Thursday, January 28, 2010

On The Road With Nuala

On the road with Nuala Ní Chonchúir.
Here's the second poem from her collection Portrait of the Artist with a Red Car I chose it, not because it's my favourite ( that's 'Dancing with Paul Durcan') but because it has great power audacity and brutal honesty that is almost shocking, a real hit of Espresso that wakens you up to the journey and treat that is to follow.


I lied to my husband
and the lie lay like ashes
dry-burning my tongue,
and my tongue was like
Judas, going over to
the wrong side,
and the wrong side
was like joy-it was joy-
and I had to linger there,
like a woman split in half.
So I lingered long there
like a harem-bound girl,
and,in the end, the wrong side
became the right side,
and my true joy.

Well it’s a beautiful day here and top writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir is here in her (imaginary) Red Mini Cooper. We’re going to be going for a scenic drive and talking about the world of women’s poetry and her lovely new book Portrait of the Artist with a Red Car, a book I’ve read and really enjoyed Follow us up the road in your own car. We’ll have a picnic at The Mottee stone just outside Avoca (Ballykissangel) Co. Wicklow. Cook has prepared a champagne hamper for every guest and Jimmy the Butler will take us back to the castle for the night in the helicopter, so don’t worry about drinking and driving. You’ll all be ferried back to your cars in the morning. It was a tough choice of car for me but the precondition of it being red narrowed it down a bit, I plumped for my 1995 McLaren F1 GTR over the ’62 Ferrari GTO by virtue of the extra seat in the F1 for the champers. Anyways run what ya brung and meet us at the Mottee.
Hello Nuala and you are most welcome to The Peeps Republo D’EEjit.

Thanks TFE, for having me over to yours. I feel like I should be singing; ‘On the road again la la la...’ Must be the thought of the Bolly going to my head.

I really liked reading your latest poetry collection ‘Portrait of the Artist with a Red Car’ It was beautiful and raw and honest and sad and shocking and sensuous and euphoric. Clearly the title is some kind of nod or kick towards Joyce, yet women get very little recognition in the pantheon of Irish literature, perhaps Edna O’Brien being the closest to acceptance. And yet for me women seem to be blazing a trail of late, particularly in poetry, and in England Carol Ann Duffy has been made the first female poet laureate. I feel things have changed, I hope things have changed. Is this the case and how easy is it to be a full time writer and a full time woman?

I’m glad you enjoyed the poems, TFE.
I think things have changed in ways – more women are now being published – but also that the patriarchy we still live under means women are up against it more than men in pretty much every area. Men’s writing is used as the yardstick for ‘real’ writing often. It’s totally irritating. But women are making their mark – we are getting more determined!
Being a full time writer is the fulfilment of my dream and I love it. I got tons written when I just had my two boys but since the arrival of my baby daughter last May I get less and less done. Luckily between last and this year, 4 books I have written since 2003 are being published. So the pressure is off me to produce work and I am in a promotional phase. That’s easier when also trying to juggle 3 kids and family life. The actual writing takes a lot of quiet time and I don’t have that just now.
As regards Carol Ann, she is the first female poet laureate in its 400 year history. It’s great but it’s taken a hell of a long time despite there having been legions of fantastic women poets across the centuries.
I wasn’t thinking of Joyce when I chose the title of the title poem, rather an anecdote told to me about Brian Bourke’s painting ‘Self-Portrait with Red Ear’ being misheard by Bob Quinn as ‘Self-Portrait with Red Car’. Convoluted, I know...For even less clarity see here:

The term ‘Confessional poetry’ has of late been used as a sniffy term of disdain and yet for me so called confessional poetry is the only poetry of any real value. How do you feel about this?

