Poetry Ireland Introductions 2014 Redux: Larry Stapleton

The Poetry Ireland Introductions Series – a showcase for emerging poets working towards a first collection and with a track record of publication in journals and magazines – is open for submissions.

Introductions mentors new writing talent in Ireland, providing the opportunity to workshop poetry with an established, published poet and perform work to a live audience at a showcase, hosted by Poetry Ireland; the showcase is recorded and published on the Poetry Ireland web-site.

As an alumni of last year’s series, 2014 was pretty busy for me on the writing front, and I thought it would be fun to catch up with my fellow emerging writers to see what they’ve been up to.

To encourage those of you who might be thinking of applying this year, I asked them to share what it was like to take part in Poetry Ireland Introductions, how they benefited and where they are now with their writing.

Larry Stapleton

“Although I have always written some poetry, I regard myself very much as a late developer in this respect, and my first poem published was in 2012. I worked for many years in environmental protection and my writing mainly involved presenting the results of environmental research and monitoring. Much of my research related to protecting the environment of Ireland’s bays, estuaries and coastal waters, in which I have an abiding interest, now often reflected in my poetry. I served as editor of the Environmental Protection Agency‘s first two reports on the State of the Environment and, later, as a Director of the Agency.

My getting to the point of being among those selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series 2014 is due in no small measure to my availing of what the Irish Writers’ Centre has to offer. In moving from writing mainly technical and scientific texts to writing mainly poetry, I have had the benefit of several poetry workshops and courses. My first published poem, in Poetry Ireland Reviewwas submitted at the suggestion of Catherine Phil McCarthy, after I brought it along to her workshop at the IWC.

I find the coast of County Wexford, where I live, to be particularly inspiring, and it is the setting for several poems, although some are set on the coasts of Counties Sligo and Kerry, and some even away from the coast! The actual themes of the poems can vary. Most of my recent writing has gone back again to the first few months following the death of my wife, Jennifer, in 2011. She encouraged my poetry, and I greatly valued her opinion and her ability to spot what I would often miss.

Participating in the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series 2014 was indeed a rewarding experience. Being among those receiving this recognition from Poetry Ireland, participating in the events, including the workshops led by Alan Jude Moore and Theo Dorgan, and engaging with this lively group of emerging poets, all provided memories that I will cherish.

Subsequently, I have had poems published, in The Stony Thursday Book and Cypers 78participated in several readings: at the launch of the former, during the Cuisle International Poetry Festival, in Limerick, at Soundings for Simon, in Dublin, organised by Daragh Bradish; and at the Fusion Cafe, in Wexford, where, on the first Friday of each month, Denis Collins is the regular MC, and visitors are always welcome. I have continued to work with my poetry group, established some years ago, after a Peter Sirr workshop at the IWC.

Larry Stapleton was born in Sligo and lives in Wexford. Prior to his being selected for Poetry Ireland Introductions Series, his poetry was published in a number of anthologies and journals – Poetry Ireland Review, Science Meets Poetry 3, About Place Journal (US), The Stinging Fly, THE SHOp and The Scaldy Detail.

The Poetry Ireland Introductions series is open for submissions until 31 Jan.

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Poetry Ireland Introductions 2014 Redux: Rachel Coventry

The Poetry Ireland Introductions Series – a showcase for emerging poets working towards a first collection and with a track record of publication in journals and magazines – is open for submissions.

Introductions mentors new writing talent in Ireland, providing the opportunity to workshop poetry with an established, published poet and perform work to a live audience at a showcase, hosted by Poetry Ireland; the showcase is recorded and published on the Poetry Ireland web-site.

As an alumni of last year’s series, 2014 was pretty busy for me on the writing front, and I thought it would be fun to catch up with my fellow emerging writers to see what they’ve been up to.

To encourage those of you who might be thinking of applying this year, I asked them to share what it was like to take part in Poetry Ireland Introductions, how they benefited and where they are now with their writing.

