Pay, Pals and Poetry

poetry dosh
I was so excited to get my first poetry reading fee, I took a picture.

Did you ever hear about writer’s block? I heard it’s when your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.

In my case, it’s when I’ve too many things going on and not enough time to write. I’m lying, of course. I have time to write EVERY day (I keep a personal journal). Oops, that’s not right. I don’t lie, I write fiction. Even in my journal sometimes.

Truth versus fiction, writer’s block, where to find inspiration, getting paid to write* – we’ve had some interesting discussions at the weekly creative writing sessions I’m running in Tubbercurry in County Sligo. We’re over half way through now, and we’ve covered a lot of interesting creative writing themes, including mining memories for memoir, point of view in short fiction, journal keeping, and writing for local newspapers. This week we’re going to be looking at poetry, a prospect which caused a few people to blanch.

king house june 2018
I’m not reading poetry here, but the opening page of a short story. This was at King House, in Boyle, for the New Roscommon Writing Awards 2018.

Poetry is something frequently seen as a form of torture for schoolchildren, and a good or bad English teacher can make all the difference in how you take to it.  I’ve asked everyone on the course to bring a favourite poem to share, and I’m looking forward to hearing their choices; mine changes by the hour. It could be something from Seamus Heaney, Roger McGough, Wendy Cope, Maya Angelou, Simon Armitage, Gillian Clarke, Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy, Paul Muldoon, Billy Collins…

Or I might choose something from Pascale Petit, Simon Lewis, Jessamine O Connor, Eleanor Hooker, Kevin Higgins, Jacqueline Saphra, Maura Dooley, Moya Cannon, Jonathan Edwards, Jane Clarke, Geraldine Mitchell, Peggy Gallagher. These are just the few names to spring to mind as I’m writing. There are hundreds of wonderful poems and poets out there, it is hard to pick favourites. Lots and lots of talented people who can put words together in such a moving, entertaining way.

The creative writing course I’m running is aimed at beginners, but a good few of the participants are old hands, and have already been published. Like me, they probably attend workshops (even ones aimed at newbies) to pick up tips and tricks, and for ideas – I don’t think there’s a use-by date on learning. Not for me anyway.

thelma and louises
One of us isn’t Thelma, but one is Louise. That’s Jessamine O Connor on the right.

And I love to mix with like-minded people. Writing can be a solitary pastime, but there’s fun to be had in sharing with people who get it, which is why I belong to two writing groups. One of them, run by my friend Jessamine O Connor, is publishing an anthology this year, which I’m helping to edit.

There’s great craic to be had with these friends – and the creative juices certainly run. I have just heard that a poem started in that group has been chosen by Nessa O’Mahony for this year’s Stony Thursday Book published by Limerick Arts Office. That news came less than 24 hours after I won a certificate and €100 as one of the runners up in the New Roscommon Writing Award, this time for a short story. Happy days!

* I picked up my first payment for poetry the other day (I’m not counting competition prize money). My first ever payment for a reading, €25, was my share of the Hermit Collective’s fee for performing at Strokestown International Poetry Festival in May. All the many, many public readings I’ve done have been by invitation or at open mics, and I’ve done them for free.  I really have hit the big time now, eh?!