Ash Wednesday Poetry Series – Kerrie O’Brien: Untitled

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“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”.

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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?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ph3N6CdB-6U&feature=youtu.be

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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 www.kerrieobrien.com. 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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Ash Wednesday Poetry Series – Patrick Chapman: The National Style O Resonator

“Hotel lobby carpets. Menstruation and mojitos. The decaying smell of tobacco on raincoats on a bus. Blood and archaeology and frost in the morning.”

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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. But my life doesn’t have to be burning that well for there to be ash.

What makes a poem?

A spark of memory twisted into a lie that rings true in the imagination. Or whatever works. One of those.

Describe your writing ritual.

My ritual, such as it is, is to not write until I have to. Then, after enormous amounts of writing and rewriting, the piece either tells you it’s ready to go out into the world on its own (and you’re not invited); or it falls apart and you have to pull it back to the moment just before it did that, and see if it can still walk.

 

Is writing a compulsion, obsession or something else?

Writing is something without which I could not do, or I’d become impossible. If I had to give it up, I might as well crawl under a duvet and decompose. So to speak.

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

It’s a small and relatively quiet city. That can be good.

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?

Hotel lobby carpets. Menstruation and mojitos. The decaying smell of tobacco on raincoats on a bus. Blood and archaeology and frost in the morning.

Whose poems are you reading now?

Todd Swift’s magnificent new book, When All My Disappointments Came At Once.

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

For coffee to be perfect, I have to let professionals make it. My favourites are the ones you get in cafés in Paris, preferably at breakfast, with a croissant and some really fresh bread and jam. It’s better still if you’re accompanied by someone nice who is still sleepy, and funny and there on holiday with you, and it’s sunny and you haven’t yet decided what you’ll do with the day. But I’ll drink coffee even if it’s not perfect, and I’m alone, and not in Paris, and it’s raining, and there’s no jam.

Patrick Chapman reading his poem can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkzNI6J0SXo&feature=youtu.be

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PATRICKCHAPMAN’s A Promiscuity of Spines: New & Selected Poems, was published by Salmon Poetry in October. His other collections are Jazztown (Raven Arts Press, 1991), The New Pornography (Salmon, 1996), Breaking Hearts and Traffic Lights (Salmon, 2007), A Shopping Mall on Mars (BlazeVOX [Books], 2008), and The Darwin Vampires (Salmon, 2010). His collection of stories is The Wow Signal (Bluechrome, 2007).

 

Also a scriptwriter, he adapted his own published story for Burning the Bed (2003). Directed by Denis McArdle, this award-winning film starred Gina McKee and Aidan Gillen. He has written episodes of the BBC/RTÉ children’s animated series Garth & Bev (Kavaleer, 2009); and a Doctor Who audio play, Fear of the Daleks (Big Finish, UK, 2007). In 2010 his work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

 

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Ash Wednesday Poetry Series – John Cummins: Untitled

First cup of the day. House is sleepy. Kettle is boiling. Cup at the ready.

New day here I come…

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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?

Well, Leonard being beautiful again…sure, poetry is ash. It is also fire, rock, air. Elementals.

 

What makes a poem?

Still trying to find that one out…peoples makes poems.

Describe your writing ritual.

Pen. Paper. Time alone. Usually what comes out is a poem.

 

 

Is writing a compulsion, obsession or something else?

Bit of both, definitely. It is therapeutic, helps you make sense out of the non.

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

The chances of hearing/seeing/experiencing something inspirational are far higher in this country, not just Dublin, than any other place that I’ve visited or lived in…

 

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?

Freshly cut grass.

Whose poems are you reading now?

Seem to be reading little lately. I’d say I’m hearing more poems these days.

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

First cup of the day. House is sleepy. Kettle is boiling. Cup at the ready. New day here I come…

John Cummins reciting his poem can be found here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anUPviSQR3M&feature=youtu.be

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John Cummins has been performing spoken word/rhyme/hippyhopp around his native Dublin for almost three years now. In that time he has been a featured artist at most of the showcase nights in the city (the Glor Sessions, Brownbread Mixtape, Tongue Box, Nighthawks at the Cobalt, the Monday Echo). He has also appeared on RTE radio (Arena) and was part of Balcony TV’s Poetry Week last year. John  is the current Leinster Poetry Slam Champion 2012. He is chuffed to be invited to take part in this event and cannot wait to stop talking in the third person.

Google “john cummins dublin poet” or find out more at http://www.myspace.com/cumminsofthejohn

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Ash Wednesday Poetry Series – Andre K’por: Untitled

“Charles Bukowski said that ‘it takes a lot of desperation dissatisfaction and disillusion to write a few good poems’.   Dublin provides in these respects”.

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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?

There is certainly a sense of self-sacrifice in the creative act, and that is a good manner of putting it. I’ve always believed you “gotta burn to shine”.

What makes a poem?

The feeling it evokes in the reader. It’s a “tree falling in the woods” kind of relationship between the work and audience.

Describe your writing ritual.

There’s no ritual, words just hit me and I take them down wherever I can. Eventually it turns into a poem.

Is writing a compulsion, obsession or something else?

Both. I have a stalker-like relationship with my writing habit. Just when I think it has left me alone, it comes back with added zest.

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

Charles Bukowski said that “it takes a lot of desperation dissatisfaction and disillusion to write a few good poems”. Dublin provides in these respects.

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?

Everyone that has ever been to Ireland knows that wonderful, unique “pub smell” of stale beer, sweat and god knows what else. Now THAT lingers.

Whose poems are you reading now?

