Friday 29 November 2013

Interview with poet Donna Sørensen

Hello Donna and welcome to emergingwriter. I’ve been reading and enjoying your collection, Dream Country, on the train to work. First how did you first get into poetry?

I've been reading and writing poetry since I was a young teenager, back when I thought I had the 'black dog' that Winston Churchill suffered from! Ah, the drama of being a teenage girl. I wrote on and off for years after that but other things got in the way, like getting my pilot’s licence and travelling the world, so I never focused on it. My mum is a children's author and I dabbled in writing children's texts alongside teaching for a while but it was only really when I was working at the Irish Writers' Centre in Dublin and I started taking part in poetry workshops, that I fell headlong into the poetry world and haven't really come up for air since. I knew straight away it was the medium I'd been looking for, as all I wanted to do whenever I had a spare moment was write poetry. So I'd say I've been really working on developing the craft and getting poetry ready for publication since 2009. Being in Dublin helped; there's such a vibrant network for writers, you can experience and understand exactly how it all works - the editing, the sending out, the different journals being published, the importance of doing readings etc... I really miss it!

Would you recommend poetry workshops or writers groups for people who are just starting out writing? What about for people who have been writing for a while?

Defo for people just starting out. I found it most useful for me to start right at the start in workshops lead by experienced poets who could pass on something of the craft of poetry as well as their artistic insight and then writing groups as I got more confidence and material. Iain Broome and I were just talking about whether we think writing groups are useful now actually in our podcast,Write for Your Life. I think once you're further down the line, it's vital to keep in touch with other writers and to get constructive feedback, but you've got to be in the right group where you respect them as writers and value what they are saying.

You mention having had something of the craft of poetry passed on to you. Do you have any examples you could share?


Caitriona O'Reilly was a fabulous person to workshop with. She's got such a wealth of knowledge about poetry and is a really quiet and assertive intellectual force. I felt she was great at passing on something of what she'd learned along the way. I did a course with her called The Shape of the Poem and we only wrote formal poetry, experimenting with different forms each week. I really liked where it took me, as I don't use formal structures very often when let loose on my own. I wrote sestinas, triolets, villanelles and pantoums and liked being forced into patterns with my writing; liked creating something based on a big wild idea but reined into a constrained space.

And Paula Meehan really helped me with editing. Before I worked on poems with her, I accepted poems and lines and even words that I should have scrutinised more. She talked a lot about putting words under pressure and I've carried that through with me. Is this really the best word for this space? Have you mixed your metaphors? Have you laboured the point, spelled things out too much? Questions I try to ask myself now when I am finished with a first draft of a poem.

Those are some good questions to ask of a new poem. Are there any others spring to mind?

I am not sure whether all people writing poetry feel this, but I am constantly wondering what other shapes a poem could take. I feel sometimes it's like one of those books I used to read as a kid where you had to make decisions and those decisions would determine which page you turned to next and therefore the next adventure in the story. So many different ways to take a poem or a line, sometimes seemingly endless possibilities, it can seem like a big responsibility to finish something at a certain place, to mould a poem into definite stanzas. I guess that's part of the mystery of any creative pursuit! Some of my poems finished in the form they started and quickly too. Others seemed to take ages and much pulling them apart and putting them back together before I found how I wanted them to be on the page.

Are some of the poems in your collection started from the workshops?

Yes, the first poem in the collection, Mirrored Belly of the Sea, was written when I was under the tutelage of Paula Meehan. It's the first poem I had accepted for publication too. I think that's the only poem actually I'd written for a workshop that was in the collection. It was accepted by the Stinging Fly and didn't come out until a year later (back when they were doing once a year submissions) and in the meantime I'd had a few more accepted and published. But this one still felt like the first one.

About 16 or so have been published from the collection I think. It's actually exciting, starting to send out stuff for consideration by journals that's not in the collection! Haven't written masses by anyone's standards, what with having a baby and day job again now, but I am getting round to it every so often. It's a big thing, preparing submissions. I don't think I realised it right at the start, but keeping track of what's where and who's said no to things before and what particular journals are looking for. You've got to keep trying though eh!

