In the first of a series of short interviews with some of our previous contributors, we welcome Patrick Chapman back to the Burning Bush 2 for a quick grilling.
How long have you been writing? About 37 years, since I decided that writing was more important than having friends. I started in the mid-1970s with my own comics and stories of robots and teleportation. Poems came along a decade later. Good poems came along some time after that, I’m not sure exactly when. Teleportation took a bit longer.
What was your first publication? At around the same time, and after much rejection, two magazines said yes: Cyphers and Poetry Ireland Review. That was in 1988, before most people were born. Raven Arts Press took my first collection, Jazztown, in 1990 and published it the following year. I was delighted and shocked.
What have been the most significant developments, negative and positive if you like, in poetry in Ireland over the last 10 years or so? The growth of open-mic events and an expansion of the poetry scene beyond the traditional outlets, has been a very welcome development. That said, the Irish Writers’ Centre is a national treasure, and Poetry Ireland does excellent and invaluable work. There are so many new and interesting voices, published and otherwise, outside the mainstream, that I think what’s considered ‘mainstream’ is going to change. It’s very refreshing. People are doing it for themselves, and wonderfully so. Not sure if there’s anything new out there that’s negative. All the negatives are old. It’d be nice if there were no more ‘poetry wars’. Poets taking umbrage, while it is a tradition, is a waste of umbrage.
What do you think needs to happen, and what would you like to see happen, in Irish poetry over the next few years? I’d like to see poetry reviewed more often in Irish newspapers; and for publishers to have the resources they need, to not only thrive, but to pay writers for their work, should anyone actually buy the stuff. I’d also like to see a new, fractured school of poetry emerge, one that no one expected or could have imagined, except those who did. It might be nice to have a reading series for older poets (not because I am myself elderly) who aren’t as well known as they should be. A sort of Poetry Ireland Reintroductions Series. With booze and groupies and crudités.
Boston or Berlin: are we European writers in the English language or are Irish writers, generally speaking, mostly steeped in the Anglosphere? It’s bigger than that. I think we’re global, or can be. We are free to choose where we belong, and that can change. On the one hand, purely for geographical reasons, we’re European writers in the English language. On the other, the internet has transformed everything. There’s such a wonderful cross-pollination of cultures and influences going on – and poetry can feed on more than just other poetry now. We’re no longer rivers, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, we’re currents. Most of us are submarine. Some of us drown.
Finally, if you had to recommend one regular poetry event in Ireland to someone, what would it be? The Ash Sessions series. It’s terrific.
Patrick Chapman is a poet, fictionist and scriptwriter. His sixth collection, A Promiscuity of Spines: New & Selected Poems, is published by Salmon Poetry.