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.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Immaculate Does Not Describe the Conception of the Children in Tuam: A Word To Fathers.

The tragedy of the ‘single’ mothers and their children - those who made it to happy adoptive homes, those who faced great challenges and trauma as they grew and those who died whose bodies have been discovered in what is described as some kind of tank– is rightly the focus of our attention, grief and rage this week. Occasionally we are reminded that these women, scourged further by being described once as ‘fallen’, are not the only parties to the conception of the children but carried the consequence and blame. Those children have fathers.

I find myself wondering about those fathers. 

We’ve heard siblings, survivors, some of the mothers themselves. It almost seems sacrilegious to consider the fathers - their absence and protection so absolute. Yet, however often I get angry with men for their mostly unacknowledged position of privilege and the hardship they’ve inflicted on women - whether actively or by acts of omission – I know that many of those fathers were also young and given little, if any, choice in how to respond to hearing (if and when they did) of the consequences of their moments of passion or early love.

Did they recognise a surname and age and wonder?

There are still fathers alive, or those who wonder if they might have been one, watching those names of the deceased children of Tuam scrolling down our television screens on Monday night. Not many but there must have been some. Did they recognise a surname and age and wonder? Did they already know, freeze as they saw that their child had died, the body despicably disposed of.

Shame corrodes and can be impossible to acknowledge.

I used to work as a group psychotherapist and leader of workshops exploring issues of gender among others. Two particular challenges the men said they faced remain with me: little support or recognition for the question of ‘where to put it’ -that is how to deal with the intensity of their early sexual desire and how to deal with their sense of, often profound, shame. Shame for actions but also, frequently, times they’ve been humiliated and shamed by others. How shame corrodes and how impossible it can be to acknowledge.

To anyone who suspects or knows they are the father of one of the children born in Tuam or another ‘mother and baby’ institution I want to say: 
don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Do consider whether there is someone to whom you can tell your story. You may have run when you ought not to have, you may have betrayed your child and the woman who thought you cared, but perhaps you did care or you may simply have been callous and self-serving and your behaviour utterly unacceptable.

 Sadly, the sense of shame is likely to be greatest in those who were in the most impossible of circumstances and least to blame 

...because you do feel and know your part in what happened. So remember: fathers are important too, young men often not supported and in those days and times very few would have supported you to support your partner. It’s never too late to acknowledge your own story and actions. Shame needs to be given air. Ultimately acknowledgement heals.

Many of you could have been and are, to later children, wonderful fathers. 

You have a grief and sense of shame to bear too. There are those who want to hear but talk advisedly and select your audience carefully. The pain of women is so often overshadowed by the concerns of men that we won’t have much patience for you now; you haven’t got it for yourself.
Soon, I hope, one or another of you will be able to stand up and add your story to the unfolding narrative of our collective shameful past. 

We need present rather than absent fathers more than ever and fathers need to support each other – not to defend their failures and absences but to stand together, alongside their sisters, in common humanity and join in the acts of reparation for what, ultimately, is our collective shame.

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