POETRY IRELAND INTRODUCTIONS by Desmond Swords
(Poetry Ireland News, November/ December 2006)
Along with four others from the fifteen chosen poets, my Poetry Ireland
Introductions reading took place on 3 July 2006 to a good-sized crowd
in the Damer Hall, a venue where verbal art has evolved to become a
national sport. At the end of the evening a quote from Pierre Curie
– husband of Marie – popped into my head: In order to make
your dream become real you have to make reality a dream.
I began writing my dream on 2 January 2001, and decamped to Ireland
in July 2004 at the age of thirty-eight with a photo-copy of the final
results from a Writing Studies and Drama degree, and a bill for several
outstanding amounts from the Student Hardship Fund which I had been
unable to repay.
My exit velocity had enough momentum to bowl me, along with a bicycle
and two panniers containing all my worldly goods, onto the now defunct
Liverpool-Dublin fast ferry, having decided that researching the history
of poetry in Ireland and trying my hand at writing it in Dublin was
the only sensible option for a man with a three-year writing habit approaching
middle age. I alighted at the North wall and cycled along the coastal
path to my sister’s house in Baldoyle: a beachhead from where
to launch my assault upon the literary citadel of Dublin, to sparkle
or burn in urban Ireland’s poetry flame HQ.
A mere two years later – somewhat to my surprise – I was
offered my first paid reading, via the annual Poetry Ireland Introductions
scheme. And although I adhere to Heaney’s maxim that a poet exists
not on the say so of others or because of where they appear in print
but ‘in your own esteem’, my acceptance onto the Intro readings
was a source of delight. Another small step on the path of poetic affirmation
– pleasurable milestone and external recognition that my poetry
dream was resilient enough to be tested in the bear pit that is the
Damer Hall audience.
In preparation for the reading we fifteen verse-dabblers pitched up
at a workshop led by poet Jim McAuley, each with 16 copies of one of
our poems, which we read to the group who then mulled over them. My
experience in writing school and since has led me to a simple and logical
belief that poetry is an act of faith, and that the function of any
critical exchange in a one-off workshop of neophyte writers is to offer
constructive opinion and insights which will make those present want
to write more and not less.
Luckily this was not a difficult task, as the talent round the table
had all left any ‘shiny armour of moi’ in the wardrobe,
so by the close of play a genuine sense of common purpose had been generated
by Jim’s refreshingly human and humorous gift for enthusing us.
We exited the workshop at 4pm with more belief than we possessed on
entering at 11am.
Although our reading occurred on the night after Eavan Boland and Paula Meehan had worked their magic in the late-lamented Bol Arts Centre, the poem-loving public was not yet sated, and the Damer Hall was surprisingly full. Which goes to prove that there is an audience for poetry right across the board, from Boland/Meehan all the way to a poem I read at the PI Intros, a tribute to John Noakes and Blue Peter, one part of a forty-page outpouring written after The Duke pub’s open mic debacle of November last (don’t ask). For this, Poetry Ireland, I salute you…