When did you start writing poetry and what drew you into it?
Poetry captures life’s beauty and pain in its complexity and simplicity with images, metaphors and words. What drew me into writing poetry was the freedom to express myself in ways that prose could not offer. Poetry gave me a voice to share my thoughts and feelings with others who might relate or challenge or inspire me to grow as a writer and as a person. Poetry also taught me to appreciate the power and beauty of language and how it can shape our reality and connect us.
Please talk about your development as a writer of poems. Tell us when you first felt you were a poet and how it went from there.
I was always attracted to the diversity and beauty of poetry and how it can convey so much with so little. I began by sharing my poems in a workshop environment. I received feedback and encouragement, but the most crucial feature of a workshop is the close reading of other people’s work. The author is right beside you, which is daunting. It is also a benefit because you have their response to your critique. You learn why someone chose a specific word and why that line break occurred. Encountering other people’s aesthetic choices sharpened my own. Sometimes I think I’m a poet only when I’m at my desk.
What does being shortlisted for the Forward Prizes mean for you?
Being shortlisted for this award two months after the launch of my debut collection, Watching for the Hawk (Arlen House), is surreal. I offer my sincere thanks to the judges. All acknowledgement of one’s work is a validation. On the most basic level, it will put my name out there and attract attention to my book, which is available online at Chapters Bookstore. Writers write to connect. Poets, in particular, form a community. Being shortlisted for a Forward Award broadens my connection to that community.
Please tell us about the genesis of your shortlisted poem. Is it part of a collection or sequence? Where can a reader find more by you?
The origin of the poem ‘The Curse’ is autobiographical. It is not in my collection, but the theme is similar, which centres on coming of age in rural Ireland in the 60s. The woman’s role is central to how the collection develops, and in ‘The Curse’, we encounter a moment of innocent cruelty between siblings that originates in misogyny. I’m grateful to Patrick Cotter, the editor of Southword and director of the Munster Literature Centre, who gave the poem its first home.
Which poets do you admire most and what do you value in their work?
I read Anne Sexton with awe. I write confessional poems, so I naturally admire Sharon Olds. These two poets reveal women’s lives from the female perspective in their work. They invite me to enter their open doors. I love entering the world of the I. Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, Danusha Lameris, Tony Hoagland, Stephen Dunn, and Li-Young Lee are poets who generously share their stories and inner worlds. They awaken a peaceful place in me after spending time with them. I feel less alone.
What is next for you as a poet?
Up next for me is simple: I will continue to write and continue to learn.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out in poetry today?
Reading a lot of poetry is one of the best ways to learn, to discover different styles and forms, to expand your vocabulary and imagination, and to develop your taste and judgment. Read poetry from different eras, cultures, languages, and perspectives. Read poetry that you love and poetry that you don’t love.