Ash Wednesday Poetry Series – Kerrie O’Brien: Untitled


“The best poems are the ones that hit you, that leave you breathless

and make you want to stand on a roof and shout them at strangers”.


The Ash Wednesday Series takes its name from the following Leonard Cohen quotation:  “Poetry is just the evidence of life.  If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash”.  As a writer, does this ring true for you?

Poetry is the flame that gets my life burning in the first place. I go with what Anne Sexton says – “Poetry is my life, my postmark, my hands, my kitchen, my face.”

What makes a poem?

By writing a poem I think you’re exposing a bit of your soul to the world – your essence. The more truthful the better. The best poems are the ones that hit you, that leave you breathless and make you want to stand on a roof and shout them at strangers. The Promise by Sharon Olds did that for me when I was 16 – it knocked me sideways and made me want to start writing.



Describe your writing ritual.

It usually involves me sitting on my own somewhere staring blankly into space for hours. You need a lot of time to think. Ideas, images, last lines – they come into my head all the time – but I really have to sit and focus – then I might write three poems together. The best writing is done in the morning when your head is clear, drinking gigantic lattes. In general I find that poems are mysterious elusive beasts that don’t want to be tamed.

Is writing a compulsion, obsession or something else?

It just happens. The poems have to be written. For me, poetry is as natural and as necessary as dreaming.




What makes being a writer in Dublin unique (to being a writer anywhere else)?

The support you get from other writers is unbelievable. There are so many events and open mic nights providing opportunities that I think it’s one of the best cities for an emerging writer, regardless of where you’re from. There’s a real creative atmosphere in Dublin at the moment and it’s full of inspirational ideas and people. And the Guinness is fabulous.

The nose provides a way for understanding the world and its first impressions.  The first smells of people and places, for whatever the nose chooses to capture can become a strong memory for the mind.  Smells have a way of lingering, taking up space as though they were bodies.  What does Dublin smell like to you?

Rain. Hops. The sea. That weird bleachy smell on Grafton Street in the morning. Lush. Bewleys. That donut place on O’ Connell Street. Junkies.




Whose poems are you reading now?

I’m reading all the incredibly stunning poems in the Bare Hands Anthology and everyone needs to buy a copy immediately.

Describe your coffee ceremony (i.e. everything that goes into a perfect coffee experience)

I have a full on spiritual relationship with coffee. Morning coffees are the best. Sit outside with a strong hot latte in a paper cup and think about life. That’s how I get my kicks.

Kerrie O’Brien reciting her poem can be found here:


Kerrie O’ Brien is a Dublin poet. In February 2012 she was the first poet to read as part of the New Writers Series in Shakespeare & Co. Paris. Her book Out of the Blueness is available on her website She is also the Founder and Editor of Bare Hands, an international journal of poetry and photography. The Bare Hands Anthology will be launching in Dublin on 19th December at 7pm in the Winding Stair Bookshop and you all have to come because there will be gin and roses.


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