Are any of your formal poems in your collection?

I decided not to use my formal poems, mainly because their subject matter was quite separate from that of the collection; I felt there'd be a strong discord. I sometimes feel, too, that poems with more formal structure seem more certain and sure, I guess because of the repetition, the recitation; like mantras. I know this is not true of all of them, but it's just something I associate with that style. My collection evokes more of a feeling of uncertainty, of transformation, of moving through unknown spaces. 

How did the publication come about? Had you been sending it around?

I was really lucky, actually. The Stinging Fly had me as their Featured Poet in the Spring 2012 issue and New Island Books read my poems there, liked them and asked to see my manuscript. I'd written in my bio about getting a commendation from the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award for my 'unpublished collection', which turned out to be a good thing to put in there! I worked a lot on the manuscript in the time between submitting for the award in 2011 and publication, but the main skeleton of it is the same.

And actually, it's something I've always wondered about poets - do they always know when a collection is finished? I have since written poems which I've thought "Oh! That would've worked really well in the collection!" but I guess that's just part of creating something... You could get yourself into an endless cycle of tinkering on things if you didn't have a deadline to work towards.

I read your interview with Billy Ramsell and really enjoyed it, especially the part about poetry rewarding reading in areas not traditionally associated with poetry:

'The richer such a storehouse becomes, the less the poet has to draw from the accidents of his or her biography.'

I can totally relate to this and quite a few of my poems in Dream Country were sparked by really random stories and bits of information I picked up. 'This is London' for example, was inspired by an urban myth I heard that after the war, there were so many books streaming into antiquarian booksellers in London, from the victims across the continent, that they didn't know what to do with them. So they used them to fill in the city's bomb craters. I am not sure it's true but that doesn't matter so much. The image it created was so powerful to me.

Another random poem - 'We Are Far From Home', relates to me and the confusion I have about having ended up in big cities, when I am happiest out in the middle of nothing - but it was sparked by a National Geographic piece I read about Nile Crocodiles they'd found living in tiny holes, burrow and caves deep under the Sahara Desert and thousands of miles away from proper water sources. Completely random I know!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

My advice for aspiring writers would be - take advantage of the writing and performing going on around you. Get out to readings, festivals, spoken words, read journals, enjoy being part of something bigger, because it fuels and inspires you and right now, I feel very, very far away from all that. Coming back to Denmark has been amazing for my life - I've got everything a person could need to flourish, but I don't have the creative buzz around me that I felt in Dublin and in parts of the UK. I wish I could pop along to poetry readings after work, or drop in to open mic nights, but those are few and far between in Denmark and what with the collection out now, a 1-year-old, a weekly writing podcast and full-time job, I don't feel I have the space to start a night up on my own yet. Maybe I will at some point. I've met some great writers here, but it's just not the same!

These things have also meant that I am not writing as much as I want to. I am scribbling lines here and there and feeling annoyed with them. I've done more abandoning now than I ever have before. I wonder if it's also the pressure of having had a collection published and feeling like I have to be more serious or more perfect. Whatever the excuse (and you can see I have many!) I am only writing the odd bit of poetry here and there. I am hoping to come over to Ireland to do a reading in the spring and would love to enjoy Dream Country a bit more - take some time to read from it and show it to people. I feel like it's been cast out into a sea of books and people and I need to haul it in and wave it around from the deck to passing ships.

Is there any English language literary scene where you are?

I'm in Copenhagen and there is virtually no literary scene in English. There's a writers' group I've tried out and a few writers scattered about, but no regular nights. There are a couple of literary festivals, but really, you do feel completely adrift here! I'm just spending any writing time I've got glued to the computer, Twitter in particular, to keep abreast of things and read good stuff. Anyway, can't complain as it's a great place to live! Just feel like I had to sacrifice something big creatively in order to move back here. I also use Danish all day every day at work and I feel very contained and not myself - operating in a second language is a really interesting exercise and you get to know a lot about yourself, but mostly I just sit there thinking that people around me are not getting the full me and feeling a little sad about that. When I write, I am reconnecting with my Englishness and my full person.