Rachel Coventry

“I couldn’t believe it when I got the message to say I had been selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series. I am a relatively new poet and, while I had been published in a few magazines, I still felt like a beginner. I won’t lie, the prospect of travelling up to Dublin for the workshops, and then the reading, was a little daunting, but the other poets were kind and warm and the whole experience was a rewarding one. Everyone at Poetry Ireland was great, especially Ayoma Bowe, who kept the whole thing running like clockwork. The workshops were helpful, both Alan Jude Moore and Theo Dorgan were very generous. In particular Theo’s advice on performing poetry has really stayed with me. The reading was scary but we had an opportunity to rehearse and this really helped.

There are two positive legacies of my Poetry Ireland Introductions experience. I now take my poetry more seriously. I wasn’t really thinking about a collection before this but I am now in the process of putting one together. I was short-listed for the Cork Literary Review Poetry Manuscript Competition in December. My confidence grew and I started to see that I have to stand by my work, especially in public readings. If I’m unsure about my work how can I expect anyone else to take it seriously? In short, the Introduction’s series marked the point where I began to believe in my poetry in a new way. (We were also paid which, I guess, makes us professionals!).

The other big benefit was getting to know the other selected poets and becoming the ‘class of 2014.’ I’ve also heard previous Introductions graduates talk about this. It’s great to hook up with a group of emerging poets, share experiences, and then follow their careers. It’s encouraging to see my fellow alumni publish collections, organize festivals and show up on short-lists and in journals. I bump into them at events and festivals, I even travelled to Dublin for Angela’s launch in November and it’s always great to see them.

Poetry can be a solitary business, the Introductions Series provides you with a few allies.”

Rachel Coventry lives in Galway. Her poetry has appeared in various journals including The SHop, Crannog, Cyphers, Boyne Berries, Poetry Bus and Poetic Diversity. She was selected for the 2014 Poetry Ireland Introductions Series and was short-listed for the Cork Literary Review Poetry Manuscript Competition in 2014. She is currently writing a Ph.D thesis on Heidegger’s poetics. On Twitter at @RachelCoventry

The Poetry Ireland Introductions series is open for submissions until 31 Jan.

Poetry Ireland Introductions 2014 Redux: Colm Scully

The Poetry Ireland Introductions Series – a showcase for emerging poets working towards a first collection and with a track record of publication in journals and magazines – is open for submissions.

Introductions mentors new writing talent in Ireland, providing the opportunity to workshop poetry with an established, published poet and perform work to a live audience at a showcase, hosted by Poetry Ireland; the showcase is recorded and published on the Poetry Ireland web-site.

As an alumni of last year’s series, 2014 was pretty busy on the writing front, and I thought it would be fun to catch up with my fellow emerging writers to see what they’ve been up to.

To encourage those of you who might be thinking of applying this year, I asked them to share what it was like to take part in Poetry Ireland Introductions, how they benefited and where they are now with their writing.

Colm Scully

“This year was a year of firsts  for me; I won my first competition – the Cuirt New Writer’s Prize – was selected for PI Introductions, read as a guest at my first festival – the O’Bheal Winter Warmer, in Cork – and published my first poetry collection, ‘What News, Centurions?’, with New Binary Press.

In a practical way PI Introductions undoubtedly helped me to get a publisher, and that in turn helped me to get invited as a guest reader. Put simply, the introductory series looks great on your CV.  I  made very few submissions to magazines this year, because preparing the book tends to take up all your spare time. In the hiatus just after summer, and before publication I did manage to write a quite a bit, and am only looking back over it now. As ever, none of it seems quite as good as it did at the time.

Like Angela, I collaborated on another poetry film last year, ‘Crow’, with my friend Conor McManus, which was short-listed for the Indiecork Film Festival. Conor and I are currently working hard on a performance piece, including a poetry film, commemorating the 1916 anniversary.  I love the idea of poetry film, and the synthesis of the visual and the poetic, here echoing Kevin’s sentiments.

I really enjoyed  reading the review of Kevin’s year. He eloquently expressed what inspired him in his  journey and it clearly came through how much he was enjoying what he was doing. The many successes almost seemed ancillary to the process of the work itself.  It  is inspiring me to try and move away from the self promotion, submissions and social media carousel and to try to focus more on my poetry. One can really get caught up in the whirl of  twittering and trying to get stuff published and its easy to lose sight of the the important thing, which must be trying to write  better poems.

