Ger Reidy was born near Westport, Co. Mayo. He has won a number of national poetry competitions and has been the recipient of a number of Arts Council bursaries and residencies. His first collection Pictures from a Reservation was published by Dedalus Press and is now in its second edition. His third collection Before Rain is shortlisted for The Pigott Poetry Prize 2015 in association with Listowel Writers’ Week.
Q. How important are poetry awards for poets?
A. Some acknowledgement is important. It makes you feel you are not writing into the dark. It means somebody must have forensically read your work. I haven’t received many awards, so being shortlisted for the Pigott Poetry Award gives me a great spring in the step.
Q. What do you think the role of the poet is in the 21st century?
A. The same role as it always has been – to catch something invisible spinning in mid air and give it a name; to stand outside society and lift a mirror up to it now and again; to be faithful to whatever is bestowed.
Q. How well is poetry doing at the moment in Ireland?
A. Good if you don’t expect to get paid but better than most countries, as we have a great tradition to write into. Bad in the context of publications and bookshops closing. Larkin always said he got paid for being a librarian. He never trusted poetry to give him a living, only acknowledgement.
Q. Why do you think poetry has survived?
A. All we have is words to relate to one another in the context of the common interaction. While people use words they will always want to use them to the best of their ability and in the most economic way; distilling language down to its ordered minimum. When our worlds move seismically the poet is still wheeled out to put words on an event before it becomes history.
Q. What do you think is the most important technique in the writing of poetry?
A. I think it’s important that technique doesn’t show and get in the way of meaning. Rhythm is important. I like to keep a poem below twenty lines usually, unless I need a group of images to drive the theme. I tend to paint the backdrop to which the figurines in the foreground must dance to.
Q. What advice would you give to a poet just starting out?
A. Observe, read, listen to music, visit art galleries, see certain movies, engage with life at all levels. Kavanagh said a poet at twenty is a young man, a poet at forty is a poet. The mind, like a parachute, doesn’t work unless it is open.
Q. Who were your literary influences growing up?
A. There were books in our house growing up – the yellow pages and the white pages. At school, Kavanagh and O’Flaherty, Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd, Buddy Guy and Rory Gallagher. Chopin was the first poet I heard – he put music to the melancholy.
Q.Do you have an all time favourite poem or poet?
A. Larkin, Mahon, Kavanagh, McNeice and Dermot Healy.
Q. You have also written a number of short stories. Are you planning any more? What are you currently working on?
A. I’m working on getting a collection of short stories published. My mind is open as always for poems and new stories.
Q. Have you been to Listowel Writers’ Week before? What were your impressions? What are you most looking forward to this year?
A. I’ve been to Listowel a few times and did a Workshop with Thomas McCarthy. I’ve always enjoyed the friendly atmosphere, the professional management of the festival and its compact and intimate venues. I’m looking forward to almost everything on the programme this year!