Thanks very much Donna and good luck with your writing.

Donna Sørensen is a young poet, originally from the UK. Her début collection, Dream Country, is published by New Island Books in Ireland where Sørensen lived and worked, in the literary sector, for three years. Sørensen's poetry has been published extensively in Ireland, and in the UK, including literary journals such as The Stinging Fly, Poetry Ireland Review, THE SHOp, Southword, Crannóg, Orbis, Revival, Cyphers and Bare Hands. While in Ireland, she was a board member of the Irish Writers' Centre, where she had previously worked as a volunteer coordinator.
Donna Sørensen was selected to read at the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2011 and the Cork Spring Poetry Festival in 2012. An early version of this collection received a commendation in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award 2011. She now lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, and works as English-language Content Manager for VisitDenmark. She is also the co-host of the popular weekly podcast for writers, Write for Your Life (
Dream Country is available to buy in bookshops and on New Island Books (

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Ropes Submissions

From Niamh Boyce's lovely blog.

ROPES is a literary journal published by students at NUI Galway, and they are open for submission!
Deadline 1st January 2014

Monday 25 November 2013

Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition

Really not sure about this title...
Southword are reviving their Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition. Two winners will each have their manuscript published, receive €500 in cash and fifty complimentary copies of their chapbook.
   The competition is open to new, emerging and established poets from any country BUT at least one of the winners will be a debutante (with no chapbook or book published previously). 25-50 other entrants will be publicly listed as "highly commended". Manuscripts must be sixteen to twenty pages in length, in the English language and the sole work of the entrant with no pastiches, translations or 'versions'. The poems can be in verse or prose. Each chapbook is guaranteed a review in Southword Online.
   The winning chapbooks will be published in August 2014 with striking cover designs, ISBNs, barcodes and will be offered for sale internationally through our own website, Amazon and selected independent book sellers. The winning poets will be considered for the 2015 Cork Spring Poetry Festival programme and have their chapbooks entered for the UK Forward Prize for best poem and anthology. 

An entrance fee of €25 will be charged for each manuscript. 

Entrants may enter more than one manuscript of 16-20 pages. For full details consult in December. 

Judges: The winners will be selected by a panel chosen by the management board of Southword Editions. 

How many chapbooks will they publish?

Deadline: March 31st 2014. 

Saturday 23 November 2013

New Planet Cabaret

Delighted to have a satirical piece in this anthology that aims to take a snapshot or cross section of the live arts in Ireland at the moment - a weighty, worthy aim and a delicious smorsgabord of pieces to dip in and out of.

Edited by Dave Lordan and published by New Island Books. This is a spin off of the RTE Arena arts radio show which had an innovative radio writing workshop last year.

Don't you just love the cover? It's an inspiration in its own right.

Buy it in your local bookshop or direct from the publisher here, That way, more money goes back to support the arts. Proceeds go to the Writers in Schools scheme administered by Poetry Ireland.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Poets Meet Politics - Hungry Hill


Writing competition for poems on a broadly political theme.

Judge: Bernard O’Donoghue
Prize: €500
Deadline: 1 February 2014
Entry fee: €8 (25% discount for writers’ groups who submit three or more writers’ entries together.)

This is run from the beautiful Beara peninsula in County Cork.

For details visit

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Winter Tales book festival in Dalkey

Dalkey tell us that most books are sold in December but there are no book festivals anywhere in Ireland at Christmas.

On Saturday 7th December, they'll be changing that.

