By Mary Dennehy
A LOCAL writer is changing the script when it comes to the written word, and is staging the area’s first regular open-mic night for poetry and prose writers in the County Library, Tallaght.
Kenneth Nolan, who grew up in Killinarden and Tymon North and now lives in Blanchardstown, started writing poetry five years ago when the economic downturn saw him return to college due to a lack of jobs opportunities.
Now, Kenneth, who is an award-winning poet, is hosting monthly, written word sessions in the County Library – which he hopes will provide a platform and support outlet for local writers.
Called the Merg Sessions, after his cat called Merg, who Kenneth believes is the real brains behind the operation, the monthly event took to the library last Saturday – with the next session being staged on September 10.
Kenneth took five to speak with his local paper.
Do you remember what your first poem was about?
The first poem I ever wrote is called ‘Clarence’. To be honest, it’s crap. As most poets early efforts are. It’s an ode to Mangan, inspired by one of his great poems ‘Twenty Golden Years Ago’.
There is a Bust in Stephens Green Park in honour of Mangan. ‘Clarence’ is about an imaginary meeting I have with Mangan, at that spot. In the poem we chat for a bit, and I reassure him that his work will not be forgotten. I have the third stanza of ‘Clarence’ tattooed on my arm for inspiration.
How important was writing this poem for you in growing into a poet?
That poem is the first ‘mental’ step I took in my (ongoing) quest to become a serious writer, and it reminds me of why I started to write poems in the first place. I often go and sit by the Mangan-Bust in Stephens Green Park, in search of inspiration.
I have done this ever since I borrowed that book of Mangan poems from the library. It is a very special place for me. It is the place where I proposed to my wife.
What inspires your poetry?
My poems are very much about my own life, my experiences, and the world from my perspective. Sentences or lines come to my mind, I write them down and they might sit in my notebook for months, until a particular emotion, image, experience, or memory comes along, that fits with a line, and a poem is built from there.
Subjects include love, mental health, dreams, childhood etc. I feel very much at odds with Ireland, and being Irish, this often comes out in my poetry and my work in general.
Has writing changed your life?
Writing has changed my life entirely. It has given me a sense of direction, a sense of purpose.
Last time we spoke you were working on your first full-length play, how’s that coming along?
Yes, we spoke around the time my radio play ‘The Twang Man’ was broadcast. The stage version is not completed yet. It is ‘my baby’, so to speak, and I’m very precious about it. I hope to get back to work on it soon. The radio play is on my Soundcloud site, it’s called Kenneth Nolan Writer. I have two other plays in the works. One is about Dublin’s homelessness crisis, the other is about the death of Mangan in 1849.
Tell us a little about the Merg Sessions?
I was given the opportunity by Tallaght Library at the start of this year, to setup a poetry event. The hope is to get the people in the local community and surrounding area, interested in poetry and the written word.
Merg is my cat, and the idea is that she is the brains behind the operation, she organises the event, books the poets, and does all the nitty-gritty work behind the scenes that makes the gig happen.
It is her gig, she has actually helped me answer the questions for this interview. Funny thing is, she never actually turns up on the day of the event. There is always some other pressing engagement that takes her away at the last minute.
How are the sessions going so far?
We have had five ‘Mergs’ so far this year, and they have gone very well. It is an advance-sign up open mic, dedicated to giving a regular platform to poets and prose writers. I have been a regular on the open-mic scene in Dublin, and found that a lot of them are dominated by musicians. So, I wanted to setup something just for poets. Also, I grew up in Tallaght and am very proud of being from there. My ambition is to grow ‘The Merg Sessions’ to a point where it is a main-stay of the Dublin literary event calendar and synonymous with Tallaght.
How well is poetry received by members of the public?
I have found that a lot of the general public, have an aversion to poetry, they consider poetry to be the realm of intellectuals only. They see poets to be a snooty, pretentious lot with notions above their station. This in my opinion comes from the legacy of the chronically over-appreciated, literary demigods of the past, like Joyce and Yeats.
And that pressure of having to learn a poem you don’t like, off by heart for your leaving cert. The other extreme, is the notion that poetry is what you find already written on a birthday card when you buy it. The truth is, poetry is for everybody. It doesn’t have to be austere and overly-serious.
At the ‘Merg Sessions’, I have been delighted to have some extremely talent poets take part. Some published and well respected poets. I have been lucky to have the regular support of people like; Rob Buchanan, Alice Kinsella, Mervyn Ennis, Michael J. Whelan, Eamon Mag Uidhir, Natasha Helen Crudden, Bob Shakeshaft to name but a few.
Any tips for people who would like to start writing poetry or gain the confidence to read their work to others?
If you are starting out writing poetry, ‘The Merg Sessions’ is a good place to come, and see what your work sounds like when read in front of an appreciative audience.
A good place to meet and mingle with people who have been writing for years, and are very dedicated to their craft. You don’t have to be a poet to come to the ‘Merg Sessions’, if you just want to come a long and enjoy an afternoon of entertainment you are more than welcome.
It is a free event. The next one is happening on Saturday, September 10. Then we will have a further two events this year on October 8 and November 12th.
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