This year's editor of Kilkenny Poetry Broadsheet, poet Enda Coyle-Greene, answers some questions on writing, reading, and life.


'There is a completely different energy required for deciding which poems to send where, writing covering letters and then proceeding to either the post office or the 'send' button'

Broadsheet images PR 2014Enda coyle greene - pr

To coincide with the call for submissions for the 14th Issue of the Kilkenny Poetry Broadsheet, this year's Editor, poet Enda Coyle-Greene, answers some questions on writing, reading, and life.

How or when did you start writing poetry?
I can remember exactly when I started writing. I was in primary school, about seven or eight years old, and Mrs. Ryan asked us to write a story about a haunted house. When she handed the stories back a day or two later, she went right around the room before telling me to stand up. I was a very quiet, shy child and thought I'd die of fright. But then she praised my effort for the language I'd used, and for the 'style' of the piece - I've never forgotten that word - and it was like one of those cartoon, light-bulb-over-the-head moments. I remember thinking, 'I can do that'. I'd been reading anything I could get my hands on since an even younger age, and always turned to the poems first in any new schoolbook. After that day I wrote stories, and increasingly, poems, but never for a moment did I think that what I was doing anything remarkable or special. I just wrote.

It was only when I got into my early thirties and joined a writing group that I started to think seriously about submitting any of my work anywhere; even then, it was another few years before I actually sent anything out.

What is it attracts you to poetry rather than to prose?
Its musicality certainly accounted for my initial attraction to the first poems I came across as a child and to my interest in poetry as an art form. It was probably the musicality of a poem like, 'Mise Raifteirí an File', for instance, that drew me in. I grew up in a home where music was part of the air we breathed.

I still love to be able to 'hear' a poem, even as I'm reading it quietly. Whether that happens because of metre, language, the breath of the line, or a combination of all of the above, doesn't especially matter to me.

I love paring everything back until, hopefully, less turns into more. I know that's important in any kind of writing, but the combination of the compression of language, the possibilities of the line, and the actual physical space a poem takes up on the page makes it an almost tangible object and I love shaping that object.

There are a lot of 'loves' being thrown around here so I suppose the short answer would be to say that I love poetry. I enjoy reading and writing prose very much too, but the difference between working in poetry and prose is, to me anyway, like the difference between walking and dancing: both are highly enjoyable but dancing has that added element of music.

Do you think poets have a responsibility to engage with the issues of the day? How do you think a poet contributes to her/his society, given the comparatively small ripples made by most poems?
I don't think a poet has a responsibility to do anything other than write the best poetry that she/he can write, to be kind to other people and animals, and to try and live a decent life. I'm not sure if poems are ever really 'about' something, to me they're more of a way in to it. But if the issues of the day impinge on a poem's landscape or narrative, if they insist on being there while the poem is being written and are central to the poem's emotional honesty, well then yes, they should be engaged with, and as fully as possible.

As regards how a poet contributes to society, I often think that the best we can do is to hold up a mirror for a probably very uninterested world to look into. But I'd hope that in telling the truth, slant or otherwise, there's something else glimmering away there that might be saying something useful about the times we're living in now.

How do you work in selecting poems to submit for publication or in selecting for your books?
I like to leave a poem to 'set' before I begin to think about submitting it. I could be walking around doing something else altogether when an alternative way of saying a line might randomly strike me and it's very frustrating if the poem is already out there walking around in the wrong shoes.

I tend to use my writing time for actual writing and when I'm not actively engaged doing that, I organise myself into sending out mode. There is a completely different energy required for deciding which poems to send where, writing covering letters and then proceeding to either the post office or the 'send' button. But I think it's important for poems to have had a life of their own in the magazines before they are collected. It's good if a poem can sit comfortably beside poems by other poets and it can give you a feeling for what is working, what isn't, and what perhaps never will.

If you hadn't chosen to write poems what other artistic activity might you have been drawn to?
Where do I begin? I have several visual artist friends and am always in awe of what they do. Music has always been central of course. I studied ballet when I was very young and absolutely lived for it. I have to say though that during all the time in which I was actively engaged in all of the above, poetry was always there too as a constant, nagging presence. I didn't choose it. I just eventually gave in.

Do you have a favourite author/poet, and why?
That's difficult to answer because there are so many and the list keeps changing. Poets and poems mean different things at different stages during a life but increasingly I find myself going back to my first loves. If pushed though, I'd have to say Shakespeare. I also love Auden, Yeats, Hardy, and Kavanagh, for the same reasons I suppose. I met them when I was too young to be intimidated by them and they've stayed with me.

