Tipping my hat to female poets

Books

I’m doing an inventory of my poetry books in anticipation of preparing my writing room for a tenant who’ll be moving in while we move to Zimbabwe for a few months. In honour of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d do a roll call of the female poets on my shelves: the 178 full collections and chapbooks together are the works of 148 poets (damn, I bet I have one or two lurking elsewhere in the house…) I picked up most of these books at festivals, as well as a few gems at the Time Travellers’ Bookshop and also the Salmon Poetry Bookshop in Ennistymon, which has a great second-hand section; a number were sent to me for review too. Another favourite bookshop is the Book Stór in Kinsale.

Each of these poets has been an inspiration in one way or another, and I just wanted to say thank you! Here are the names:

Aifric MacAodha
Alice Oswald
Alice Walker
Alyson Hallett
Amy De’Ath
Andrea Mbarushimana
Angela T. Carr
Angela France
Anna Akhmatova
Anna Journey
Anne-Marie Fyfe
Ailbhe Darcy
Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh
Anne Carson
Anne Fitzgerald
Anne Rouse
Anne Sexton
Bethany W. Pope
Breda Wall Ryan
Brenda Shaughnessy
Carol Ann Duffy
Caroline Smith
C.D. Wright
Chrissy Williams
Daphne Gottlieb
Deborah Tyler-Bennett
Deirdre Hines
Denise Blake
Denise Levertov
Djuna Barnes
Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Eileen Casey
Eileen Sheehan
Eleanor Hooker
Elizabeth Bishop
Ellen Kombiyil
Emilia Ivancu
Emily Berry
Emily Dickinson
Eva H.D.
Fiona Moore
Fiona Sampson
Fran Lock
Frances Horovitz
Geraldine Clarkson
Gill Andrews
Gillian Allnut
Gillian Clarke
Grace Wells
Hannah Lowe
Helen Farish
Helen Mort
Ileana Malancioiu
Ingrid de Kok
Isobel Dixon
Jackie Kay
Jane Clarke
Jane Kenyon
Jane Hirshfield
Jane Weir
Jannice Thaddeus
Jean O’Brien
Jessamine O’Connor
Jessie Lendennie
Jessica Traynor
Jenny Lewis
Jodie Matthews
Joan McBreen
Jo Shapcott
Kapka Kassabova
Karen Press
Karen Solie
Kate Noakes
Katherine Kilalea
Kathryn Simmonds
Kathy D’Arcy
Kerrin McCaddon
Kerrie O’Brien
Kerry Hardie
Kit Fryatt
Kimberly Campanello
Kim Moore
Leanne O’Sullivan
Leeanne Quinn
Leontia Flynn
Lianne Strauss
Lo Kwa Mei-en
Maeve O’Sullivan
Maggie Harris
Marcela Sulak
Marie Howe
Martina Evans
Marion McCready
Mary Mullen
Mary Noonan
Mary O’Malley
Maya Catherine Popa
Meg Bateman
Medbh McGuckian
Meredith Andrea
Minal Hajratwala
Michelle O’Sullivan
Molly Minturn
Monica Corish
Moniza Alvi
Moya Cannon
Natasha Trethaway
Nell Regan
Nessa O’Mahony
Nicki Jackowska
Nina Karacosta
Nuala Ní Chonchúir
Nuala Ní Dhomnhnaill
Orlaith Foyle
Paisley Rekdal
Pascal Petit
Pat Borthwick
Paula Cunningham
Paula Meehan
Renée Sarjini Saklikar
Rita Ann Higgins
River Wolton
Robyn Rowland
Roisín Kelly
Rosemary Tonks
Ruth Padel
Robin Houghton
Sandra Ann Winters
Sarah Clancy
Sarah Howe
Shirley McClure
Shikiha Malavia
Silvia Secco
Sharon Olds
Sinéad Morrissey
Sophie Hannah
Sujata Bhatt
Susan Millar du Mars
Suji Kwok Kim
Sylvia Plath
Tania Hershman
Theresa Muñoz
Ulrikka S. Gernes
Victoria Kennefick
Virginia Astley
Vona Groarke
Wislawa Szymborska
Zoë Brigley

2016 – The Literary Year That Was In It

Publication of second collection

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While 2016 was a rocky year globally, for me, personally, it was exciting. My second collection, Ghost of the Fisher Cat, was launched at the Cork International Poetry Festival, received positive reviews in prestigious journals, including the Dublin Review of Books, Pedestal (USA), Orbis (UK),  and Southword, and was nominated for the Forward Prize for best collection, for the Poetry Now award and for the Pigott prize.