Maybe the sniffy people have no hearts! Or no self-awareness. Or maybe they didn’t get enough love in their childhoods...
God, who is anyone to dictate to another poet what they should or should not write about? I get totally peed off with old codgers banging on about how we all should be writing political poetry. Being a woman writer in the world today is political – you have to fight your corner. Many of my poems are completely political because they are from a feminist perspective. Old codgers tend to hate when I say that too!
I love all kinds of poetry: the overtly political, the cruel, the confessional, the historical narrative, the formal, the free. It just so happens that my poetry is born very much of my personal life. My fiction comes from a very different place – a place where I am free to invent and imagine.
Give me a heartfelt, moving poem about broken love from a man or a woman and I will probably prefer it to one where the narrator is distant from the events/he is describing.

You are a very prolific and hard working writer, Nuala, including doing reviews, writing short stories and poetry, and a soon-to-be-released novel. By dint of this, you have attained a level of prominence and regard and were one of the prestigious Irish Times people to watch in 2009. You’ve managed all this while remaining grounded and approachable. Does having a young family help in this regard and do you feel the weight of expectation on your shoulders? Does this affect the way you write and what are your (literary) hopes and dreams?

First and foremost I am a Mammy and partner because my kids are young. The bulk of my day is spent cooking, minding kids, doing school runs, tidying (har har – I do very little) etc etc. I chose to have my kids, so I am not moaning.
Writing is an extension of my personality – I couldn’t go on without it and my brain is always in writing mode. I grab writing time when and where I can. I was complaining to my Ma recently about not having proper time to write anymore and she said ‘Why not give it up for a while?’ I was fuming. She might as well have told me not to breathe.
I don’t feel any weight of expectation – I don’t think many people know me really. There is only room in the media for a handful of well-known writers at a time in Ireland and I’m not one of them.
The only one weighing me down is me; I am very hard on myself and I work a lot because I want my writing to get better and better.
Literary hopes and dreams? I’d love a good critical and audience reception for my first novel You, due out in April. I’d love to get a windfall so I could buy a few hours a week in a crèche for Baby. I’d like to earn at least the minimum wage from writing so I could stop worrying about money. I’d love a dynamic agent – if any are reading, contact me!

TFE, thanks so much for having me here today. The champers has gone straight to my head so I am going for a little lie down in the grass over there. Wake me when the helicopter comes!--
No problo Nuala and thanks a million for including the castle on your 'Portrait' tour.You are the perfect guest and are welcome back anytime.I enjoyed your answers and was amazed how quickly, easily and naturally you came up with them.I love your book and wish you every success with it and all your future literary endeavours.Pip pip!
And now more hooleyness! Startng with....

Niamh (Espresso to go) Bagnell, radio star/writer/performance poet,has hers up already, so come on!

Dom (Rip it up)Rivron's roaring and rearing to go!

Undeluded ( all singing) Argent

Peter(Looking out for the Gards) Goulding

Swiss( There's nothing cheesy about me) er, Swiss

and more here..

(Shh! It's a secret) Karen

Kat (I got the cream) Mortensen AKA Poetikat

Willow's got the bug

(Where old cars go to die) Junkthief

Jeanne (Chirpy Jeep Jeep) Lakatos

(Blast from the past )Pure Fiction


Where would we be without) Rachel Fox
Not only a written poem

but also our first entertainer! Yippeee!

(Call the fire brigade it's )Heather


(The Ton-up Queen) Weaver

(Those rascally) Watercats

(Sparkey) ArtSparker

(N'oubliez pas D'oub) Domestic Oubliette

But from now on there will be no stopping THe POetry Bus.Poems every Monday and a printed magazine of the best poems 3 possibly 4 times per year. You KNOW it makes sense VOTE BUS!

In the meantime, see what all the fuss is about

Portrait of the Artist with a Red Car
it's a great book buy it here....

Or win a signed copy (two to be won) posted to anywhere on the globe with a letterbox, by posting a comment in me comments box for to be entered into a giant Tombola lottery draw type thing.Try and put RED CAR in yer comment but I know a lot of ye can't manage that, so I'll figures out if ye want in.

Live long and prosper, people of Earth.


Kat Mortensen said...

