Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Second Chance

I’ve been working on my second collection of poetry for the past nine months or so. I started off with some fifty poems that I felt were worthy of inclusion. Since then I’ve been reworking poems, repositioning poems, removing poems and including new ones. This has been a developmental process, with each new iteration of the collection appearing satisfactory, until I got started on the next revision. In search of some external perspective, I also submitted selections from the collection to pamphlet competitions. I’m pleased to say that I’ve been shortlisted for the Overton Poetry Prize (judges’ report below) and longlisted by Eyewear.

My first collection of poetry was published in November 2010. But on Good Friday 2011 I was diagnosed with cancer. From my hospital bed in Belfast I was forced to cancel all the dates of my reading tour of Ireland and England. After I left hospital I didn’t write any poetry for several years. But I was writing regularly, in the form of this blog which focused on my condition and treatment. Around five years ago I did begin to write poetry again. And despite the cancer recurrences and the series of major operations, I’ve kept this up. Understandably, the tone and style of my poetry has changed. Although, the one area of experience I’ve not chosen to write poetry about is cancer.

Over the past eight years, the poetry publishing scene has changed significantly. Lagan Press, the publisher of my first collection, do not publish single-author poetry collections anymore, so I have needed to find a new home for my work. Unwisely, I submitted an early draft of my second collection to several publishers. This was premature and they did not choose to take it. The content, shape and tone of the collection has changed significantly since then. I am much more confident of my collection now, particularly given the extremely positive feedback I received from the judges of the Overton Poetry Prize.

Judges’ Report
‘Very accomplished writing throughout, with lots of stories and characters.  All the poems were strong, but there were some poems, and individual lines or stanzas that we felt stood out: in Hermit, for example, the final stanza is brilliant – ‘The whin creaks, / my furrows are bare, / let thistles come.’ while ‘our times are as hard as the frost’ seems absolutely the right voice for the lapper.  Despite the dark and difficult subject matter of some of the poems, the level of detail and choice of imagery makes the collection compelling.