They say

Come to Dalkey to meet your favourite authors, solve your Christmas present dilemmas, get your books signed, listen to great writers and speakers , while having a laugh.
There will be a bookshop and signings at all events. And what’s more, a wonderful bookshop is opening at 20 Railway Road from end of this month for all of December! Who knows, if we support it well, they just might stay!
 12pm Paul Howard aka Ross O’Carroll Kelly reads from Downturn Abbey
1:30pm Pat McCabe in conversation with Miriam O’Callaghan
3:30pm New Party, New Politics? Discussion with Pat Leahy, Lucinda Creighton, Dearbhail McDonald, Stephen Donnelly 
5pm Eamon Dunphy on the Rocky Road with Sam Smyth
 6pm Frank McGuinness in conversation with Joanne Hayden
 7pm Stuck for a book? Favourite books recommended by Declan Hughes, David McWilliams and others
 9pm Colm O’Regan: Ireland’s Got Mammies

Link here

Sunday 17 November 2013

Cork Spring Literary Festival - Emerging Poets Reading

I read here last year. I was very good. In fact, I made at least one member of the audience cry, but in a good way. They didn't invite me back yet though, despite my strong Cork links.

Details here

15 February at 4pm at the Cork Arts Theatre.   A selection of emerging poets reading at the
Gregory O'Donoghue Prizegiving Ceremony

The Prebooked Poetry Reading will involve up to five individuals who have yet to publish a full-length collection of poems. Each poet will have the opportunity to read three poems of 40 lines or under. If you would like a chance to partake in this event you must have at least two magazine publishing credits. 

Submit three poems with a biographical note. 

Deadline: January 7th 
Submit to: munsterlit(AT)eircom(DOT)net . Submissions must have the subject heading “Prebooked Poetry Reading 2014”.

The list of chosen poets will be posted on by January 20th and later

Friday 15 November 2013

Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition

A massive competition this one, usually won by furreigners, if memory serves.

The Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition is now open for entries
First prize: €1000, a week’s residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, publication in Southword Journal, and the chance to read your work at the Cork Spring Poetry Festival.

2nd Prize €500 & publication in Southword
3rd Prize €250 & publication in Southword

Ten runners-up to be published in Southword and receive €30 publication fee.

The entry fee is €5 per poem or €20 per batch of five.
Judge: Patrick Cotter.
Deadline: 15 December 2013

Full details here.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Cork Launches

Launch of Billy Ramsell's The Architect's Dream of Winter, Dedalus Press, Introduced by Paul Perry
Thursday November 21st, 7pm at Crane Lane Theatre, Cork,(near, General Post Office)
Refreshments served, guest readings by Conor McManus, Doireann Ní Ghríofa and Stephen Moore.

You can read my interview with Billy here 


Adam Wyeth's Launch The Hidden World of Poetry: Unravelling Celtic Mythology in Contemporary Irish Poetry (Salmon Publishing)  Saturday November 30th 3.30pm at the Triskel Arts Centre, Introduced by Patrick Cotter.  

Monday 11 November 2013

Pighog Poetry Pamphlet

I am hesitant to suggest this as there is only one winner. There are runner up prizes of courses but they are in the UK and not much use to me.
But there aren't that many pamphlet competitions so....

Publication by Pighog, and 40 complimentary copies of the pamphlet
4 Runners up:
a free place on a Poetry School activity
Catherine Smith and Simon Barraclough
Closing date for initial entries:
31 January 2014

Pamphlet publishing is vital to poetry. For a second year The Poetry School and Pighog have come together to promote this pamphlet competition, encouraging poets to explore the potentials of the genre and create innovative and imaginative new work.

The competition is open to anyone aged 18 or over, writing poetry in English anywhere in the world. Initially, entrants are invited to submit ten poems (or ten sides of poetry on A4). Each entry should be a collection of exciting work that refreshes and challenges the poetry pamphlet genre. Submissions should be no more than 300 lines in total, averaging 30 lines per poem over 10 poems.
The judges will select a shortlist of up to twelve poets by 28 March 2014. Short-listed poets will be asked to submit complete pamphlet collections by 26 May 2014 for final judging. Shortlisted poets will also be invited to read at an event in Brighton on 26 June 2014, when the winner will be announced.

