Monday, 25 March 2013


Dave Lordan is the first writer to win Ireland’s three national prizes for young poets. He is a former holder of the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary Award and previous winner of both the Patrick Kavanagh and Strong Awards for poetry. He has won wide acclaim for his writing and is a renowned performer of his own work, with the Irish Times calling him ‘as brilliant on the page as he is in performance’.

His first short fiction collection First Book of Frags is now available from Wurm Press and will be launched by Seán O'Reilly on the 20th April in Dublin, in McGrattan's, Baggot Street.

I've read the book and it is really an extraordinary set of stories: provocative, innovative and very well written. I found shades of Joyce and Angela Carter in there. I'm delighted to interview Dave today about his frags.

The first thing that will strike anyone is the title, First Book of Frags. It’s clearly a unifying title as there is no story of that name in the collection. Tell us how you came up with the book’s name.

Definition of A Frag
1: A remnant out of which a whole or wholes may be speculated, but not reconstructed. A Frag is not a Fragtal. The relationship(s) of a frag to a whole or wholes is complex and necessarily phantasmagoric. It is possible that there is no relationship: A part with no whole to go to. Nor is a frag required to be internally consistent either structurally or hermeneutically. Its own constituent parts may therefore make no sense, or at least no immediate sense, in relation to one another.
2: A sign and/or element of decay, impending collapse, mutation, transformation.
3: Of or related to Fragging, the mutinous practice of the lower ranks executing their officers. vb reg. To Frag e.g Major Woodburn was fragged last night when the men put a grenade into his pillowcase while he was sleeping.
4: A piece of shrapnel or debris, including organic debris, left over after an explosion.
5: A fragment of any kind.
6: A piece of Atheological scripture or a script based Atheological divining method sometimes employing automatic writing and sense disruption techniques in order to attempt communication with, or attempt to represent, that which and/or those whom cannot concretely exist and must therefore be imagined into being instead.
7:  A literary form drawing on any, some, or all of the above definitions.

You refer to the book as ‘experimental’. The stories are a diverse mix of contemporary and historical, and there is a variety of tones and narrative styles. What they are bound by is the way they unsettle the reader – you don’t shy from the raw, the savage, the dark. Is it important to you as a writer to explore cruelty and to do it in a variety of ways?

The stories are experimental in the sense that I didn’t know what they would turn out like when I started writing them and they aren’t based, consciously at least, on any existing fictional blueprint. All I knew was I wanted to write fiction according to my own logic and wishes (I don't really know or trust anyone else's), and I think I have succeeded in that. I’m glad you found the Frags unsettling. I’m not here to comfort people or put them asleep with  lullaby. I think a writer has to be someone who warns and awakens, even if it’s cold and hard labour we’re awakening to. Although I think this book unsettles more by what it makes its readers laugh at then by anything else. 

The story ‘Fucking Titanic’ is very moving. Were you influenced by last year’s Titanic-mania, or was the story an antidote to that? What about the title? 

It's an angry title. I was angered by the pageantry. Pageantry dishonours the dead and obscures them. If the dead could speak there would be no more pageantry or commemorations. So the piece is an anti-pageant, a counter-parade, if you will. The  film maker Eamon Crudden has made an inspired scratch video of it which you can watch here, and the text is online at Irish Left Review.

You teach creative writing in a variety of settings (schools/adults/third level etc.). How does that add to (or take from) your own practice? When do you get to write? 

Teaching and writing are completely different in many respects. I do both, and I enjoy both. I write when I get a chance and when I feel moved to write. The best thing about teaching is helping other people find the words and the ways to say what they want and need to say creatively, the best thing about writing is doing things your own way and in your own words. So I guess that commitment to exploring and encouraging free creativity is what links the two practices for me.

You recently held the Ireland Chair of Poetry and are known as a performance poet with a social conscience. When it comes to performing your fiction at readings etc. how will performance feature? Do poetry and fiction performance differ hugely? 

They don’t differ hugely in my case. The fiction has grown out the poetry for me. I enjoy performing my work and always give it everything I’ve got. I'm lucky to receive countless and constant invitations to read my work in all sorts of venues and festivals and so on and I alsways to my best to repay the compliment of the invitation with a show that everyone will remember for a long time. I really enjoy entertaining people and I love interacting with audiences, whether it's irritating them or uplifting them I am. 

Which fiction writers make you think, ‘Yes!’?

Joyce, Barthelme, Cervantes. Faulker, Bolano, Borges, Acker.....experimental modernists in general

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Yes: Get High.

Writer Dave Lordan


Ev said...

Get High - best advice ever to any aspiring writer!


Click the 'Get High' link to learn more...

shaunag said...

Great interview, Nuala and Dave. I love the title and Dave's explanation. I look forward to reading it. Congratulations, Dave!

mel u said...

Very interesting-always good to see two of my favorite writers talking

Rachel Fenton said...

Enjoyed "The Fucking Titanic". It reminded me a bit of Beckett, or maybe it was this line "While I am waiting erotically for death" that made me think of Waiting for Godot.

Good advice on Dave's website, too.


Dave is a one-off - very interesting writer and person. Thanks for stopping by to read, chaps.