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.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

On the Page or Spoken – the Essence of Poetic Identity

Issue 123
I wasn’t thinking about my own poem about identity when I interviewed Maeve O’Sullivan for the current (Feb,2018) issue of The Honest Ulsterman.  It did help to ensure that I read the December issue #123 of Poetry Ireland Review, 2017, earlier than I probably would have if I didn’t have a poem published in it that thereby led to an early copy landing on my doormat. This ensured I read Eavan Boland’s Preface giving me a context within which to ask particular questions.

Inspired by a hissie-fit reaction to the arrival of my social identity card, needed as a bus pass, my poem When They Grow Another Me ‘on a petri...’ raises the question, among others, about what will happen if they lose ‘me’? The questions now appear to have a parallel in questions being asked about poetry and its authors in a spat, or spout raised in an essay in PN Review. Thankfully poetry can’t be grown from DNA and we can’t either clone or own its essence but that doesn’t mean there won’t be those who will continue to try.

 The Blue Nib online literary journal issue launched 20th February, 2018 has an article by Jane Simmons examining the split in the poetry world because, she reports, of a searing essay by Rebecca Watts published in PN Review titled The Cult of the Noble Amateur (see )  in which she takes issue with award winning work of poets such as Holly McNish, Kate Tempest and Rupi Kaur. Apparently successful because ‘artless poetry sells’. Both Tempest and McNish have won The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, the latter for a work of poetic memoir. ‘From the Judges: Poetry and prose mix well creating an internal rhythm that is conversational and honest'
PN Review 239

The critique is apparently as much because these performance poets received acknowledgement by the UK establishment as it is about the work itself. McNish’s response is mentioned also. Simmons invites us to consider our own views.

In the Preface to the December issue of Poetry Ireland Review Eavan Boland explores the space between the more private space of the page poem and the public language of performance. These and other interweaving languages become the context in which she introduces the work of Stephen Sexton whose poetry is high-lighted in this Dec issue of PIR and informed the questions I posed to Maeve O’Sullivan as I interviewed her The Honest Ulsterman (Feb, 2018). O’Sullivan is known for her Haiku and Haibun – many of which appear in Elsewhere (Alba, 2017), launched by Paula Meehan in Dublin in the late autumn. She is a member of the British Haiku Society, was a founding member of the Irish Haiku Society and is also well-known for being a member of The Poetry Divas known for their spoken word performances – with the slogan’blurring the wobbly boundaries between page and stage’. Who better to ask about her experience of straddling what could be seen as the extremes of these genres? The interview can be accessed here haibun 

The dispute about terrain may be more interesting because of the questions it raises that go to the heart of what makes a poem poetry - who makes that decision and who owns the rights to a particular language and its identifiers - than because of anything else: questions that ultimately become questions about identity.

How and in what way is a poem identified as significant?

Significant to whom? Is a poem’s identity decided by the words ‘assembled’, the author, its title, its place in what has gone before - and the milieu surrounding it? Do poems belong to us at all? After all a proportion of poems are acknowledged by their named authors to have arrived almost fully formed.

U Tube videos, self-promotion on social media and the established cannon or not, may quickly become redundant signifiers

in the issuing of passports to amateur/professional/apprentice would be poets with the further development of digital block-chain identities – already used by some musicians to establish their right to ownership of their work. How important will the critics be when the direct listener/reader to author route further becomes the norm and established mediators are by-passed? I imagine they will continue to have their place. It’s a very particular world. But the territory is changing shape and it can be hard to maintain footing and tenure not knowing how things will be in any future within sight.

In essence...

Come to think of it, even were some imagined ‘they’ to grow another ‘me’ not chained-in-block and registered on a web address linked to an office in Estonia, or wherever else also provides such opportunity, they couldn’t have my essence. Or could they?

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