It’s always a good sign for a poet when organisers are carrying in extra seating to meet the needs of the audience for a book launch, writes Thomas Lyons. The neatly ordered rows of chairs in the gallery area of the Johnston Library are insufficient to accommodate the guests who have come along to support a lady who’s indubitably popular with her audience.
In typical Irish style the appointed launch time of Kate Ennals’ second collection of poetry for public consumption has been delayed as patrons continue to file in. The poet is complying with the obligatory “meet and greet” of a book launch, but there’s a genuine warmth in the exchanges.
A perusal of the pages threads gives the reader an insight to the poet’s ability to craft wonderfully intricate, small stories that have a transportive quality. In the poems memory clashes with reality, the mystical with the mundane as Ennals pulls threads from various aspects of their life to weave a new fabric that is brilliantly vibant.
Commencing the official launch of Threads Catriona O’Reilly of the Cavan Arts Officer said that Kate Ennals is “aware of all the small things” in her “knitting together the complexities of human life”.
Catriona said that the collection “captures the many threads of the human condition”. The arts officer said that it was clear that in her years of living in Cavan the poet had “woven her place into the heart of the community” and that much of her life is centred on community making.
The work Kate has engaged in, giving people access to an understanding of poetry through her role as workshop facilitator and mentor is apparent in the audience. Kate has now lived in Ireland for over 20 years and her latest poetry collection is life refracted through a prism of her journey over the three years since her last work was published.
“It’s a gathering of the experience of that part of my life,” the poet explains.
The life experience on that canvass of time provides an expansive emotional palette to work off: the passing of her mother, a global political landscape that is almost a caricature, and a society that is waking up to acceptable norms.
Following on from the success of ‘At The Edge’ Kate’s new work charts a different course: “It is a different process. I was really excited and thrilled [at the launch of the first book] and it was the best thing that happened in my life, but this one is quite different.
“It seems, at the moment, that our lives are increasingly becoming a series of threads and we all have so little control over everything,” Kate said by way of explaining the title.
Having three distinct parts Threads is heaped with the skill shown in the first outing: “The first third of this poetry collection is ‘family threads’. My mother was dying in the last two years, that was very difficult. A lot of the poems are about her and about my feelings. They are not particularity pleasant poems. But there are more about family; my children, my brother.”
“The next section is about ‘threads of thought’. They are around political isolation, my response to Trump, Brexit and other contemporary social and political events. I am interested in political issues,” she said.
The final section of the book is broader: “The third section is ‘threads of other’. It is around other things that have happened in my life or thought that occurred to me. It is just random thoughts that have visited me.
“In a sense it’s a much more personal collection, which is why I am a little anxious about it.”
For Kate the power of poetry is in both the writing and reading: “The American poet, Adrienne Rich said, ‘poetry can’t free us from the struggle for existence’, but my poems and writing help me to express the ‘inchoateness’ of being. Poetry and writing are my antidote to the fading thread of hope in the world we live in today.”
“Poetry is a wonderful tool, it provides a truth and it helps you express that truth in a different way that isn’t screaming or shouting. It is a delicate truth,” she mused.
Kate says she is looking forward to the launch: “I’d love to see the broader Cavan community celebrate with me because we are what make life good. I hope all of my friends, poets, writers will come from wherever they are, they are all threads in my fabric.”