Continuing my repostings of interviews for January, here's Peadar O'Donoghue whose first collection, Jewel was published by Salmon and whose magazine The Poetry Bus goes from strength to strength.
Peadar O'Donoghue is a poet, well-connected blogger and now editor of the Poetry Bus.
Hi Peadar, thanks for agreeing to this interview. How did you first get into poetry?
I had never been into poetry and never read much of it at all. But I had written some words a bit like poetry, purely awful stuff as a teenager and beyond. I've always felt drawn to writing (if not reading) but was never encouraged, particularly at school where I was either ignored or savagely criticized for bad handwriting etc etc..In fact the only two things that school taught me was
- I was stupid and
- That I didn't belong.
Anyways I moved back to Ireland and was staying with my cousin in Bray. I learned that there was a poetry group that met in a bar so I went along 2 or 3 times and drank and sang a lot and some eager beaver enquired where they could send their poetry for publication and Poetry Ireland Review was mentioned, I'd never heard of it (or any poetry mags) but later got the address and sent some poems off and they were swiftly (and rightly) rejected. I sent some more a good bit later to the newly installed editor Maurice Harmon, who must indeed be a kindly man, he took the shortest one and squeezed it in and that made me think maybe I could be a poet.
Tell us about the Poetry Bus.
It's just brilliant! Wonderful, marvelous, I love it! It's a magazine of contemporary poetry and illustration and now the latest issue comes with a FREE audio CD of 42 poems and two songs one from living legend Martin Egan and one from on the up band The Souterrain.
You don't even have to like poetry to love it! See here to buy a copy.
Where did the idea to start it as a magazine come from?
On my quest to be the worlds greatest poet/photographer/spaceman, I started a blog called totalfeckineejit and I dedicated a LOT of time and effort to it, in some ways it's some of my best writing (in parts!) and I got a few followers many of whom were interested in poetry. I happened on an experimental idea that we (all the bloggers) should sit down at the same time across the world on a given date and time and write a poem to see if their were any similarities in the writing, anything in the zeitgeist as it were.
There wasn't really, but I liked the exercise and thought it might be nice to repeat the task regularly, every Monday in fact to try to brighten up the worst day of the week. Some of the poems over the months that followed were really good and a lot of the poets had never been published. I believed they deserved to be published and so the idea of the magazine was born. With the bloggers all being so diverse and 'getting aboard' every week put me in mind of a bus and so The Poetry Bus was born.
How did you go about it and how did it go?
I trawled through all the material and chose the poems I liked best, I didn't want this to be a catch-all anthology, there had to be some merit or style otherwise it would be pointless. I invited other established poets to contribute and a few artists and the mag took shape. I had no money but amazingly people from around the world sent me some via a paypal donate button on the blog. I got enough to pay for the first tiny print run and sales of the first print run paid for the second print run and a magazine was born!
What lessons did you learn and what did you differently for Poetry Bus 2?
The only lesson I really learned, Kate, was that artists and poets and bloggers are amazingly supportive and kind. Despite what we are bombarded with in the media, most people in general, and creative people in particular, are good and kind and want to help. There are exceptions of course, but they don't interest me, I try to focus on the positive, a rising tide lifts all boats (and buses) and I am genuinely delighted by the good will and kindness that has been shown to The Bus.
The magazine itself is evolving, finding it's feet, it's got a slightly more cutting edge and contemporary design this time. I really wanted the artwork to be spectacular, and it is! Among others we feature the work of one of the best street/conceptual artists in the world - Adam Neate, who let us use his illustrations for free. In fact everyone did everything for free. Which brings up another thorny issue, I believe artist/writers should be paid for their work at all times but paradoxically worry that this could ruin things?
I've changed the dimensions of the mag from A5 size to A4. As for the poetry I've opened it up to the world and anyone can submit. The hardest part has been doing rejections, I don't know if I'll ever get use to doing them. The hardest part has been doing rejections, I don't know if I'll ever get use to doing them.
And as I couldn't get any official funding I tried fundit.ie and was accepted onto the scheme. Basically it is crowd funding where you pick a financial target for your project and get people to pledge money in return for various rewards (in our case a free magazine.) If you hit the target you get the money (minus some fundit administration costs.) If you miss the target you get nothing! Which makes it very exciting and a great incentive for people pledging. I found it a stress and hassle free way of getting the printing costs of the magazine. The fundit team are friendly, helpful and very very good at what they do. I can't recommend them highly enough. (A special thanks here to Martin McNicholl who guided and helped all the way through) In fact I will be submitting again for the next issue, PB3.
Congratulations on your upcoming first collection. Tell us about it and how that came about?
Thanks Kate! My first collection is called Jewel and will be published by Salmon and launched at The Cuirt International Literary Festival April 2012. And it's a pure miracle.The best and most amazing thing that has ever happened to me apart from the day I got married and the day my son was born ! I still can't quite believe it.
After you've had a few poems published inevitably you start dreaming about having a collection, your own book.I had started buying a few poetry books (about time!) and had become drawn towards Salt in England and Salmon Poetry here in Ireland, both seemed very accessible and friendly and different. I liked their poets and their book covers and their alternative attitude.I thought if I was ever going to try to get published it would be with one of these. That was my dream. I abstractly started to feel Salt, though great and interesting , were too big ,too many books, too many poets and were diversifying into other genres. So Salmon had become my number one choice but I thought my poetry was nowhere near good enough and that I wasn't ready, so I didn't even submit.Then completely out of the blue Jessie Lendennie sent me an email asking if I had ever considered publishing a collection. I nearly fell off the chair!
Apart from me, which poets, websites, events and publications do you recommend?
All the poets in The Poetry Bus are fablo! The Glór Sessions is great every Monday night in The International Bar Wicklow Street in Dubland I went to a Nighthawks gig once and that was cool too. Seven Towers and Wurm Im Apfel are always working hard and putting on great (and often free) events. The SHOp is a truly wonderful magazine, greater than the sum of its parts and its parts are always exquisite, so that is some mighty magic, I love it! I think The Stinging Fly is a fine magazine (particularly for the short stories) and really great value, I really like the cut of Revival's jib too.
What other poetry plans have you got coming up?
Well as soon as PB2 is out It's full steam ahead with PB3! I'd love to get a real Double Decker Bus for events, festivals, tours etc, but that's still in the dream cupboard...for now!
Thanks a lot for agreeing to do this.
See here to buy a copy of Poetry Bus 2.