5 poems & interview from Damien Donnelly in Fevers of the Mind Press Presents the Poets of 2020

Illusion Swims Over an Empty Pool

Feet swing above a blue tiled wall of a piscine / sans l’eau
as if the world has cried up all the water on the planet.

I rest my head on your shoulder and you lean in /to my support
as if we were both armbands to each other.

Somewhere behind a day I made into a memory / in my mind
you fake swim in that pool of dried tile / cracked sunshine

and our laughter reverberates between the stain at the bottom
and the gulls flying overhead / in circling sways

in case we chose to be bait for their beak.

Behind us / a taxi rides away / and we are left to decipher
how life drowned in that place / sans rêve.

Sometimes we sleep to dream / other times we slip our feet
into the emptiness / to dream of what we might have found

in its place.

Feet swing above a blue tiled wall of a piscine / sans l’eau
et on ferme les yeux / to lean into that which isn’t really there.

At Least in a Cup of Coffee We can Hold a Caramel of Comfort

In the kitchen / breaking noise before dawn
you grind grains into something more sippable,
stilled / under a shadow of something unsettling,

I shift position / too naturally / while still snoozing,
setting my sleeping skin into that soft spot
your body has since shed

as your tongue lets the caramel of coffee
tingle across taste buds / slowly changing

in that kitchen / swallowing simple warm things
in the morning / before day comes to choke us.

Knowing how Long to Leave Wool in the Water

Spring has left us shy.

We flirted like sheep / cute / clumsy
constantly caught before coming / folding a season into forever.

Words come / cumbersome
you can only swallow so much of a wave of seductive / before you drown.

Sheep don’t swim / wool doesn’t do well in hot water.
Be careful with the laundry.

Spring has left us shy.

We never unfolded another season / no more flock to the flirt,
you do / or you die / the tide isn’t ours to play with.

Sink / swim / shrink /drown / and I was never good at lengths
length of time / length of hold / length of hope.

Sheep need a shepherd / or get washed away.

The Dissolving of Emptiness

I lay down this lake of loss / hope for soil to soak up sorrow,
by side sedge / wedge myself up / all this waste,
bury what turned base at the bottom / this bed
no longer silken sheets / but sludge / to be swept

under / asunder

I lay down this lake / this lough of loss / lost,
waiting for the tide to wash over /the emptiness to dissolve,
waiting for time to refine me / re-find me as buoyant

in place of broken.

An Interview with Damien Donnelly

  1. Please describe your latest book, what about your book will intrigue the readers the most, and what is the theme/mood?

Damien: There is certainly a flow of connecting colours throughout the collection; rickety reds, shades of blue, scarlet rising, grazing greens, purples clouds and cerulean skies. I like painting as a pastime so that often trickles out through the pen. I love wandering around galleries to see the tales painters captured on canvases and wondering how to capture them onto pages. Black is only shadow is a line that comes up more than once in the collection and I think that is where its identity lies, an acceptance of the darkness and a hope that it will not be forever, a line chanted like a mantra to get through to the next burst of light. The collection is not necessarily about easy moments in life but I hope the reader can appreciate the rise after each fall.

2. What frame of mind and ideas lead to you writing your current book?

Damien: I had my first panic attack a few years ago and many of the poems in this book stem from that, looking for ways of remaining light and bright and bouncy while accepting, concurrently, that state of anxiety, fear and sometimes loss. I was searching for balance, we cannot always remove the darkness or the weight or the panic and so I wanted to find a way to hold both at the same time so there was not always a fight between the two but an acknowledgement of each other.

3. How old were you when you first have become serious about your writing, do you feel your work is always adapting?

Damien: I wrote when I was a kid, a cathartic release before I knew there were people called therapists. But I had a dream of being a fashion designer from a young age and therefore the attention was always focused on a degree in fashion and a life in the industry which overshadowed the writing, even though it was always there. When I moved from London to Amsterdam in 2006, I began to focus more on writing and that was when I started my blog deuxiemepeaupoetry.com, a combination of poetry and photography. I think there was something about the ease of life in Amsterdam that made it possible to do more than one thing in a day, London, for me, was far too demanding for that. A few years later, my grandmother passed away and I was asked to write and deliver her eulogy and that was the first time I saw people really listening to what I had to say and relating to it and from that moment it changed, as if she instilled in me a confidence that this was something to be explored and needed time to develop. Looking back now at notebooks from childhood and even early poems on my blog, my style has changed completely. I started off by telling whole stories and have now fine tuned that into telling a story, not the whole, not always the complete truth, but exploring their essence.