Above all, Poetry Ireland Introductions series  increased my confidence. Never let anyone tell you that your voice is not valid, is my current dictum. Ayoma and the gang really made us feel at home as we entered into the intimidating offices of Poetry Ireland on Kildare street.  Of course, one of the great benefits has to be meeting up with the group and learning so much from people’s work and opinions.  May this years group be as lucky with those who are selected.

Colm Scully is from Douglas in Cork. He has poems published in Burning Bush 2, Abridged, Cyphers, Wordlegs, Poetry Bus and The Stony Thursday Book. He has read as a guest in Cork and Limerick, and in Coventry in 2011 as part of the Twin City Cultural Exchange. Colm won the Cúirt New Writing Poetry Prize 2014, one of his poems was commended in the Gregory O’Donoghue Prize 2014, and he was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductory Series 2014. . He likes to make poetry films and is collaborating on his second one. He is a Chemical Engineer, as well as a poet and his debut collection, What’s New Centrurions? is published by New Binary Press. On Twitter at @ColmScully1.

The Poetry Ireland Introductions series is open for submissions until 31 Jan.

Poetry Ireland Introductions 2014 Redux: Kevin Conroy

The Poetry Ireland Introductions Series – a showcase for emerging poets working towards a first collection and with a track record of publication in journals and magazines – is open for submissions.

Introductions mentors new writing talent in Ireland, providing the opportunity to workshop poetry with an established, published poet and perform work to a live audience at a showcase, hosted by Poetry Ireland; the showcase is recorded and published on the Poetry Ireland web-site.

As an alumni of last year’s series, 2014 was pretty busy on the writing front, and I thought it would be fun to catch up with my fellow emerging writers to see what they’ve been up to.

To encourage those of you who might be thinking of applying this year, I asked them to share what it was like to take part in Poetry Ireland Introductions, how they benefited and where they are now with their writing.

Kevin Conroy

“No doubt for me, Poetry Ireland’s Introductions initiative has triggered new energy and exploration. I’ve been short-listed in the Cork Literary Review Poetry Manuscript Competition and long-listed for a pamphlet competition, for the first time in 2014. They rubber-stamped ‘emerging poet’ belief into my psyche. I had poems published in Ireland during the year, several rejections, and my first poem published in a U.K. magazine. But mostly, P.I. Introductions marked a change in my poetics, with a personally exciting search where apophatic and ekphrastic are key words. And now a hiatus as I absorb this new world view.

World class iconographer, Helen McIldowie-Jenkins, published ‘The Gilded Arch’ – my 14 stanza poem of her Wymondham Abbey, Norfolk icons, painted in the 14th C Italian painting techniques and style – probably a first for both poetry and iconography!

I love painting and poetry – my Christmas cards this year had a painting and poem of mine for the first time. Sent to people who like slow food, slow reading and seeing. So whatever spare time I have is divided between sketching, improving my oil portrait technique and speaking to my Muses. Truth is, I prefer my quiet room and the page to public performing. Plutarch said it -“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks.” This year I’m aiming to write poems that complement my painting. So, maybe the competition submissions will have to wait.

All the poets I really like, love music too. I’ve realised the source of good and great poetry is not necessarily words but vocal sound and visible marks. In November, I heard the strange eerie sounds of síle-na-gig voiced by Kimberly Campanello in the James Joyce Centre, the acoustics intensifying the effect. It was like she was communicating without words across time into an Irish past of the lost and disallowed, bypassing controlling powers with poetry that bridges to music. I’ve since read “The HD Book” and see more of the “permissions of poetry”. Campanello and Aosdána composer Ben Dwyers launch of their limited ed. book in May, is a red letter date for me.

No doubt, poetry, art and music are one intermingling enrichment in my life that P.I. have triggered anew! Maybe I’ll finish the lovely Erin Fornoff sketch this year.”