How to enter
Enter online via the Submittable website. Enter by post by completing the attached entry form which can also be downloaded in Word or PDF format from the Poetry School and Pighog websites.

A maximum of 10 poems should be submitted. Poems should be typed on single sides of A4. Each submission should be no more than 300 lines in total.

Entry fee
Entry costs £10 per entry for:
A) Poetry School Students who have attended a course or workshop since 1 January 2011 or who have attended or booked a course by the competition closing date (31 January 2014)
B) Anyone who has purchased a Pighog publication from the Pighog website ( since 1 January 2013
Entry costs £15 for anyone not in Category A or B.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Richard & Judy are looking for a new Bestseller

Richard and Judy are launching a national competition to find a new bestselling author alongside their Autumn Book Club.

The ‘Search for a Bestseller’ competition will be looking for first time authors to submit the first 10,000 to 12,000 words of a novel, of any genre, aimed at adults. Richard and Judy want something brand new and are asking entrants to submit their novel via their Book Club website along with a synopsis of the rest of the book. More information

Richard and Judy will lead the selection process, along with editors at the book’s future publisher Quercus, plus experts from literary agency Furniss Lawton. The winning writer will receive a publishing deal worth £50,000 from Quercus for the rights to sell their novel around the world.

The Richard and Judy Book Club website  which launched this summer, will continue to offer readers a forum to exchange thoughts with both Richard and Judy and the authors themselves.
To help inspire budding authors to enter their competition, Richard and Judy have also asked some of their favourite writers to share the lessons they’ve learnt over the years on the website – on the news section, for further tips and advice and follow the Book Club’s Twitter and Facebook pages for regular updates.

Deadline: 1 January 2014. For full terms and conditions please visit:

Thursday 7 November 2013

Donegal Creameries North West Words Poetry Prize 2013

Deadline: 15th November 2013.

The prize is open to anyone over 18 years of age as long as the poem is the original work of the author submitting it.
Entries must not have been previously published or have won a competition and only poems in English are being accepted.

The max number you can send off is three!

No entry fee is being charged as North West Words is a non profit organisation run on a voluntary effort. However a small contribution towards the admin costs would be gratefully appreciated. (e.g. €5)

Name and personal contact details on separate page and not on poems.
Send your entries to North West Words Poetry Prize 2013, 54 Thornberry, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. 

Judge is Kate Newman
Online submissions are not accepted (so I'm guessing they won't have so many submissions)

One prize €250 and a cup

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Reading in Maynooth Library

Maynooth isn't going to know what hit it. 

Saturday 9th November 2.30pm in the library. 

Don't miss it. I want to see you all there.

Poetry Diva Kate Dempsey
The vibrant Fiona Bolger Fióna Poetry
The rising star from Tullamore Cormac Lally
Organiser David Hynes
And the genius and now 3 times Leinster poetry slam champion John Cummins.

Witness the poetic fraternity.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Write 4 Austism Competition

I know many writers who have first hand experience of the challenges of working with people on the autistic spectrum. You may want to consider entering this competition.

Run by the Autism Initiatives Group, this Short Story competition is an opportunity for writers to contribute to a great cause.

All entrants will have their work judged by the internationally acclaimed authors Colin Bateman, Declan Burke and Lucille Redmond.

The total prize fund for the 2013 competition will be one third of the entry pool up to a maximum of €4,500. The Prizes will be allocated as follows:
First Prize: 50%of the Prize Fund (€2,250 max)
Second Prize: 25% of the Prize Fund (€1,125 max)
Third Prize: 10% of the Prize Fund (€450 max)
Commendation prizes will be awarded from the remaining portion (15%) of the Prize Fund (18 prizes max of €35 each)

Each entry will be 7.50 Euro.

Deadline: December 31st  2013.

