Author of three collections published by Doire Press, in 2016 - 2018 Susan's poems have appeared, among elsewhere, in: The Cafe Review, Oregan, USA - Gather In, in a Special Irish Edition; Bosom Pals,Ed Marie Cadden (Doire Press, 2017) an anthology entirely in aid of Breast Cancer Research in the National UniveristyHospital, Galway and When They've Grown Another Me in Poetry Ireland Review, Dec 2018. January 2018 has seen her poems Commended in the Gregory O'Donoghue Poetry Competition.

She has been an invited reader of her poems at local readings in Galway, Cork and Dublin and at festivals, including the Belfast Book Festival, Cuirt International Festival of Literature and Clifden Arts Festival. Her poems have been read on radio.

Susan completed her degree in social science and qualified as a professional social worker in Trinity College, Dublin 1975. She was a psychotherapist, trainer, facilitator and occasional consultant to organisations for over thirty years until her retirement in 2012. Drawing together her writing with her earlier skills she has written interviews and facilitated conversations mediated by poetry. She continues to work on a manuscript relating the story of starting out in poetry and a mid-life move West along with occasional other creative non-fiction pieces.

Her workshop Having a New Conversation: About Dreaming was listed on the The Cuirt International Festival of Literature Programme (2015) and she facilitates similar workshops on a variety of themes, discussed through the medium of poetry, regularly and occasionally in local community settings.

While a founding editor of Skylight 47 Susan interviewed: then Ireland Professor of Poetry, Harry Clifton; Kay Ryan, former US Poet Laureate invited to Ireland by Dromineer Literature Festival and Dani Gill who talks about curating The Cuirt International Literature Festival. Her most recent interview, of Maeve O'Sullivan, appears in The Honest Ulsterman February, 2018.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Philomena - the Bigger Picture. Martin Sixsmith - at Ennis Book Festival

Americans could pay more Irish to adopt children 

Sixty thousand children from mother and baby homes were ‘sold’ to the U.S. by Church and State. Fifty per cent more women died giving birth in those homes, than in the general population. One civil servant questioned the birth certificates being issued. One mother, in all that period, managed to get out with her baby and keep it. Following gasps of air sucked in or expelled, there is a profound silence in the auditorium of the Glor theatre in Ennis on Sat (8.3.2014) as Martin Sixsmith, who brought us the story that led to the film Philomena, tells the largely female audience the result of his continuing research for a forthcoming BBC documentary. I feel sick. The word slavery rises in my mind. It won’t go away. This is slavery.

Maybe the women were not owned but their incarceration was a form of slavery. 

Dublin’s Archbishop McQuaids’ influence, in particular, fueled the teaching that single pregnant women had sins to propitiate. (Many of the Nuns were victims of this misogyny too). Maybe the women were not actually owned, although one has to ask who ‘owned’ their children, and I don’t want to take away from the slavery of others who were owned, sold, chained and manacled by suggesting, that this too, is slavery. But if you have no way to get away, if you have to pay off the indenture of your pregnancy, birth and housing for self and baby by hard manual labour (because you can’t possibly raise that amount of money yourself), what else can it be called?

People come to believe the justifications their abusers insert in their minds.

The first aspect of slavery is ownership but the second, pervasive and enduring, is what happens in your head. It is when you come to believe you don’t have a right to a life of your own. Abusers, rapists and persecutors of all kinds tell themselves stories that justify their abuse. They develop a twisted perspective that their wrongdoing is ‘for the good of’ their victim and instill this deep into the consciousness of those they abuse who, literally, can’t defend themselves from this insertion because the invasion of their identity is so destroyed by the trauma they are enduring. They, then, come to believe that their abuse is due to their own fault! This is what abuse is. It is this belief, in the traumatised and in the perpetrators that has to be exorcised.

Perpetrators have to come to see the harm they've done before their cure can begin.

As with addicts, until perpetrators can genuinely acknowledge themselves the harm done, both to themselves and others no possible cure can begin. We have to get this corrosive perspective of sinfulness out of our heads and put right the continuing wrongdoing.

First steps to a world fit for their grandchildren: change the law and rid ourselves of corrosive attitudes

A first step is to change the law here to allow mothers and children seeking to find each other to do so. If Philomena and her sisters in motherhood lived in Northern Ireland this could happen because the updated laws make it possible. But we also need to challenge attitudes and delusions that ultimately lend support to perpetrators and misogyny. The women whose children were sent away should not have to carry this burden alone. The remnants of these corrosive attitudes need to be removed from Irish society and the ground harrowed to make it a better place for their grandchildren.  

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