In our second interview of the week, we hear from Dublin based Canadian poet Dimitra Xidous.
How long have you been writing? I’ve been writing since my early teenage years, from the age of 14 or so. It coincided with my introduction to the poems of Leonard Cohen (As the mist leaves no scar) and Michael Ondaatje (The Cinnamon Peeler).
What was your first publication? My first publication was a poem called ‘Kitchen Eulogy’. It was included in an anthology called Words and Wonders. That said, I have always considered ‘Onions’, published in the Ottawa-based journal bywords.ca (in 2010), as the publication that pushed me to consider writing more, to work towards this idea that I could call myself a poet, and not choke on the word.
What have been the most significant developments, negative and positive if you like, in poetry in Ireland over the last few years? For only being in Ireland for the last two years or so, I am not sure I can really speak to this. What I will say is this: I decided to come here to commit myself to writing, to be serious about it. In some ways – for not knowing a soul for coming here – it was a bit of a mad thing to do, but for being here now, I would not have chosen any other place. There is something really exciting happening with writing in Ireland at the moment. A new breed. This is a vibrant place to be a writer. And I am not just speaking about Dublin. This energy, this new creativity spans the country, and this is significant for what’s to come in terms of the publication of some new and exciting voices, alongside some of the more established ones that are evolving, treading new ground with their work. The worst thing poetry can be is stale. While there will always be a bit of that, no matter how vibrant and exciting the literary climate happens to be, I would like to think that there is more of something fresh, and real, and provocative falling onto the pages – in fact, the latest issue of The Penny Dreadful (based in Cork) is full of really compelling pieces (Cal Doyle’s two poems, and the prose piece by Rob Doyle are standouts, in an issue packed with good, good stuff).
What do you think needs to happen, and what would you like to see happen, in Irish poetry over the next few years? As mentioned above, I think there is something really exciting happening with poetry in Ireland at the moment. At the hands of (for lack of a better word) lazy curation much of this may be lost. I’d like to see curators take the time to really showcase and capture some of the amazing writing happening at the moment. I’d like to see events/projects that, in presenting the work of poets/writers, considers the context in which this writing is taking place; I’d like to see more events where poetry does more than entertain (not a bad thing, but poetry is more than this).
As far as poetry itself is concerned – there is no bravery in it. Screw bravery. There is only honesty. Something that is honest will keep on vibrating, keep on being visceral, long after it has been written.
We often hear in Ireland of the pull from either Boston or Berlin: what do you think, are we European writers in the English language or are we wholly steeped in the Anglosphere? (Can this maybe be applied to Canada as well?) We’re Boston and beyond Boston; Berlin and beyond Berlin. We’re Beirut and Beijing and beyond that too. A writer’s identity is tied up in space and place, but not tied to it; it owes much to time, and language, and how a writer uses both; it is of the five senses, and it is built on the stuff of memory; in these and many other ways, a writer’s identity belongs not to one singular writing tradition, nor to any one country. We are too interconnected now, for any of us, singularly or together, to be an island of a certain tradition of writing. Put another way (and blame this on my love for writing that is visceral, and also as a nod to the fact that the actual act of writing itself is a physical thing): it (i.e. writing) is of the body , and it belongs to all the bodies, everywhere.
Finally, if you had to recommend one regular poetry event in Ireland to someone, what would it be? LOQ is a monthly poetry/spoken word/ hip hop showcase in Dublin. Run by Andre K’Por, it takes place on the first Thursday of the month in the basement of Sweeney’s on Dame Street. The event begins with ‘traditional’ poetry and moves through to spoken word, and then finally to hip hop. It is well-curated and consistently good – and you get to see the best of all worlds, as far as the world of the word is concerned.
I’d also like to mention “Working Artists’ Studios”, based in Skibbereen. The organizers hosted a poetry marathon, as part of the Skibbereen Arts Festival during the summer and it was absolutely gorgeous. The space is wonderful and the event itself was as true a celebration of poetry as I’ve experienced. Well worth the trip, in every way.
Dimitra Xidous is a Greek-Canadian writer and poet whose work has appeared in Bare Hands Poetry, Poetry Bus, The Dalhousie Review, bywords.ca, Bywords Quarterly Journal, Room, and wordlegs. Her poetry has been included in the Bare Hands Anthology (2012), and Words and Wonders: A Guelph-area Anthology (2001). In 2011, she was long-listed for the Montreal International Poetry Prize. Originally from Ottawa, Canada, she is currently living in Dublin, Ireland where she curates The Ash Sessions readings in Ranelagh. She blogs at http://dublinyduende.wordpress.com/