Please read all the terms and conditions before entering!

Maximum length for a story (excluding the title) is 1,500 Words.

The Prize Winners and commended stories may be published as an Ebook with proceeds going to ASDI.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Interview with poet Billy Ramsell

Billy Ramsell was born in Cork in 1977 and educated at the North Monastery and UCC.  He holds the Chair of Ireland Bursary for 2013 and has been shortlisted for several other prizes. He edits the Irish section of the Poetry International website and recently judged the Shine Strong award for best first collection by an Irish poet. He has been invited to read his work at many festivals and literary events around the world.  Complicated Pleasures, his first collection, was published by the Dedalus Press in 2007 and a second, The Architect’s Dream of Winter, is forthcoming. He lives in Cork where he co-runs an educational publishing company.

Hello Billy and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed.
How did you first get into poetry?
It began for me in Barcelona in September of the year 2000. I’d just moved there, to the village-like suburb of Gracia, and I was renting a room from what had to be Spain’s most boring woman. Montse. I’ve never managed to meet an interesting woman with that name. I was still making good my arrival in the city. I spoke only the tiniest amount of Spanish and precisely two words of Catalan.  I knew no one of course, though that changed after a few months when I managed to land a job in one of the world’s worst language schools. In such isolated circumstances you tend to turn inwards. Or at least that’s what happened to me. I watched poetry -and the composition of poetry, the self-pleasuring interiority the craft – become increasingly important to my mental health.

Those were the circumstances in which I wrote my first published poem, which was entitled ‘An Otter’.  It came out in The Shop the following September, during the week of the 9/11 attacks. I was back in Ireland then, working in a call centre. Bertie Ahern gave everybody the Friday off; a national day of mourning entirely appropriate to the atrocity we’d all remotely witnessed.

I woke that morning in a friend’s apartment on Barrack Street. She had the strangest accommodation; sort of a disused auctioneer’s office with flat colourless mushrooms sprouting in the corners. I’ll always remember coming to in her living room that Friday. I’d been drinking fairly heavily the night before and I awoke to a peculiar sense of disembodiment, mingled with the conviction that I was in my own bed somewhere else.

I walked into Waterstone’s that morning and came upon a copy of The Shop with my poem in it. I was thrilled. I had no idea I’d been accepted. I walked around the block before purchasing a copy,
I'd dabbled in a number of different areas before poetry. I'd been in a band. I'd written several acts of what was surely the worst play in the history of Irish letters. It was about a once-successful but long-broken-up band reuniting to play at their drummer's funeral.  I'd written a few poems.
One thing I knew for certain is that I was no scholar: At college I was willing to read almost any book in the library on almost any subject; architecture, marketing, chemistry. You name it.  However, once a given title was prescribed or placed on any kind of official reading list, I found myself almost physically unable to take it off the shelf. It was a kind of allergy. I overcame it in the end and managed to do a reasonable amount of course-related study. But it was always minimal and always a struggle.

That's one of the great things about poetry. It rewards wide, broad and deep reading, especially into topics normally considered non-poetic; information technology for instance, or population studies. But you don't have to pursue knowledge in any structured way. You can follow your nose, hunt and gather. You're building a silo of facts and fantasies, of theories and information, which can be used to fuel and nourish your creative work. The richer such a storehouse becomes, the less the poet has to draw from the accidents of his or her biography.

I suppose it'd fair to say an interest in poetry was always native to my operating system. By 'poetry' here I suppose mean the micro level interaction of linguistic elements: the crunch of certain consonant clusters, the interplay of fricatives, what might be described as the pentameter's inevitable cadence and so on.

I guess some brains ship with software for recognizing and responding to such things, just as others are optimised for plot or character psychology or for manipulating musical intervals. It was only while living in Barcelona, however, that I seriously applied myself to the craft of actually making poems. And it's a ridiculously finicky, fiddly and miniaturist business: like making superbly-detailed ships in empty bottles.