I always have a Rimbaud or Baudelaire beside my bed. Recently I have gone back to T.S. Eliot, to balance out the ridiculous amount of hip-hop I’ve been listening to.

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

Depends on the country I’m in. If I’m in Bosnia I’d drink Turkish coffee, in central Europe I tend to drink espressos and cappuccinos, in Ireland I usually go for a flat white. At home I have a jar of fair trade freeze-dried coffee that I mix with sugar and a shot of cold milk before topping it off with hot water, stirring all the way through. Don’t know what this is called.

Andre K’por reciting his poem can be found here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-8lQzmSHS8&feature=youtu.be

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Andre K’por is a spoken word performer and MC. Since the age of fifteen, he has performed at Electric Picnic (three times), Knockanstockan, The DLR Festival of World Cultures, Festival of the Fires, Poets Express, Exchange Words, and the Red Line Festival, and many others. His work has been published in journals and anthologies. He currently runs the monthly “LOQ” spoken word, hip-hop and poetry showcase (first Tuesday of the month in Sweeney’s Basement).

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Ash Wednesday Poetry Series: Laura Cleary – Strandhill Atlantic

“For those of us that don’t have the headspace to create a burning well, poetry can be the reason to keep striking the flint”.

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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?

It does, and it doesn’t. For me, poetry almost always originates from a nugget of personal experience, oftentimes it’s downright biographical. But I think it’s a little limiting to consider poetry just to be the ash left after the magnificent burning day to day lives of bohemians like Leonard Cohen. I’m quite a boring person in my day to day, I work full time at a clinical trials company (all that time studying chemistry had to lead to something!) and I find that poetry can be something of a firework display once I can find a detail to light the fuse. For those of us that don’t have the headspace to create a burning well, poetry can be the reason to keep striking the flint.

What makes a poem?

For me a poem consists of an image and music. Neither has to be particularly profound or exotic, it just has to be a moment made real for whomever is reading. The clearer the image and more textured the music the realer that moment becomes. Not that I can do that. But it’s what I’m aiming for!

 Describe your writing ritual.

I don’t quite have a ritual. It seems that over the last few years my days have learned how to rollerblade. On oil slicks. With a jetpack strapped to them. So it’s hard to get the balance of essential oils quite right for a 48 hour scribbling session.  I tend to snatch ten minute chunks during my work day to huddle over a notebook and pretend I’m organizing meeting minutes. Then at home I’ll find an hour between dinner and watching Series 3 of The Sopranos for the fifth time. And it works. Who knew?!

Is writing a compulsion, obsession or something else?

I think it differs from person to person. I’ve always been one for enjoyable obsessions – Glass Painting, She-Ra, Hanson, Final Fantasy 7. But these always tend to peter out after a year or two at the very most. I’ve been writing since I was 17, I guess that makes it the longest relationship I’ve had since I was introduced to the Mint Cornetto. And I’ve become more ruthless with my writing, more eager to edit and improve my work. So I think my relationship with writing has become a genuine love, something to engage with and challenge as opposed to this year’s obsession.

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

For me it’s the amount of material that you have to draw on. Dublin has so much character, and so many characters to me it’s a writer’s paradise. For me, among my immediate family and different close friends I’ve known there have been so many clear and different voices and characters, tones and neuroses. It seems a shame I spend so much time writing about myself, I’m not nearly as interesting.

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?

It depends. At this time of year it smells of wet leaves and rain. In a nice way! I love this time of year. In springtime it’s similar, but there’s a lighter, cherry blossom edge to it. Summertime smells of fresh tar and footballs and then winter (proper winter, December and January) smells of coffee and blown light bulbs. There’s something so energetic to how Dublin smells and feels, there’s always a feeling about it that you need to watch where you’re going incase you miss a step. It’s really exciting.

Whose poems are you reading now?

I’m reading Eavan Boland’s collected work. I had been looking for Elizabeth Bishop’s Collected Poems (buy it, read it, cry over the fact that no one ever again will be as subtle and brilliant) and picked up Boland’s Collected Poems in passing. Her work is unbelievable. I remember studying her work for the Leaving Cert and not understanding why anyone would have two words on their own and call it a line in a poem. (Incidentally, I studied Bishop the same year and had a similar reaction). Reading her work again its just astounding. The quality of the imagery, the hugely intelligent use of sound, the subtle music, the care with which each word is chosen, it’s hugely inspiring. Once I had stopped crying in the fetal position under my desk. Jealousy is not a good look.

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

Oh my, I don’t actually drink that much coffee. I suffer with anxiety and panic attacks and I find that the caffeine can put me a little on edge. I do however, drink green tea around the clock. I’m no health nut, I just can’t drink too much milk without puking all over the shop, and green tea totally filled that huge lactose free hot beverage hole in my life. And as far as ritual goes, my mother says I’m like an old lady with her cigarettes the way I carry my travel cup around the place. But I need it! So the only part of the ritual is that I always have tea with me, like a talisman I guess. Or like the cigarette my grandmother used to smoke while she hung out washing/did crosswords/made dinner.

Laura Cleary reciting her poem can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfkD-dm9JLo&feature=plcp

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Laura Cleary is a 27 year old poet living in Dublin. She has had work published in Ascent Aspirations magazine, bare hands poetry and wordlegs as well as forthcoming editions of can can and The Poetry Bus. Her poem “Breaking Point” was shortlisted for the 2011 iYeats Emerging Talent Award, losing out in a whirl of sexual tension to the magnetic Kerrie O’Brien. She currently lives in Dublin with her partner Colm and an extensive nail polish collection.

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