Irish readings in 2016                                                                                                                         Readings took me around the country to several festivals, including the Cork International Poetry Festival, Cúirt Festival, Galway, Stanzas Festival in Limerick, the West Cork Literary Festival and the Allingham Festival in Ballyshannon. As well as that, I did readings at the Irish Writers’ Centre, at Facebook HQ for World Poetry Day, and at Staccato (Toner’s Pub) in Dublin, the Roundy and Alchemy in Cork, and also at O’Bhéal, for a special reading for American students, the Italian Institute in Dublin, the White House in Limerick, the pSoken Wrod (de Barra’s) in Clonakilty, in Castletownbere, and at North West Words, in Letterkenny. I was also interviewed on the RTE radio show, Arena, and on the Poetry Programme.

International readings

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As if it wasn’t thrilling enough with my second collection, my début collection, The Lucky Star of Hidden Things, was translated by Lorenzo Mari and published in Italy by L’Arcolaio in 2016 too! I was invited to Bologna to give readings and talks at two schools and in a well-respected, independent bookstore, Libreria Trame:

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The book was also reviewed and discussed at Bologna university. I have Raphael D’Abdon, an Italian poet and lecturer based in Johannesburg, to thank for introducing my work to Lorenzo. I met Raphael at the Poetry Africa festival in Durban in 2013, when I was one of a collective of four Irish poets invited to the festival. (The other major event of my poetry life).

I had previously been to Italy and to Bologna, when I was sent there by the Irish Writers Centre as part of an Italo-Irish Literary Exchange in 2014, so I already had connections and an affection for that beautiful city. While in Bologna, I was treated royally by Lorenzo, who introduced me to other poets, who exchanged collections with me. Now I’m aspiring to try my hand at translating too!

The Iowa Book Festival                                                                                                                         Another break came when Vona Groarke, editor of Poetry Ireland Review, selected me as one of Ireland’s rising poets for a special issue. Spin-offs from that included being featured on The Poetry Programme with Ailbhe Darcy and Vona Groarke, and also being invited by Poetry Ireland to take part in the Iowa Book Festival, along with Nell Regan and Jim Maguire. That was very exciting. I had previously undertaken an online poetry course with the Iowa Creative Writing Program and already felt an affinity with the place. I was thrilled to meet Christopher Merrill, and to present him with my collection.

Not least of the pleasures was the opportunity to get to know and to read with, Nell and Jim, both of whom I admire and whose collections I already owned. Ah, some great memories with them – especially the walk along the railway tracks!

One of the highlights was the reading by Suki Kim, the brave author of Without You, There is No Us, who went undercover to write a book about North Korea. Another was being invited by Mary Swander, the Poet Laureate of Iowa, to her home for a meal. She lives in an Amish community, so that was a glimpse at an unusual community and way of life. A third was seeing our books on display in the fabulous Prairie Lights bookshop, where several events took place. I came away with quite a haul from there.  There was a reception to meet other writers, and I am in email exchange with one or two. One of them asked me to offer an endorsement for the back of his new collection.  A group of us, including Marc Nieson, author of the memoir, Schoolhouse, went off to watch a play together, and have a late supper.  The pretty, small city was dominated by the Book Festival, with book stalls lining the sunny streets. Abiding memories are of a young guy playing an actual piano in the square, a child with a helium balloon watching, Wayne, the ebullient waiter at the hotel who told me his life story, and visiting the university  where a protest about the Dakota pipeline was taking place, with Native American speakers and hordes of supporters – with helicopters circling ominously overhead.

There was a lovely moment of serendipity too. I was reading The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison, another of the programmed writers, in a Korean restaurant (as I was thinking about Suki Kim) when a Korean woman passed and asked if I’d like company. I was about to decline politely (maybe she thought I was a saddo, sitting alone!) when she told me she had spotted the book I was reading and knew the author! So I invited her to join me, and we ended up going upstate to a Russian art exhibition! She also invited me back to her home to meet her family and have supper with them. I was only in Iowa for four days, but it was definitely memorable.

Irish Composers Collective

And that wasn’t even the end of my exciting year! As a finale, I was asked to collaborate with two composers from the Irish Composers Collective, along with Victoria Kennefick and Nessa O’Mahoney. Each of us wrote a poem, and two composers wrote responses to each of the poems. Shell Dooley and Roisin Hayes were the two composers who responded to my poem. In November, we were invited to 45 Merrion Square (the Architectural Archive) to experience soundscapes in each of the beautiful rooms. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of the year for me. The wine and canapés were a bonus too.

Can’t imagine how a year like that could be repeated. But here we go – into a PhD at UCC!

As the late, great Desmond O’Grady said: ‘Live a life. Leave a record.’ This time, I’ll try to keep a record as I’m going along. Watch this space!