

Most recently, and without much perplexity, I saw Mark Doty at the Newcastle Poetry Festival this year, reading from Deep Lane. The way he read was electrifying but didn’t get in the way of the wonderful words. I’ve read Deep Lane many times since. It makes me want to push my own work further.

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?

Deep Lane for the fantastic images,  and for the honesty and love he brings to simple things, like his dog or the local barber or the sneakers a young man is wearing, but also for the way he spaces his work, the line breaks and stanzas which seems to add fresh air to the words. A heady mixture! I’d keep Briggflatts for its language and music, the weaving of past and present, and the feeling of belonging it gives me. I’m just reading Painting Rain by Paula Meehan. I love the rhythms and rhymes, the well-chosen words, her plain speaking and groundedness, her stories. I’ve heard her read a few times recently and her voice is with me as I read. What a companion! So I’ll take those three. I’d want poets from the past too. Shakespeare, Donne, George Herbert, Blake. It’s very hard to be limited to three!

Hibernian Writers: John Saunders

 John SaundersJOHN 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:

  1. Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems.
  2. Seamus Heaney’s Opened Ground ( or perhaps the double set published by Faber since his death).
  3. 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.

 

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: 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.