A Whirlwind of Poetry Events

It’s been a busy few months of readings and writings and driving and hotels… I don’t have many photos but I’ll share those I’ve found!


First was Cork International Poetry Festival, where I had the pleasure of reading with the lovely Paul Casey. He has a brand new book fresh off the press, with an exceptionally beautiful cover by Rosie O’Regan. You can order Paul’s book here. Our reading was followed by an interesting and lively discussion about our poetics and translation politics, ably chaired by festival curator and poet, Patrick Cotter. Later in the festival, I was invited to read some new work at a showcase reading for Poetry Ireland Review, along with editor Vona Groarke and other contributors.



The Munster Literature Centre have a reputation for curating vibrant literary events and treating visiting writers impeccably, and this year’s festival was a masterclass in style. I was proud to be part of such an eclectic lineup of poets, both Irish and international, and I’m already looking forward to booking my tickets for next year’s festival.


At the Ennis Book Festival, one of my favourite poets, Leanne O’Sullivan and I performed new poems along with the Vanbrugh String Quartet. As we explained on the day, Leanne’s husband was struck by encephalitis and suffered a major brain injury, and he was in a coma for some time. To see Leanne’s face light up when she describes his miraculous recovery is extraordinary. Her new work focuses on this time in their lives together, and use the imagery that became almost talismanic to them as they navigated this journey together. Some of Leanne’s poems featured in a recent issue of Poetry Magazine, you can read them here. Her performance on the day was exceptionally moving.


Leanne O’Sullivan, photographed by my Mum in the audience

Leanne and I chose our poems to complement the Vanbrugh Quartet, who played Smetana’s String Quartet Number 1, ‘From my Life’. The music was enthralling, and all the poems worked well in the lulls between the movements. I read some new poems about starlings and  my daughter’s birth and our time in the NICU.


Photograph by Eamon Ward for the Ennis Book Festival. More here.

It was one of those afternoons where the atmosphere feels electric. We were given a standing ovation and the feedback from the audience afterwards was so warm. Such a pleasure to participate in this event, and there’s talk of touring it, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the funding comes through!


With the Vanbrugh String Quartet, photo by my Mum again!

Buíochas ó chroí le Liz Kelly, who designed and curated this collaboration. It was an unforgettable performance, I was buzzing for days.


At the Mountains to Sea Book Festival in Dublin, I read with Martin Dyar, a writer I’ve admired for a long time. His  debut collection Maiden Names is published by Arlen House, and was shortlisted for both the Pigott Poetry Prize and the Shine/Strong Award. We shared pages recently in the same literary journal and for months, Martin’s lines were stuck in my head like a song,

Someone in an accent of seduction whispered salmon./ Then someone filled a bucket up with sleep./ Mermaidism in the Donnelly house/ was five sisters deep.

Beautiful! I read some poems of mine that share a certain genome with Martin’s, that speak to a sense of sisterhood and inheritance. It was a lovely event, and great to sign books and chat with the audience afterwards. Again, it really was amazing to feature in a lineup like this, huge thanks to Alice Lyons for inviting me along.

I’ve kept my readings to a minimum since the birth of our fourth child (although a writer doesn’t really get a ‘maternity leave’, and I’m writing more than ever whenever I have a quiet moment). It’s been tricky declining readings, especially those that come with opportunities to travel abroad, whether to America, England, or Spain, but the hardest to turn down was an invitation to travel to India a couple of months ago. I would really love to see India. Some day, maybe. Although my family travels with me, I always feel strange leaving the children to give a poetry reading, and rush out to them immediately afterwards. Of course, they never notice that I left in the first place! My thanks to poet and festival photographer Mark Granier, who captured this moment behind the scenes outside the auditorium in Dublin-


Photo by Mark Granier


I’m off to Dublin next for a Gorse/ Poetry Ireland Showcase with Colin Herd & Robert Herbert McClean. Then it’s on to Éigse Michael Hartnett in Limerick with Rita Ann Higgins, John McAuliffe and Gerard Smyth, back to Cork for Writings on the Proclamation with Theo Dorgan, Leanne O’Sullivan, and Hugo Hamilton and a Stinging Fly showcase at Listowel Writers Week.

More details on upcoming readings here.