Ash Wednesday Poetry Series – Anne Tannam: From the Origins of the Universe

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“As a poet, a completed poem says just what I needed to say, not a syllable more or less. As a reader, a poem is an invitation to visit another’s world and return transformed by the encounter”.

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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?

Yes, it does. I take ‘burning well’ to mean inhabiting each day, each experience fully and no matter how good a poem you write, it is no substitute for the real thing. Having said that, just as the living informs the writing, the process of writing, as a lived experience, sparks the flame higher and higher.

What makes a poem?

A poem is a mini, self- contained universe, ready to be explored. As a poet, a completed poem says just what I needed to say, not a syllable more or less. As a reader, a poem is an invitation to visit another’s world and return transformed by the encounter.

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Describe your writing ritual.

Writing early in the morning works for me, before the day takes over and my brain becomes too cluttered. If I am working on a specific poem, I can come back to it later in the day but new writing takes a quiet mind. If I get stuck, which I frequently do, I write non-stop for twenty minutes, without worrying about quality or coherence and then I travel back over the words and see if anything jumps out at me. Even a small phrase can start the ball rolling again.

Is writing a compulsion, obsession or something else?

I only began writing in my forties so I lived for years without the company of my own words. Now I cannot imagine living without them. I can only liken it to the before and after of having children. My life is enriched in a way I never thought possible. The words forming on the page are a gift. Of course, writing is also commitment and discipline and faithfully turning up to the page, even when the rest of your life is demanding your attention.

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

I have never been a writer anywhere else so I am not qualified to say what makes being a writer in Dublin is unique. What I can say is being a writer in Dublin means belonging to a tribe of like- minded people, means heading into town on your own of a night knowing conversation and company are waiting for you in any number of establishments. Being a writer in Dublin gives you the keys to the city.

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?

The smell of Dublin is as intimate to me as the smell of my own skin. I am only conscious of how Dublin smells when I have been away or it has just rained and I am out walking; then she smells of concrete and undergrowth and bins needing collection.

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Whose poems are you reading now?

I am reading Jenni Doherty’s ‘Spill Rain’ and some poems from The Penny Dreadful.

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

I don’t drink coffee (the reader gasps in horror!) but I can describe my hot chocolate ceremony. It has to be very hot and very sweet, made with milk and of course, real chocolate. No cream but lashings of small marshmallows on the side so that after I admire the perfection of the heart shaped swirl and sprinkle of chocolate on top, I can pop them in, one by one and then the real fun begins.

A video of Anne reciting her poem can be found here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZp9F7G-7Cg&feature=youtu.be

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Anne’s first poetry collection ‘Take This Life’ was published in 2011. Her work has also appeared in literary magazines in Ireland and abroad. A regular spoken word performer in her own right, she is also a member of Word Jungle. Anne co-runs the weekly Dublin Writers’ Forum.  For more on Anne, please visit:  http://www.annetannam.com/

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One Response to Ash Wednesday Poetry Series – Anne Tannam: From the Origins of the Universe

  1. G’wan the Anne 🙂 Lovely bit about the smell of Dublin, almost a poem in its own right.

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