A big welcome to the Women Rule Writer blog, Mary, I always love to host poets here. Tell us a little about your collection Say it Like a Paragraph (Bradshaw Books, 2012) Has it been a long time in the making?
Say it Like a Paragraph, my most recent collection, spans four years work - the time since my Dad's death and all that presented itself one way or another.
The collection is broad ranging but some of the themes that leap out include death, the empty nest and aging. Would you say these are the things that preoccupied you over the course of writing the book?
Yes, trying to tie loose ends that I'm sure will reappear.
The poem ‘The Earth Dog-Earing the Moon’ has gorgeous language, an original concept and a love of all that is natural. Can you talk to me a bit about language and what it means to you?
Yes, Nuala I'm very caught up with language or to put it another way trying to find the exact expression that gets near to the feeling I'm trying to hold onto before it's gone. I feel poetry is an expletive of feeling caught in language.
Why do you write?
To stay alive emotionally - to gain insight into the workings of my inner and outer world. Sometimes those two worlds collide and the result can become a poem.
What is your writing process – morning or night – longhand or laptop?
It varies from day to day but I have to say I feel a day is lost if at some point I don't reconnect with the page mostly through longhand. Every moment poetry is being written in the act of breathing when I'm still enough the pure magic of being here thrills, saddens, annoys inspires me. As I'm getting older more aware this present moment will never be again - and again I love lying on the couch doing nothing often my most creative time!
Who is the writer you most admire?
At the moment it's John Burnside the Scottish poet - reading 'Black Cat Bone' which won both the 2011 T.S. Eliot Prize and Forward Prize - he's been such a discovery so poignantly stated yet veiled with the transcendent within grasp. Also love Fiona Sampson who I heard reading this year at Cuirt. My favourite Irish poets are yourself, Kerrie Hardy, Katie Donovan, Joan Newmann, Peggy Gallagher, Vincent Woods, Michael O'Dea. I could go on...forgot to mention Vona Groarke.
Who is your favourite woman writer?
The writer I most admire is Peggy Gallagher she's just had her first collection published with Arlen House Tilth; though it's her first collection it could be a third. I admire her turns always in Peggy's poetry something is illuminated that resonates so with me she's writing at a level I want to access.
I hope I haven't answered this question with the above but, I feel they're not the same my favourite woman writer is yourself - for the breath of form you handle. When I open The Irish Times and see a perfect short story or come across a poem included in an anthology or deliberately seek out your work in a collection. I'm stopped in my tracks and become absorbed in the clarity as clear as a bell I can hear an engagement with the act of living.
Which poet would you like to see on the Leaving Cert?
Nuala, I'm not sure poetry should be on the Leaving Cert it's too precious to have to be studied I think it should be optional -
What is your favourite bookshop?
It used to be Day's Bazaar in Mullingar till they did it up, we've lost The Longford Bookshop I haven't as yet found a replacement I tend to dip in and out where ever I am.
What one piece of advice would you offer beginning writers?
Oh! that's tough - don't take rejection personal, lick your wounds, chin out and best foot forward I think.
What are you working on now?
I'm half way through a series of workshops that will result in a book from Stonepark N.S. Longford. Over Christmas I'll be thinking about the next series of workshops and trying to balance these with the work already there. At the Craft Fair I recently met a young Swedish artist Petra Berntsson and her images feature a tea pot, cup and chair on the cover she has paired her paintings with poems from different poets. I'd been thinking about chairs and my sister paints on teapots. I've started probably my next collection. I know the cover is going to feature the archway with pillars just across the road from Trinity College.
Thanks, Mary, for some great (and surprising) answers. Readers, you can buy the book here at Bradshaw Books site or in book shops. Support your local independent!