The Cavan showcase for exciting Irish poets - At The Edge - is set to return in style with the first of three instalments in 2019 next week. Event organiser Kate Ennals has signed up “three delightful poets” for the Cavan Town event which takes place on Tuesday, April 30.
“Poetry is just in boom time. There’s a lot of really good poets,” she insists and points to the line-up for At The Edge as proof.
Limerick poet Ron Carey - as with the other poets on the billing - arrives on a wave of much critical acclaim. His first collection, Distance, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize Best First Collection, UK and Ireland. His latest collection, Racing Down the Sun, was launched to coincide with his 70th birthday last November, and Kate is a great admirer of that work.
“His poems are great, and they are very accessible,” enthuses Kate. “They are about life and the every day and about his parents as well.”
Ron, who holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of South Wales, also runs creative writing courses in Limerick and Dublin.
Alongside Ron to appear in Cavan are two younger, but equally accomplished poets, Annemarie Ní Churreáin and Edward O’Dwyer.
Donegal poet Ní Churreáin had her debut collection Bloodroot shortlisted for the Shine Strong Award for best first collection in Ireland and for the 2018 Julie Suk Award in the USA. She is also the author of a suite of poems about Dublin titled Town. The Irish Times gushed of Ní Churreáin’s work: “The poems in Bloodroot, with their musicality and sensuousness, as well as their fearlessness, mark the welcome appearance of a fresh and vivid new voice”.
Kate Ennals is equally enamoured by Bloodroot.
“Her book is amazing,” she tells the Celt, sitting on a sun-drenched bench outside Johnston Central Library, the venue for At The Edge. “She is really one to watch - fabulous, feminist, but beautifully lyrical. Her poems are amazing. She has one about washing your hands in hospital – she manages to use that in a way to tell a story about women. Really lovely, really clever.”
The third poet on the exciting line-up should be a real crowd pleaser, Edward O’Dwyer. Another Limerick writer he established himself through his works The Rain on Cruise’s Street (2014) and Bad News, Good News, Bad News (2018). The latter collection contains the poem, ‘The Whole History of Dancing’ which won the Eigse Michael Hartnett Festival 2018 Best Original Poem Prize. He has also been shortlisted for a Hennessy Award amongst others.
“His latest collection Cheat Sheets is hilarious, because it’s about how to cheat on your partner and it’s so funny.”
Edward is currently working on Exquisite Prisons, due out in Spring 2020, and a sequel to Cheat Sheets.
“I’m looking forward to meeting Edward again – I heard him first at Bray Poetry Festival last year and he was really good.”
Bernie Crawford, an editor of Skylight 47, and a wonderful poet in her own right, will also be reading a few poems.
The Celt confesses to find it hard to appreciate a poem when it’s read aloud. Unless you are already familiar with the work, the mind wanders as the richness of the words is too much to absorb. Surprisingly Kate accepts the point to a degree, saying, “It’s very hard to get something from a once off reading of a poem.
“I think it depends. When I do readings I tend to do humorous poems that I have written, because people can hear them and understand them much more easily, whereas when you have in depth, lyrical, meaningful poems they can be harder to enjoy,” she says before giving the example of TS Elliott, The Cats as one that’s “wonderful” to hear live.
After the established poets have read, each for 15 minutes, it’s the turn of the audience, to take advantage of the open mic.
“I also hold poetry workshops as well,” explains Kate. “Maybe once or twice a year, which is great because then At The Edge gives them an opportunity to read their work.”
Kate, who has two collections of poetry published, only tapped into her passion for the artform when undertaking her MA in Creative Writing in 2013.
Like many scarred from Leaving Cert literature classes, she finds the technical analysis of poetry “a bit of a drudge”.
“I like to read a poem and have it talk to me, because most poems do in some way or another, they’re so clever, it’s such a joy to read.”
Kate insists there’s a “burgeoning poetry world” in Ireland, and At The Edge is reflective of the vibrancy of poetry locally.
“For Cavan, which is a small town, At The Edge normally attracts around 25 to 30 people - which is a lot,” she says.
The Celt cheekily asks if these people are all dying to read their own poems in the open mic and indifferent to everyone else’s poetry?
“There’s a lot of people who don’t read, who just come to listen, and there’s a lot of people who come to the workshops and they tend to be the ones I encourage to read, because they’ve worked at it for eight weeks.”
At The Edge, Cavan commences its sixth year on Tuesday, April 30 at 6.30pm in Johnston Central Library, Cavan