Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Anne Walsh Donnelly

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.51T9+i9HrxL._AC_SX348_SY500_QL65_

Anne Walsh Donnelly

Anne Walsh Donnelly lives in Mayo in the west of Ireland. Her poetry has been published in various literary outlets such as Hennessey New Writing in The Irish Times (July 2018), Crannog, Boyne Berries, Cold Coffee Stand, Star 52, Ariel Chart, Inside the Bell Jar and The Blue Nib. Both her poems and short stories have been widely anthologised in books such as Please hear what I’m not saying, Gem Street: Beyond the Axis and Henshaw 2.
Two of her short plays were staged in the Claremorris Fringe Festival of Drama.
Her work has been shortlisted in several competitions including the OTE New Writer of the Year Award, Fish International Short Story Prize and the RTE Radio One Frances Mac Manus competition.
One of her poems was highly commended in the OTE New Writer of the Year Award (2017).

Anne won the Blue Nib Winter 2017/Spring 2018 Chapbook poetry completion.  A selection of her poems, are published in The Blue Nib Chapbook 2. You can buy it here:

https://thebluenib.com/product/the-blue-nib-chapbook-2/

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I was forty-five when I started writing. My daughter was the catalyst. When she was eight, she used to write poems for people to give them on their birthdays and other important events. Isn’t it a lovely idea, to gift someone a poem?  So I wrote a poem for someone who had been very supportive whilst I was going through my martial separation.  When I gave it to the person, she smiled and said “You have to continue to write.” That was all the encouragement I needed. I started to write poetry, short stories, plays, and memoir. The words just tumbled out onto the page. Once I started I couldn’t stop. Luckily I’ve inherited my father’s ability and love of telling a good story.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My mother, in the form of nursery rhymes and as I got older, she often recited other poems to my brothers and me. My favourite poem as a child was Wordsworth’s Daffodils. “I wandered lonely as a cloud….” For some reason those words resonated with me.  In secondary school I found studying poetry difficult. It was the analysis of them and reading them for exam purposes that nearly destroyed poetry for me. Though for some reason I always loved the Patrick Kavanagh poems that were on the curriculum.
Funnily I used to hate when teachers in primary school would give us the task of writing our own poem. I was convinced that I could not write. I think it was to do with the fact that I thought all poems had to rhyme and I was useless at rhyme. It took me a long time to realise that I could actually write a decent poem. Forty plus years.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

As I said Patrick Kavanagh was a favourite poet of mine and his poems have always stuck with me since my teenage years. I’ve only realised recently how he has influenced some of my own writing. Someone recently called me “Patrica Kavanagh” after reading one of my poems. I think it’s the rural element that sometimes creeps into my poems and my use of the vernacular in some of my poems.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I write every day, not always on paper, but in my head. Being a working lone parent of two teenagers means that getting to actually sit down every day and write or type words onto a page doesn’t happen. But I am always thinking of writing, opening myself up to ideas that might float my way. It might be something I see, an overheard conversation or the words of a song might trigger an idea. I mainly use my phone to note these ideas. I expand on later. At weekends I make time to actually sit down and write. My favourite writing space is Sunday mornings. The house is quiet and thankfully the kids sleep till lunchtime so I get up early and spend a few hours writing.

5. What motivates you to write?

I don’t need motivation, it’s a compulsion. Just as I have to breathe, I have to write. If I don’t get at least one poem a week written, I get cranky. To not write, doesn’t feel right for me. Sometimes I wonder how I survived forty-five years on this planet without writing creatively. Writing sustains me and had enriched my life so much.

6. What is your work ethic?

I am highly driven regardless of what I set my mind to. This is also the case with writing. As my mother would say, anything worth doing is worth doing well and that’s my philosophy too. However the last few years have taught me to create a more balanced life and not get lost in one task to the exclusion of all others. Mothering, working, relationships, exercise, meditation and writing all get their fair share of my attention. In terms of my professional life and doing the job that pays the bills, it doesn’t consume my life the way it did in the past. It’s a means to an end. My life outside of work takes priority now. I always reserve some of my energy for writing. It might not put food on the table, but it feeds my soul, which is probably the most important thing we need to nourish.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

As I mentioned Patrick Kavanagh certainly has influenced my writing though I wasn’t aware of how much it did, until recently, when I read his poem “The Great Hunger.”

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most  and why?

There are way too many to mention.

9. Why do you write?

I write to live and to make sense of this crazy world we inhabit.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

I wrote a poem on this very topic! It’s called “Guide to becoming a writer” and it was recently published online in The Irish Times. You can read it here.

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/hennessy-new-irish-writing-july-s-winning-poems-1.3568189

It’s based on my own experience of how I became a writer or should I say, discovered that I was a writer. It contains all the essential ingredients that you need to become a writer. Reading, loving and losing, spending time alone, being adventurous, brave and honest and getting support from others. In my experience it’s the shite that life throws at you, that will make you a better writer. Most importantly of all as my therapist once said to me when I was in the throes of depression…Just Do It.  Oh, and find people who believe in you.  When they tell you how awesome you are, believe them, because every one of us is awesome, in our own way.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I’m currently working towards my first collection of poetry. It’s still in the early stages. I also have ideas for a novel, short stories and personal essays that I am still developing. My problem is that I have so many projects I want to work on and little time
Anne Walsh Donnelly
September 2018

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