Love this. Spain’s most boring woman...
What do you mean by: I awoke to a peculiar sense of disembodiment, mingled with the conviction that I was in my own bed somewhere else.
There had been and would be other memorable awakenings, more or less traumatic or tragicomic. But that’s one that sticks out. It was, I guess, a combination of the chemicals in my system and the quicksand-armchair in which I’d nodded off. Or maybe the room was filled with fungal spores from the mushrooms in the corner. I don’t know. But for whatever reason I seemed to float at some length and with unusual potency right at the meniscus between sleep and waking.  For a few seconds I felt almost capable of shaping the waking world the way you can sometimes manipulate dreams; that I might will myself to wake up anywhere: Limerick, the Taj Mahal, Las Vegas. Of course half my half-asleep self knew that this was all nonsense. But that didn’t matter. It was an incredible moment. Impossible to convey, really. I’ll never forget it.

Did The Shop not tell you you’d been selected? Actually, that’s happened to me a couple of times. Not with the Shop though. It’s all the sweeter, I think
It was indeed a sweet one. I’d been living in Spain when I submitted and I suppose by the time their acceptance reached my Spanish address I’d moved back to Ireland. As late as 2001, the bulk of such correspondence took place via the old snail-mail. It’s kind of hard to believe now.

Someone asked me this recently and I thought it was interesting, “If you could see a dead poet reading, which 3 would you pick?” Obviously they would be alive....
Well let me go right back to basics and choose Amergin, the bard who accompanied the initial Celtic invasion of Ireland. They say his verses soothed the very ocean. That’s a performance worth checking out, eh? The original slam champion.
My second choice is James Clarence Mangan, just because he’s probably Irish poetry’s greatest enigma, and I’d wrap it up with the wheezy aspirations of Seán Ó Riordáin. Can I be greedy and ask Beckett to be MC for the night? I think they’d all get along. It’d be some evening. Well, I think Beckett and Ó Riordáin would get along.

We'll let you have Beckett. Can you tell me a bit about Poetry International? How did you get involved?
Poetry International Web is an online project based in Rotterdam, an offshoot or adjunct of the long-running eponymous festival. The project was founded in 2002 and has gradually attracted contributing editors from around the world: from Denmark, the United Kingdom, Iran, India and so forth. Ireland joined the club in 2005. We’re excited because it now looks like France are finally coming on board too; that’s a major poetry vacuum plugged.

Each contributing country is awarded a number of 'slots' per year during which they forward material to the central editorial staff in the Netherlands to be processed and uploaded to the site. At the moment Ireland has three such slots: one in January, one in June and one in November. Or thereabouts.

I have funding to fill those slots with the work of eight poets: six writing in English, generously funded by the Munster Literature Centre, and two writing in Irish, generously funded by Foras na Gaeilge. It's more or less a condition of the project that everyone involved be paid for their work. Except me. Like several other national editors, I'm a volunteer.

The Irish domain is administered by the Munster Literature Centre and until January 2012 was edited by its director Patrick Cotter. Then I took over. I’ve tried to impose my stamp on it but the constraints of space and funding make it frustrating.

Y’see it’s’ all about balance. In both the English and Irish categories I can't just add my favourite poets or indeed the poets with the greatest critical reputations. It's got to be fairly evenly measured between old and young, famous and not so famous, straight and gay, emigrant and immigrant, conservative and experimental, Dublin-based or otherwise. And so on. My goal is to be representative rather than canonical.

Who have you chosen for Poetry International already and are you allowed to say who is coming up?
It’s been a good mix so far I think:  Dave Lordan, Máire Mhac an tSaoí, Mary O’Donoghue, Harry Clifton, Simon Ó Faoláin, Trevor Joyce, Bríd Ni Mhorain, and Paul Perry. I’d like to think it reflects at least some of the Irish scene’s diversity.

In July we had Alan Gillis and Eileen Sheehan. After that who knows?

