When did you start writing poetry and what drew you into it?

Poetry came to me as a haunting. When my mother died suddenly, a few years ago, I lost all of my language. I lay mute, curled like a comma in a foreign country, a world in which I felt utterly alone. In this mo(u)rning, I chanced across an essay by Hélène Cixous, where she articulated something that spoke so clearly to me, it was as if she had turned my face and whispered it right in my ear: “At a certain moment for the person who has lost everything, whether that means a being or a country, language becomes the country. One enters the country of words.” Poetry became the doorway for me, into that being, that country, that loss — into that love.


What does being shortlisted for the Forward Prizes mean for you?

I was delighted to see the inclusion of a new category in the Forward Prizes recognising performance and film — both such dynamic and accessible mediums that lend themselves to a real democratisation of poetry and literature. The Forward Arts Foundation is deeply committed to broadening access to and appreciation of poetry, particularly through its innovative education and outreach programmes. These prizes, to my mind, celebrate the power and promise of poetry and its capacity to move us closer together. It means so much to me to be part of this dream venture.


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?

‘And our eyes are on Europe’ was commissioned by Poetry Ireland, the Museum of Literature Ireland, ANU and Landmark Productions as part of a year-long project to celebrate the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses in 2023. I think of this poem as a ventriloquist text, assembled in collaboration with the spirit of Joyce. Incorporating images and phrases directly from the ‘Cyclops’ episode, in which Joyce considers questions of citizenship, belonging, identity and cosmopolitanism still relevant today, it draws from the pastoral and the romantic traditions to throw a voice out, across islands, across time. I hope that the poem’s echoes might invoke the possibility of responding to acts of inhospitality with advances of love.


What is next for you as a poet?

To sing the beginning of things: prima materia.


What advice would you give to anyone starting out in poetry today?

Think of someone/something (not excluding yourself) that you love.
More than anything. Write poems that ache towards that love.