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.
He has been widely published having work in The Honest Ulsterman, The Stony Thursday Book, Foliate Oak, Iota, the Interpreters House, Southword, The Ogham Stone, The Luxembourg Review, RAUM and The Incubator Journal amongst others.
He was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2016 and The 2016 Wells Festival of Literature.
He won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2017 for his poem The Lotus Gait and the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award in 2018.
In 2018 He was shortlisted for the Mairtin Crawford Poetry Award and the Hungry Hill Poets Meet Politics Competition, Clodhorick Poetry Competition, Leeds Peace Poetry Prize, and was highly commended in the iYeats Poetry Competition.
In 2019 he won the Trim Poetry Competition, was shortlisted for the Strokestown international Poetry Competition, Doolin Writers Weekend and was highly commended in the Oliver Goldsmith Poetry Competition.
He has also been longlisted and commended in The National Poetry Competition, The Plough Prize, Segora Poetry Competition and the Welsh International Poetry Competition
His first collection of poetry ‘An Experience on the Tongue’ is available now with Doire Press.
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
I’ve wanted to write ever since I was at Primary school and in poetry I found a form that to me offered both a succinct yet multi-layered way of writing, poetry has always felt like a natural fit.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
My family are all voracious readers and we always had books from a wide range of genres in the house but I really focussed in on poetry in my last year of University when I took two creative writing modules in Poetry and prose with Glenn Patterson and Medbh McGuckian.
I learned a lot in that semester in particular and I feel that I bring a narrative element akin to short stories into my poetry. After university I became part of a writers group in the Millennium Courts Arts Centre in Portadown under Adrian Fox who I feel was responsible for challenging me to write better and better. It was a great group of people who shared ideas and gave fantastic feedback.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
Growing up in Northern Ireland I was always aware of Seamus Heaney and I love his work and we have a long history of great Irish poets, Yeats, Kavanagh, McMahon, Longley. However in recent years I have enjoyed finding out more about Irish woman writers who were underrepresented such as Eavan Boland and Edna O’Brien, there are a lot of great poets in recent years that are helping to redress this imbalance such as Moyra Donaldson, Breda wall Ryan, Amanda Bell, Annemarie Ní Churreáin and Jane Clarke.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I try to aim to write or edit a poem a day, I’ll often prepare a weekly list of things that need done in Life; music lessons Tuesday, pick up groceries etc. and include a section for writing goals. Sometimes I meet these targets sometimes not but it gives me a framework to work within, for instance if inspiration is running dry I try to switch to editing mode and look at some older poems I’m working on, I enjoy crafting poems so it doesn’t feel like a chore!
5. What motivates you to write?
I suppose I write as a search for meaning, writing helps me clarify my own thoughts even if it is fictional, poetry has a great capacity to crystallize difficult experiences and attempt to answer the hard questions of life.
6. What is your work ethic?
My work ethic is a balancing act, in many ways I’m very driven to write and it can be all-consuming but I try to leave time to rest and spend time with family and friends. I’m often struck by ideas, an overheard conversation, a startling image, a moving piece of music so in many ways I don’t switch off from being a writer.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I was always struck with a sense of wonder by Roald Dahl’s work when I was growing up and alongside the likes of C.S.Lewis and JRR Tolkien I still try to balance out a healthy cynicism with the wonder and optimism of childhood, sometimes it happens sometimes it doesn’t.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
For poetry I really recommend Ron Carey who has two fantastic collections out, a great poet and a true gent, Colin Dardis who is a great encourager of poets as well as being a fantastic poet himself, Stephanie Conn whose work has such beauty and depth, Anne Casey for writing poems of such honest grace, Linda McKenna for her evocative description and for sheer ingenuity Stephen Sexton, recently shortlisted for the Forward Prize. There are many others and I apologise for not mentioning more!
Outside of poetry I have enjoyed A Song of Ice and Fire by JRR Martin and the contrast with the HBO Game of Thrones has been interesting to follow, books always win out though!
9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
I’ve always found writing the most natural way to deal with complex issues both in my personal life and also to make sense of the world around us, by nature I like to take my time and reflect and writing is really an extension of that.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I think if you genuinely have a passion to write your own stories or poems or whatever you are on the first step on that road. The next part is a willingness to learn and improve your writing, you need to read widely, put yourself up for critique and use what constructive feedback to improve your craft. Writing is largely an isolated pursuit so finding a writing group or friends who can give honest and helpful feedback whilst also encouraging you can accelerate the quality of your writing and help spur you on.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
My debut collection An Experience on the Tongue is available now with Doire Press http://www.doirepress.com and I am also looking ahead to the next collection and also an EP of songs that I am working on for my Church.