What do you enjoy doing outside of poetry? Do you find it crosses over?
I’m a sports fan and you’d be surprised how often that seems to make its way into my writing. I’m also a small bit of history bore but strangely enough historical characters and situations never seem to feature in my stuff. In about 2008 I rediscovered music in a big way, especially trad and electronic/modern classical/ambient stuff. I’d be happy if that particular interest came through in the work, an attraction to noises, patterns, acoustic images and so on.

I run as far and as frequently as I can and in recent years that’s become a big part of my approach to writing. Of course the endorphins and adrenaline provide a creative boost. But it’s amazing what drifts across the mental heads up display when you start to motor, when you start to push it in that rhythmic way: stray words and phrases, idea-germs, ways out of compositional problems. I highly recommend it.

Lastly, what have you got coming up yourself?
Well I just judged the Strong / Shine Award for best first collection by an Irish poet, which was an enjoyable but challenging experience; it's hard to trust your refereeing instincts when you're sole arbiter, there's no linesmen, umpires or replay-technology to act as sounding board for your decision-making process. And in this instance there were some agonising decisions to be made. I must admit though that in the end I'm delighted with the winner: Michelle O'Sullivan is a special poet, one who has applied herself to the art-form with unusual seriousness and zeal.

Now that's out of the way I'm focused on seeing my next book, The Architect's Dream of Winter, through the final stages of production. It'll hopefully be coming out with Dedalus Press in the next couple of months.

There's a few other bits and pieces too: putting together the next upload for Poetry International, completing a couple of modesty overdue reviews, helping as best I can to organise The Winter Warmer, a weekend of poetry in Cork this November that's being produced by O Bheal. And there's another big project waiting the wings that I'm excited about but can't really discuss yet...

I've got a few outings coming up as well. I was delighted to be reading at the Bandon Arts Festival alongside Matthew Sweeney in September. I'll also be appearing at the Model Gallery in Sligo as part of Kate Ellis's Resound collective, which is an ongoing collaboration involving music, art and spoken word and is an incredible project to be involved in. Then I'm off to the Poetry Africa festival in Durban. After that it'll be time to sit down, shut up and try to write a few poems.

Thanks a million, Billy and good luck with all of that.

Here are some links to Billy's poetry in wordlegs
and on his website
and in southword

Friday 1 November 2013

2014 Davy Byrnes Short Story Award

The Stinging Fly is delighted to announce the return of the Davy Byrnes Short Story Award
Booker Prize winner Anne Enright, Impac Winner Jon McGregor and Yi Yun Li winner of the Guardian First Book Award will judge the competition.

** That's some hard core short story writers to judge. 
The winner will receive €15,000 with €1000 for each of five runners-up

There will be a €10 entry fee.

 Entries close February 3rd 2014 with the winners announced in June 2014

The competition is organised by The Stinging Fly in association with Dublin UNESCO City of Literature. It is open to all Irish citizens and to residents of the 32 counties

The Davy Byrnes Short Story Award has been held twice previously, in 2004 and 2009. The 2004 competition was judged by Tobias Wolff, AL Kennedy and Caroline Walsh, the late literary editor of the Irish Times. The 2004 award was won by Anne Enright. The 2009 competition was judged by Richard Ford and was won by Claire Keegan, whose story ‘Foster’ was subsequently published in The New Yorker and in book form by Faber and Faber. A collection of the six prize-winning stories from 2009 was also published by The Stinging Fly Press and received warm praise from critics. The winning stories from the 2014 award will be collected and published by The Stinging Fly in autumn of next year.

The award is sponsored by Redmond Doran on behalf of Davy Byrnes, a fitting partnership given the pub’s status as a literary landmark. Davy Byrnes was first mentioned by James Joyce in Dubliners; however, it was Ulysses that made the pub famous, as it is visited by Leopold Bloom in the “Lestrygonians” chapter. Bloom meets his friend Nosey Flynn there and partakes of a “gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of Burgundy.”

Further information on the prize and entries can be found on