Cal Doyle

Our final interview this week is with Cork writer Cal Doyle.

How long have you been writing? A few years in reality, but perhaps half my life in a more unreal, messier sense.

What was your first publication? An essay on Dr. Octagon’s first album Dr. Octagonecologest. It had to do with rap music and identity. This would have been in a skateboarding fanzine in the mid ’00s, Boggin’ or Aul Pups. My first poem was probably around 2010 or thereabouts, it’s an awful poem—I’ve done my best to erase it from my memory.

What have been the most significant developments, negative and positive if you like, in poetry in Ireland over the last 10 years or so? I don’t know to be honest. I have approximately zero comprehension of what poetry (or ‘the community’) was like here ten years ago. I am however of the received understanding that an exponential increase in the availability of workshops and CW programmes has had an affect on poetry and poetics in particular. I’m also willing to assert that the widespread availability of high-speed broadband since ’05 or so has had a massive impact. The internet changes everything—poetry is certainly not immune to that, and if you think otherwise, you belong beneath a large, flat stone.

What do you think needs to happen, and what would you like to see happen, in Irish poetry over the next few years? For poets to actually be good at poetry. This is a major issue. The amount of mediocrity passed off and hailed as ‘good’ literature in this country is mind boggling. It’s a particular problem in poetry. Less of it has to be published. That’s it exactly: I’d like to see less poetry published in Ireland, because about 70% of it is utter shite; worthless, artless. Combined with the whole ‘positivity’ vibe among the younger generation of writers, it makes me feel kind of ill. I almost threw up recently in a bar with some writer friends who were discussing, no, gushing over a poet and one poem in particular; a poem that is utterly incompetent, megalomaniacal and clichéd all at the same time. But one has to bite their tongue in such situations: there is no room for dissent, or in this particular case, basic common sense. This needs to be addressed. If one smells bullshit, then one should be free to say ‘I smell bullshit’ without fear of being alienated from the wider community. And of course this bullshit only exists because of dubious editorial practises at various journals—these editors publish bad poems and writers see the bad poems and reproduce them ad nauseam, then they build up a minor reputation, publish a collection with an imprint that churns out book after book, poet after poet, then they get a job teaching impressionable young people how to write bad poems. And it continues. Poetry is rotten to the core and it bores me to tears. I would like to see the exact opposite of what Irish poetry is now to happen in the next few years. The only interesting thing happening in Irish poetry right now is all those men publishing poems online using female identities with very alluring and ‘sexy’ avatars. Now that’s poetry.

Boston or Berlin: are we European writers in the English language or are we wholly steeped in the Anglosphere? Not even. We are steeped in the nowhere sphere.Finally, if you had to recommend one regular poetry event in Ireland to someone, what would it be? O’Bheal in Cork. The Ash Sessions in Dublin.Cal Doyle’s poem Lines for John Berryman appeared in issue #3 of the Burning Bush 2.