Kevin Conroy, born in Dublin and living in Kildare, has worked in U.K., Germany, Swaziland, South Africa, U.S. and Ireland as a teacher, professional engineer, manager in multinationals, executive coach and organisational psychologist.  His work has been published in The Moth, Southword, Burning Bush II, Writing4All – the best of 2010, Boyne Berries, The Blue Max Review and erbacce. Selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2014, he was a prize-winner in Trocaire & Poetry Ireland Competition 2012, published  in  their  pamphlet ‘Imagining a Just and Free World’. On Twitter at @KevinKConroy

The Poetry Ireland Introductions series is open for submissions until 31 Jan.

My First Year of Blogging & Social Media As A Writer

Just over a year ago, I discovered my debut poetry collection, How To Lose Your Home & Save Your Life, would be published in 2014, and the news scared the crap out of me. Being published is every writer’s dream but it immediately begged the question – who on earth would read it?

Although I’d been writing away for several years, attending a regular writing group, sending poems out to competitions and occasionally, reading at an event, when someone was kind enough to ask me to, I had never thought of all this as ‘my work’. It was just something I did.

I hadn’t even sent my poems out to literary magazines or journals – I didn’t think they were ready for publication. But all that changed when I won the Cork Literary Review Poetry Manuscript Competition 2013. I was about to publish a book; now I needed to spread the word and build an audience.

Social Media

I first became aware of social media in 2007, through blogging for business and using Facebook, then joined Twitter in early 2009, and was amazed at the potential of these venues for sharing information and making connections. Social media allows you to engage with an audience, or build a tribe, by offering people what they want or need – advice, information, entertainment or value for money. But how would the business model translate to using social media as a writer?

I set up profiles on the four main social media platforms I was familiar with  – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and WordPress.com for blogging.

On a Facebook Page and Twitter, I shared general advice about writing, news and events, as well as following, commenting on and sharing info by other similar pages or tweeters. I used the blog for longer more content-driven pieces and also set up a number of boards on Pinterest for collecting advice, tips and prompts on writing, art and creativity.

The Results

I’m really quite chuffed with what I managed to achieve in 2014:

  • Almost 11,000 views on my blog in the year – according to WordPress that’s the equivalent of selling out the Sydney Opera House 4 times over!
  • Nearly 100 posts on WordPress – almost 2 per week. Eminently respectable.
  • Close to 600 followers on the Facebook Page.
  • Over 1000 followers on Twitter.
  • An audience of over 1800 readers across all social media platforms.
  • Regular engagement from readers on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and Pinterest.

What Worked

I haven’t quite got a handle on who my audience is yet – people who read poetry, other writers or both – and so I’ve tried out different things to gauge interest. I’m always surprised which posts take off – it’s never the ones I think will do well! Here are some of the types of blog post that worked in 2014:

  • A Weekly / Monthly Round-up – writing tips, literary articles, competitions or events. I’m essentially quite lazy and anything that provides me with lots of useful information without having to scramble around multiple resources looking for it, is a damn good thing.
  • Advice From Famous Writers – who better to learn from than those in the know! 
  • News About My Writing – this one surprised me, as I think of myself as an unknown writer, so why would anyone be interested? I know I like to hear of my writing peers doing well, whether winning competitions, getting published in journals or reading at festivals – it makes those goals seem more attainable. If they can do it, maybe I can to.
  • Reports & Photographs from Literary Events – the next best thing to actually being there!
  • Sharing My Own Work – I tend not to share a lot of my own poetry on the blog, unless it has already been published – I prefer to reserve exclusivity for submitting work to competitions or literary journals, as these help build my credibility as a writer.
  • Sharing Other Writers’ Work – I love to discover new work by other writers but have to be careful about sharing due to copyright. Just because a writer’s work is published on the internet doesn’t mean it is available for general use – some writing blogs invite work directly from writers, to avoid this complication.
  • General Musings About My Day – the key to social media is that it is made up of the voices of real people, rather than press releases and corporate spin. It’s OK to talk about the everyday real stuff because we’ve all got it going on – it’s what we all relate to.

