Breda Wall Ryan

Award winning poet Breda Wall Ryan attended the 5GA festival last year and read her work at The Castle Cottage Repertoire. This week, we are lucky to be speaking with her and getting some insight into the mind of this remarkable poet.  Her new collection of poetry, ‘In a Hare’s Eye’ is available now from Doire Press.

in a hares eye breda wall ryan

 

We’d love to know what fires your imagination Breda, what things take your breath away?  I’m always amazed to discover more of the patterns underpinning everything in the universe – the human psyche, genetics, the natural world.  Seeing fractals in a frost-fern or a coastline, global warming recurring over millennia, familial traits being replicated over several generation; that’s magical. It’s probably one of the reasons I’m drawn to poetry with its many incidents of pattern.  Can you remember the first poem you wrote and how old were you? My closest friend says I wrote in my late teens or twenties. I don’t remember it and she can’t find it, for which let us all be truly thankful.

What was your first published poem and in which publication did it appear? As far as I remember, ‘Folk Remedy’ and ‘The Snow Woman’ were my first. Shortlisted for a Mslexia Poetry Prize, they appeared in Mslexia. Both Vicki Feaver’s judge’s comments and the cheque in payment were very affirming.  Are there any poets you return to over and over? There are so many! I always carry at least two collections of poetry. Some of my favourite ‘Elder Poets’ are Elizabeth Bishop, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Ada Limon, Dorrian Laux, Valzhyna Mort, WS Merwin, Dennis O’Driscoll, Paula Meehan, Thomas McCarthy, Denise Levertov. I won’t name the emerging and mid-career poets whose work I return to, for fear of leaving one out.  With regard to approaching your practice, are you consistent and disciplined, do you ever get writers block? I’m consistent in that I think and read a lot, or rather, read and think. I always carry a notebook and jot down phrases and images as they occur to me. When it comes to getting down to work, I’m a binge writer. I don’t begin until I’ve accumulated masses of material – facts, fragments, lines, etc. Questions, too. The poem arrives then, ready to begin. I draft and re-draft until I have something I’m happy to call a first draft, which I type up on the computer. I usually have five or six poems-in-progress. Some takes weeks, months or even years to finish. That may sound like a chaotic approach, but I think it’s disciplined. Of course I get writer’s block. Who doesn’t? It’s a fancy expression for anxiety. Writer’s block is like rain. I know it will end, but this is Ireland so it can go on for a long time. Never mind. I think of it as reading time. Then, out of the blue – or the reading – a fragment of a new poem arrives, ready for me to begin again.  Do you have a favourite place to write?  I love to write on the train, with just pen and paper. The space is so bright and uncluttered, with its tiny drop-down table and voices and engine sounds in the background. I also have a desk with far too much ‘stuff’ on it, where I work on my laptop.  Do you have any superstitions?  I have to wear warm socks when I write – no, I’m not at all superstitious, I just hate having cold feet.  Have you ever been surprised by your writing?  Yes. I’m sure it happens to every poet and to fiction writers, too. Often a poem begins as one thing, and develops in a quite different direction. Often, the beginning is simply finding one’s way into the poem. Given free reign, the imagination and the poem can take a strange direction. Do you have a muse, could you describe it?  I could, but I won’t for fear of hexing it! I’ll say solitude is important, if I drift down into my unconscious, my inspiration will find me. How did you become a poet?  I didn’t begin seriously writing until I had passed the half-century point. For the first five or six years, I concentrated on fiction. Later, I spent time in hospital where I was given strong painkillers, which affected my memory. I had a notebook to write down things I needed to remember. When I had recovered I looked through the notebook and found lots of fragments of poems which I had no recollection of writing. I thought, maybe this is what I’m meant to do. So, in 2008, I began learning my craft.  Creatively, who is your support group? I’m a founder member of both Hibernian Poetry and Green Kite Writers. We read each other’s work closely and rigorously, and I find the generous criticism and support of both groups invaluable.

 


Dreamless
A million crawling things run spiderwise
inside her skin, her skeleton is glass,
she needs another hit, and fast,

her skin is needle-tracked, she works
the street for heroin to stop the spiderlings,
she does a punter in a dash against a fence

and scores a thirty-second rush,
glass splinters in her veins fuse
into a waterfall of raindrops,

magic light spills from her fingertips,
she’s blissed out, dreaming weightless while
the good brown horse outruns her dream,

she’s goofing now, slumped outside a church,
between her knees a paper cup she holds out
like a sacred heart to passers-by,

small change spills through her fingertips
but not enough, another stranger in a car
earns her more dreams, she sucks her tongue

for spit to swallow fear, swears
on the Sacred Heart that she’ll get clean,
then mugs the punter with a syringe,

again the spiderlings criss-cross her skin
and crawl inside her arm-tracks,
two blow-jobs on her knees to get a high,

she cooks the gear, a bag of china white,
loads up a syringe, smacks a vein, ties off
and hits; her hopes are answered with amen,

the dragon’s knocked brown sugar girl
off her horse, the fall has sucked out
all her breath, her eyes are pinned,

she feels no crawly things, she has no skin,
her bones are glass, her heartbeats trickle
from her fingertips like raindrops when

the rain’s about to stop…

— Breda Wall Ryan

 

You can read more of Bredas poems here and here

Bredas facebook

 

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