What book of poems would you bring to a desert island with you?
That's even more difficult. On a desert island I'd need more than one voice to keep me entertained so I think a good, fat anthology would be the only thing worth having. I especially like 'Staying Alive', edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books)

What book are you reading at the moment?
I always have a novel or a collection of short stories, a non-fiction book and a stack of poetry books beside my bed, so book will have to be replaced by books, I'm afraid!

I enjoyed reading 'Swimming Home' by Deborah Levy and in particular 'Quiet - the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking' by Susan Cain. It intrigued me when I read the reviews because to be written, or read, poetry needs peace and quiet and it's getting harder and harder to find either.

I re-read poetry books constantly. It's like listening to music, recognising the tune but hearing something different on almost every listen. I have poetry books on shelves all over the house but I'll suddenly think of one I have to read now and then I'll go and get it and place it on the pile beside my bed.

Some there at the moment include 'Poems of Louis MacNeice' as selected by Michael Longley, and an absolute favourite, 'Mercian Hymns' by Geoffrey Hill. But there are also more recently published books there too, like 'New Light for the Old Dark' by Sam Willets, 'The Wrecking Light' by Robin Robertson, 'The Invisible Threshold' by Catherine Phil McCarthy, and 'New Selected Poems' by Carol Ann Duffy.

What would you say that writing non-fiction pieces for Sunday Miscellany takes from and gives to your poetry?
If I'm facilitating a workshop or a class I always re-iterate that old maxim about 'frisking' every poem for the superfluous word and the duplicated or redundant image, because it's something I always do myself. Even when I think I might be finished with a poem, I always hold it up and give it several good shakes to see if anything falls out! My least favourite poem is the 'baggy' one and it really doesn't matter to me who has written it; I'll read it with my mental red pen working overtime all the way down the page. If I find that I'm writing one myself, and can't prune it, I'll step away from it and let it go stone cold before I approach it again.

I would apply the same principle to any piece of writing, whether poetry or prose and I wouldn't see that either one detracts from the other. In fact, writing poetry is probably very good exercise for saying what you want to say in a non-fiction piece that has to have a clearly defined word limit. In return, I often find that the clarity of thought and precision of imagery needed for a successful piece of prose can only have a favourable influence on whatever poem I might be working on. The two disciplines complement each other most of the time.

What advice do you have for new poets?
My advice to anyone beginning to write poetry would be:
1. I know it sounds obvious but if you are writing poetry, you have to read poetry. Read the journals, print and online, and you'll have the excitement of being struck by a poem by a particular poet and you'll remember the name the next time you come across it. You might even go out and buy a full collection by that poet. Poetry journals and publishers need all the support that the writing community can offer. If you are writing, don't forget that you are part of that community.
2. Join a good writing group or workshop. And don't switch off or shuffle pages when someone else's poem or story is under discussion. If you fully engage with the constructive criticism being offered, you'll learn more for your own work.
3. No matter how busy your life is try to set aside some time every day for yourself in which to write. Take control of some small corner in your home, then shut the door behind you and just get on with it.

What are your thoughts on the Kilkenny Poetry Broadsheet? Do you have any words of encouragement to those who might want to submit work?
I was delighted that when Niamh from Kilkenny County Council's Arts Office invited me to accept the role of Editor for this year's Kilkenny Poetry Broadsheet, she attached some PDFs of issues from previous years. A day or two later, a large brown envelope arrived filled with the actual physical copies of the Broadsheet, every issue a beautiful artefact in its own right, more than worthy of a large picture frame and some wall space. When I settled down to read the poems what struck me immediately was the sheer quality of the work, with such a wide range of poetic voices, and all emanating from one obviously very talented county.

To me, a poem is almost a tangible object, its very shape, how and where it sits itself down on a white page, is an integral part of its making. The combination of fine writing and equally fine design that is a hallmark of the Broadsheet, and the way in which both arts engage with and compliment each other, adds another level to this process and this can only be enormously enriching for the reader. The fact that the Broadsheet has such a devoted audience attests to this quality.

Reading the editions from previous years, I loved how each of the editors had come to the task with a completely fresh outlook. Just one of the Broadsheet's many strengths is that there is a different editor every year, and every editor looks at the submissions differently. The last point is one that anyone considering sending in a poem or poems should keep in mind! This could be your year.

Finally, I want to say how honoured I am to be following in the footsteps of all the distinguished poets who have worn the Editor's hat before me. I'm really looking forward to exploring all the submissions. During the course of reading through the previous Broadsheets, I encountered poets whose work I both know and respect, as well as poems by poets who were delightful revelations to me. There's nothing I like doing more than reading other people's work, so if you're out there even thinking about sending something in, go on, just go for it...

For more information and interviews with the Editor see Dedalus Press and


- Selection of Kilkenny Poetry Broadsheets
- Editor Enda Coyle-Greene

For further information contact:

Niamh Brophy

T: (056) 7794138
F: (056) 7794004

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