What I Learned

Although I didn’t have any kind of schedule in place, I tweeted, posted and blogged on a regular basis – daily on Facebook and Twitter. I set up a number of boards on Pinterest, at the beginning, but only checked in occasionally. The early effort paid off, as the info on those boards was regularly shared and pinned, but I’m still not sure how best to use Pinterest and it’s something I’ll be looking at next year.

The Facebook Page was the biggest disappointment and gave the lowest return on investment for the amount of time spent there. It has been difficult to grow and engage with a community on Facebook ever since their change of algorithm restricted who can see posts – they want Page users to pay for visibility. I gave Facebook Ads a try and did see an influx of new followers to my page but they were primarily from developing countries (possible click-farms) and very few of these new followers actually engaged with the page by liking, commenting and sharing info. Proof that it is best to focus on social media outlets that allow you to grow an audience organically.

And Twitter was hands-down the best of the bunch! It might seem surprising, when you can only tweet messages of 140 characters, but it’s amazing what you can squeeze into that tiny space and how many like-minded people there are out there to chat and share info with!

Social Media & Self Promotion – Top Tip

When first engaging with social media, I was nervous about the idea of self-promotion and how that fits into the whole tweeting, posting and blogging spectrum. One of the most useful pieces of advice I came across was this great rule-of-thumb for promoting yourself online:

For every 10 posts / tweets / pins etc, only 3 should be pure self-promotion, with the other 7 being pure relevant content for followers. The exception to the rule is a post where, if the self-promotion part were to be removed, the rest of the post would still have value to the reader.

In other words, readers will tolerate a passing mention of something you’re promoting, as long as the rest of the information is useful and relevant to them – otherwise, no more than 30% of your output should be self promotion.

What’s Next

My first year of blogging and using social media as a writer has been great fun – in looking out for great articles to share with others, I’ve read and learned a lot – but it’s been quite chaotic and one of the challenges for next year will be to put some kind of structure on posting, tweeting and blogging.

To this end, I treated myself to ‘365 Social Media Tips‘ – an e-book by Lorna Sixsmith & Amanda Webb of We Teach Social – to learn some insider tricks on using social media. On their advice, I’ve already tried out Buffer – a quick and easy way to schedule posts for Facebook and Twitter, and look forward to implementing more time-saving tips.

I’d also like to step up my game on You Tube – this is now THE venue for poets and spoken word performers to share their work online, through recordings of live performances or the growing film-poem genre. I really enjoyed my experience of making a film-poem of ‘The Tigers’ Tail, with photographer, Mike Bors, earlier in the year and am hoping to develop more live-film pieces in 2015.

It’s going to be a busy year!

Are you a writer using social media? Do you have any tricks or tips to share?

What I Learned By Turning My Writing Into A Word Cloud

As things wind down for Christmas, I’ve been having bit of fun creating a word cloud from my debut poetry collection, How to Lose Your Home & Save Your Life.

The idea came via Jo Bell – UK poet, Canal Laureate and creator of the poetry and writing blog ’52’ – who recently shared a word cloud of her forthcoming collection, ‘Kith’, on Facebook.

It’s a bit of fun but also a great way to get a fresh perspective on existing writing. The cloud allows me to see the entire collection in a snapshot – the more prominent words tell me if I’m hitting the mood and tone I’m looking for and also give me a sense of which words or literary devices I may rely on a little too heavily, eg. if the word ‘Like‘ features prominently, then it may be time to cut back on the use of simile. We all have a go-to writing toolbox and a good way to hit the refresh button on our work is to kick away a few of those verbal crutches!

What I didn’t expect – and am really enjoying – is discovering little mini poems in the juxtapositions of the cloud’s random arrangement:

– Think blue drumming words;
– Tree’s hands fold half-beat whispers;
– Old wind-eyes walk shadow morning;
– Ghost years ground skin, beginning bodies wings;
– Sea silence, speak yellow.

These conjour strange and curious images – perfect as idea prompts for new writing!

If you’d like to try this writing tip, check out word cloud creators Wordle and Tagxedo. I liked Tagxedo because it offers a choice of shapes and pretty colours PLUS whenever I changed the font, it created a completely different arrangement, with lots of new mini poems waiting to be found.

