Hibernian Writers: Maeve O’Sullivan

Maeve O'SullivanMAEVE O’SULLIVAN works as a media lecturer in the further education sector in Dublin. Her poems and haiku have been widely published and anthologised since the mid-1990s, and she is a former poetry winner at Listowel Writer’s Week. Initial Response, her debut collection of haiku poetry, also from Alba Publishing, was launched in 2011, and was well-received by readers and critics alike. Maeve is a founder member of Haiku Ireland and the Hibernian Poetry Workshop. She also performs at festivals and literary events with the spoken word group The Poetry Divas. Her poem Leaving Vigo was recently nominated for a Forward Prize for a Single Poem by the Limerick-based journal Revival.

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

Nursery rhymes! Also the ditty: ‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice-cream’.

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 clearly remember, as a teenager, discovering a Sylvia Plath poem in an anthology belonging to one of my older sisters in the attic of our family home. The poem (not one of her ‘greatest hits’) was called Facelift. I transcribed it into a notebook. The first line reads: ‘You bring me good news from the clinic’ and the last two lines are:Mother to myself, I wake swaddled in gauze, / Pink and smooth as a baby.’

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 first time I felt like a poet was when Medbh McGuckian was commenting on one of my early poems, Drumshanbo Man, and said it reminded her of DH Lawrence. It went on to be my first published poem, appearing in one of the legendary Women’s Work anthologies and I got to read it in the Wexford Arts Centre in March 1998.

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

Tough question, there have been so many! Can’t do it, sorry.

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?

All of Us (Collected Poems) by Raymond Carver (Harvill Press), Collected Poems by Michael Hartnett (Gallery Press) and The White Page / An Bhileog Bhán, Twentieth-Century Irish Women Poets edited by Joan Breen (Salmon Publishing).

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: 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.