I so enjoyed this interview, TFE and Nuala. I am greatly encouraged by your words,
"God, who is anyone to dictate to another poet what they should or should not write about?"
and this:
"It just so happens that my poetry is born very much of my personal life."
Hear! Hear!
I often feel when I'm writing that I'm putting far too much of myself in there and worry that readers are thinking, "What's she on about now?" I can't write any differently. I have to write what I feel and a good portion of the time, it IS about me.

I really enjoyed the piece that Rachel Fox did on you, Nuala and the poem Menses was fantastic!

I'm looking forward to this party. I'll stay away from the helicopter if you don't mind. I'm just reading, "Black Hawk Down".

See you on the 'morrow.


Karen said...

Thank you, Nuala and Eejit, for the great interview. Nuala, I enjoyed reading your views on balancing writing and motherhood and the challenges females still endure, and I wish you much success with the novel. It seems you're on your way as a recognized poet, and it's well deserved.

TFE, thanks for reviving the bus and for acquainting me with this talented poet!

ArtSparker said...

I had to smile about the conversation with the mother. Mothers and artists...especially when the artist is a daughter, it's like people from different planets trying to communicate, there's hardly a common language.

Rachel Fenton said...

Every poem in this collection spoke to me and seared my heart - resonated with some part of my experience, in life and as a woman.

Great questions and interesting perspective insight, TFE - and super answers, Nuala.

On a side note - Carol Ann may be the first Brit poet laureate but we have ladies of poetical prominence a plenty in NZ! (Well, two I can think off off the top of my head...erm...)

The Weaver of Grass said...

I love the way you came by the title of the book, Nuala - and I love that poem Turning.

When you think about it, women have come a long way in the last - say - fifty years. To be able to write a poem like that as a celebration. I do agree that our first woman P.L. has advanced the cause of womens' poetry too.

Have a lovely party. I shall arrive later on the back of that motor bike. In the meantime TFE - please add my 'poem' to the list of contributors - sorry it is a bit late. Have a wonderful day.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Sorry guys, but the best thing ever written about a car is "Autophilia: or how i learned to stop worrying and love my car" by The Bluetones. A massively underrated band who deserve more recognition.

Elisabeth said...

I loved listening to the interview, being in the audience and sniffing the fumes from the car and the bus on this glorious expedition.

I wish I were a poet, but I'm not. At least I can still enjoy the poetry and the ambience. Hip hip hooray.

Rachel Fox said...

'My brain is always in writing mode'...yes, I know that feeling. It's wonderful but kind of tiring when mixed with family life and all that. Plus you always worry a little about whether you're giving the family all the attention you might...

I also know what you mean Nuala about feeling there is not room for you in your country (or anywhere) to be a writer because all the places available seem to be taken. But if you are really good (and you are really good) you will get your place yet, I'm sure. I think you are probably closer to that place than it feels some of the time.

I don't think an agent could find a client with more potential than you really.


Kar said...

Delicious poetry picnic, TFE you put on a great spread!
And thanks for sharing, another wonderful interview.
I love this poem its one of my favourites, very raw. The Paul Durcan one I loved too kinda sexy!
No need to include me in the draw I already have this and I highly recommend it, it leaves you longing for more.

Pure Fiction said...

Nice questions, TFE, and I love Nuala's answers for their honesty and lack of pretension. It's good to know she struggles just like the rest of us with trying to find the time to write between making enough money to live on and spending time with your family.

Now, any more of that champagne going?

Liz said...

Just popped in for a mo, for a quick read and a glimpse of the champers but will return for further 'hooliness' later...great insights TFE and Nuala, well done on doing it 'your way' Nuala,...the only way, really...back later...zzzzzzzzzzoom

Moira said...

Eeej, please include me in the tombola lottery type thing, if I'm not too late and if I win a prize (holding thumbs) I'll drive to Port Louis in my red car to collect my parcel at the post office.

Group 8 said...