Winter Solstice – A Poem

I’m not a huge fan of Christmas but I love the winter solstice and all the traditions associated with bringing fire and light to the dark of the season. More than new year, to me this is the point of turning, when new plans can be laid down and seeds planted, as the creeping dark of winter loses its grip.

This poem was written in the white-out winter of 2010 / 2011, when snow fell from late November onward. On the morning of a fresh snow fall, I went out with a camera and photographed my local neighbourhood where, even after weeks of winter chaos, the clean white and muffled quiet cast its spell.

00-snow-collage

Winter Solstice

The evening is like snow, cold and fleeting,
a fading spectacle, churned grey and ploughed
to hard-rutted tracks, as commuters tramp and crowd

into its darkness; we lose all trace of ourselves
and take comfort: here we are all lost,
drifting deeper, and afraid of our own silence;

at the street’s fold blink white pockets, bright
in gutters, quiet sparks defying twilight,
as the orange of city lamp fogs all.

And dawn is like snow: an invitation;
it takes the courage of a child to seize it
and reveal, in each warm hand, a miracle;

we choose our shape in the whisper of morning –
the cave of a fallen leaf, the breath of feathers
on our own whiteness, the padding of beasts within,

pacing out the length and breadth of beauty
and, taken by surprise, we surrender,
falling, to the beat of a standstill sun.

Winter Solstice is included in the debut collection, How to Lose Your Home & Save Your Life, published by Bradshaw Books.

Abridged 0-37: Torquemada – ‘Aokigahara’

With all the other shenanigans going on at the moment, I’m still trying to catch up on recent news, here on the blog, including the publication of my poem, ‘Aokigahara‘, in the Northern Ireland poetry & art journal, Abridged’s Torquemada issue.

The themed issue is the first of a trilogy, loosely based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, focusing on:

…the confessional and faith; the lies we tell and the secrets we keep, the hypocrisy of love and hate and the pointedness and pointlessness of the penance we ascribe ourselves and others, the faith that keeps us going and makes others suffer.

The art chosen for the Torquemada issue is dark and evocative, as are the poems – I particularly love Aoife Mannix‘s ‘Disappeared‘ and Benjamin Miller‘s Torgelow Iron Foundry series (2013), obscure figures who could be henchmen, working furnaces in the fiery depths of Hell.

00_aokigahara

Aokigahara is a forest in Japan, near Mount Fuji, the second most common suicide spot in the world, after the Golden Gate Bridge, and unusually dense, with a maze of exposed tree roots that make it dangerous to navigate. I first discovered Aokigahara through a series of ink drawings by a Japanese artist and, intrigued by the name, decided to dig a little deeper. In Japanese legend, during times of famine, the sick and elderly were brought to the forest and left to die; their spirits are now said to haunt the woods.

Abridged is a really beautiful, high-quality journal, placing poetry, art and photography side by side – I’m delighted to be a contributor to this issue alongside poets like Gerard Dawe, Nuala Ni Chonchuir, Afric McGlinchey, Kate Dempsey, Dylan Brennan and more. The printed journal is limited edition, distributed for free at various art venues in Northern Ireland, and if you’re in a position to pick one up, I highly recommend it. For everyone else, Abridged 0-37: Torquemada is available to view online.

A Moment of Pause

For the past several weeks, my daily grind has been consumed with preparing for the launch of my debut poetry collection – final tweaks to the manuscript, meeting with the publisher, approving printed proofs, resolving technical issues at the printers, organising the launch, issuing invites, contacting media and interest groups, making a promo film poem, and plugging the book / launch on social media… It’s been non-stop, and all the while the butterflies jittering away – will the book look good, what poems will I read on the night, what if no-one comes?

It has all been about the energy and force of will required to put the book out into the world. Then, yesterday, I had a moment of pause and realised:

I’m not just putting a book out, I am letting the world in.

Years of work, of scribbling away in quiet moments, with no idea the words I write might someday be read, felt and understood. My feelings, my observations, my ideas, my experience – as of now, they no longer belong to me.

I bring the words to the page and let them go. It is someone else’s turn to claim them.

(Image via BBC News)