Poetry Ireland Introductions

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 Kevin Kielywhere 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…

Desmond Swords’s blog is at http://irishpoetry.blogspot.com

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