Thanks to all for reading and for the car poems and for really nice comments. TFE you're the host with the most. CHeers! Hic! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Nuala x

Batteson.Ind said...

fabulous interview mr eejit! We failed to get a youtube vid up for this one, but have come up with a bit of waffle.
Nuala sounds like such a down to earth honest poet, I hope she gets what she rightly deserves (loads of money and fortune doing what she loves)..
there's no better way to earn your bRED AND BUTcar... (FAIL!)

Kat Mortensen said...

Would just like to say that we had to leave Bertie behind as he's got the mumps. (He really is a miserable git when he's sick.) So Jeeves and I are enjoying tooling along through the Wicklow Hills in the RED Porsche 9-11 convertible. It's a bit drafty since the weather's not exactly convertible-friendly, but I have my big beaver-hat on (left over from the 60s, PETA!)so my head's warm enough. Jeeves's bowler remains affixed to his head but they may be because he's flying at warp speed and the tunnel he's creating has somehow allowed it to stay put!

We're bring some Aquavit (just to see how you really can hold your liquor, TFE) and a big pot of my lentil curry. (Should be a bang-up party!)

Ta ta for now!

Kat and Jeeves.

Jeeves! Watch out for that sheep!
(That was a close one. Who knew sheep could fly?)

The Weaver of Grass said...

Delicious food, lovely champagne, fantastic motorbike ride, incredible singing by Christy Moore, beautiful company. Can't say any more as I have run out of adjectives (and in any case, these leathers are a bit on the tight side - rather like corsets - I can't wait to get them off.

Kat Mortensen said...

Check this out:

swiss said...

definitely one of the better interviews i've read of recent. i can't imagine juggling writing with kids, or even a life with lots of kids in it! that's a neat trick!

i loved dry-burning....

tfe, nice one, and some red car prose....

Niamh B said...

Great interview TFE - Nuala is an inspiration for writers and women everywhere!

Tess Kincaid said...

This was so much fun! Loved hanging out with you and Nuala. Super-duper interview. Eej, will you mix me up another one of those drambuie drinks?

(pick me, oh please pick me for the drawing!!)

Domestic Oub said...

Gasping, out of breath, have hopped on the bus at the last moment...

Titus said...

Oh, that was great read, and I felt like I was just sat back and eavesdropping on the most fabulous conversation between two friends. It was relaxed and so honest - particularly interesting for me in the juggling children and writing discussions. And the comments on "Confessional Poetry".
Just a joy to read, and lovely fellow travellers as always.
Cheers TFE; and Nuala, the best of luck with those dreams.

Dr. Jeanne Iris said...

Hey TFE! I've just pulled up beside ye in my Cherries Jubilee (RED JEEP!) I'd love to win a copy of this book, so just go ahead and send it to me! : )

WONDERFUL interview, Nuala and TiFfEe! We were just discussing a similar topic of women and recognition in the arts as well as history in my Women's Studies class, so I'll send the students over here to have a looksee next week.

wv: guitesse: When one has a cold in the nose, the beer of choice is 'guitesse.'

Karen said...

Thanks for the introduction to Nuala's work. I went to her website and read first lines of her short stories - incredible work. I'm always hooked by first lines, and she did it with every one.

Thank you, TFE!

Nora Nadjarian said...

can i be included in the lottery thing?? it is saturday 30th january 2010, the time is 16:48. i'm sitting in my living room in nicosia on a horridly grey and dusty day, dreaming of better things. i think that poetry book might be one of the better things i'm waiting for ;-)
PS i love your blog

Nora Nadjarian said...

can i be included in that lottery thing? i'm sitting in my living room in nicosia on 30th January 2010 -a horridly grey and dusty day- dreaming of better things. i think that poetry book might be just what i'm waiting for...;-)
PS i love your blog

Nora Nadjarian said...

oh, sorry!
i've just realized i've probably posted the same message twice or maybe three times. i didn't realize the messages were being saved for approval...

Heather said...

All the best to Nuala for her future works. I am full of admiration that she manages to be a Mum and writer too. Your interview with her was fascinating.

Unknown said...

Brilliant interview and tis all true what she says - and her poems are fab!