Swimming with Salmon; Poetry Ireland Introduction Series

Poetry Ireland Introduction Series.

I am so grateful to have been selected for this year’s Poetry Ireland Introductions Series. Last Tuesday and Wednesday, the poets selected gathered at Poetry Ireland headquarters in Dublin for two days of workshops. The experience really stretched me as a writer and brought me out of my comfort zone. But it was worth it. Fortunately, the poets selected are lovely and friendly. Not a flamingo preening their feathers amongst them!

The staff at Poetry Ireland looked after us very well. We were fed, watered, wined and we even got professional headshots taken (for free!) The workshop leaders, Martina Evans, Annemarie Ni Churreain and actress Eleanor Melven, were wonderful.

Day one, we had a workshop with Martina on form and craft. She’s a lovely woman and an excellent facilitator. We had to submit two poems in advance to workshop. I had debated beforehand whether to submit poems that were almost there or ones that still needed a lot of work. I decided to submit one that needed a lot of work, which I’m glad now I did.

Of course my poem got slashed and burned, (in the nicest possible way). As a result, I have a better poem and I learned a lot from the workshop. The standard of the writing was the highest I’ve ever encountered. I felt like a minnow trying to swim with salmon. I was so lucky that there were no sharks in the group!

The first workshop of the second day was with AnneMarie Ni Churreain, the consummate professional. She talked about putting the first collection together, doing readings, generating an income from writing, creating your writing CV and toolkit. She also stressed how important it is to be conscious of our social media profile, keep it clean. Be professional.

The best thing for me out of this session was it got me thinking of long term writing goals. There is huge value in putting together an artistic statement and thinking about one’s long term goals.

The second workshop on day two was about performing and reading your work. Again another great learning experience. I was impressed with the actress, Eleanor Melven who facilitated the workshop with Martina Evans. She had really done her homework prior to meeting us. Before the workshop she came over to me and said, “Hello, you’re Anne from Mayo.” And I was like how do you know? She had done her research on all of us and read our work. That really impressed me.  

We all had to read a poem and then Eleanor gave us feedback; constructive but gentle. I chose to read my “Mna na hEireann” poem. I wanted to get feedback on how I read it as I hope to read it at my chapbook launch in June. Eleanor told me that my poem was a gift to the audience!! How cool is that?

She stressed how important it is for the poem to speak for itself and for your voice to be heard. It’s not a performance in her opinion but a reading of your work. Sometimes less is more.

It was an amazing two days. I’ve learned so much and I cannot stress enough how lucky I was to be in such a lovely, supportive group of fellow poets. Now I’m looking forward to our readings at the International Literature Festival Dublin on the 21st and 22nd of May and meeting all the group again.

Thank you, Poetry Ireland, for this wonderful opportunity.

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