In the second of our series of interviews with Burning Bush 2 contributors, we get the skinny from Irish poet Stephen Murray.
How long have you been writing? 31 years, since I was 8.
What was your first publication? A self published chapbook jointly with the brilliant Neil McCarthy. House of Bees from Salmon Poetry, first solo publication.
What have been the most significant developments, negative and positive if you like, in poetry in Ireland over the last 10 years or so? On the positive front, the establishment of well run and well attended regular poetry events around the country. Most notably ‘Over the Edge’ in Galway, O Bheal in Cork as well as the establishment of the numerous Dublin events that have reestablished the city as the most vibrant hub of Irish literary activity. I would have to also include the increasing popularity of the ‘Brave New Words’ project which my own company ‘Inspireland’ run bringing a funky and fresh approach to poetry to over 5,000 teenagers a year with incredible results and feedback. On the negative side, curricular education continues to fail both young people and poetry in both it’s representation of the art form and the methodology employed to teach, or shove it down the throats of young people.
What do you think needs to happen, and what would you like to see happen, in Irish poetry over the next few years? I think the Department of Education needs to rethink its strategy on how and what poetry is taught. Poetry seduces, and it is everywhere, in the movies they watch, the music they listen to and the video games they play. It is in our religious texts and songs, the advertising that puts holes in our pockets, it is everywhere and it is the highest and most powerful form of language. Education needs to identify it in medias that young people already enjoy and reference its sources from the classics. Compare and contrast while nurturing the creativity of young people that the curriculum to often crushes. Outside of education I think that the country needs more nights like ‘The Monday Echo’ where poetry is presented with music and other art forms in tightly run and well programmed and promoted events that champion the new age of Irish voices that is emerging
Boston or Berlin: are we European writers in the English language or are we wholly steeped in the Anglosphere? We are Irish writers, steeped in the stamp (from writer to writer) of the cultural environments where our imaginations are sewn. I believe the modern Irish writer to stand as alone as the Island, and, while similarities will always exist by our shared common language with England, I would argue that Scotland, Wales and Scots literature would be more wholly steeped in the Hibernosphere than that of our English cousins.
Finally, if you had to recommend one regular poetry event in Ireland to someone, what would it be? The Monday Echo, at the International Bar in Dublin. Well programmed, brilliantly run, completely unpretentious and effortlessly cool.
Stephen Murray’s second collection On Corkscrew Hill will be published by Salmon Poetry later this year. He lives in Kinvara, County Galway where he works as director of Inspireland delivering arts and literacy programmes to young people across Ireland.