  • 4. What authors, poets, musicians have helped shape your work, or who do you find yourself being drawn to the most?

Damien: When I was 23, I lived for a year in a one bedroomed, viewless-windowed apartment in Le Marais in Paris with an Irish girl who played piano and Irish drinking songs in bars around the city but late at night, or after Sunday strolls through the Jewish quarter and lugging home sugar-laden treats from the bakeries on rue des Rosiers, she would play me her favourite Joni Mitchell songs before we put the album Miles of Aisles on repeat on our little Cd player. Later it became the Tin Angel and Blue albums on my Walkman, sitting at the table after coming home from work at the bar at 3am, playing Solitaire and listening to her paint words over cords, about living in places and missing others, kissing men and moving on. The influence from Joni has never strayed.

5. What other activities do you enjoy doing creatively, or recreationally outside of being a writer, and do you find any of these outside writing activities merge into your mind and often become parts of a poem?

Damien: Photography is something I love. I can take over 100 photos a day, just trying to capture things that might get overlooked, a twig on a lump of concrete, a bag in a tree, a shell sinking back into the sand. I also use those photos a reference points later when writing, the visual falling into the structured lines of a poem. Painting is also something I enjoy though it takes much more time but it is the same thing as writing, taking a blank page or canvas and putting a mark down onto it and following the flow of that first mark. Cooking or baking are the things I do as much as writing because I find it so relaxing; hours, days spent in the kitchen is a dream for me, listening to music or a podcast and smelling the flavours come to life is incredible. And then there is the eating.

6. Tell us a little about your process with writing. Is it more a controlled or a spontaneous/freewriting style?

Damien: I write every day, whenever I can. When I lived in Paris it was on the way to work on the metro, during lunch breaks, at night on terraces of cafes, always in between the job or the duty or the relationship. Now I write constantly, all day. The earlier part of this year was very much taken up with a fictional novel I am now sending out to publishers. During the first lockdown in Ireland, which began in March, just before our famous cancelled Saint Patrick’s Day, I had two main focuses- the garden and its 45 trees that needed chopping with an old rusty hand saw and poetry prompts on Twitter from both the Cobh Readers and Writers group and Catherine Ann Cullen, an Irish Poet, who ran a daily poetry prompt, the pair of which resulted in me writing over 300 poems in about 4 months, after which I focused on the next collection which will be a full poetry collection about my life spent living with Paris, a combination of poetry and photography. So it really never stops. My phone is never far from my hand to scribble down lines that come into my head that will be worked on later, I am very forgetful so never like to lose a thought that might become a treasure.

7. Are there any other people/environments/hometowns/vacations that has helped influence your writing?

Damien: Paris definitely, I moved there when I was 22 and it changed who I was, suddenly I was completely alone for the first time in my life, in a larger-than-life city, a formerly shy child who’d never studied a word of French. I grew up there and so it will always have a huge influence on my identity, my life and my writing. Now that I have returned to Ireland, this little island has become the influencer. In earlier days, I spent so much time trying to get away from this place and the shy child it still wanted to identify within me but now, coming back after 23 years, it is a foreign object and I am enjoying examining all her sides while she accepts me now for who I became and has given up looking for the shadows of my former self. Family come in and out, of course, in terms of influence, I recently had a short story in the No.1 Irish bestseller A Page from My Life, an anthology of short stories published by Harper Collins Ireland and my story was about my Mother’s first experience in shopping at the supermarket chain Aldi. It was a comedy piece which made it a welcome change from the more serious tone of most of my poetry. And then there is always the constant rise and fall of relationships which ignites the pen. I write a lot about love and all that lies in between beginnings and endings. Torture can be exquisite, on the page, at least

8. What is the most rewarding part of the writing process, and in turn the most frustrating part of the writing process?

Damien: For me it’s that sense of achievement, when you find the right words, the right order, the right atmosphere and you read it back and it pops and you just want to jump up and say yes- I did it. The most frustrating? Having to do it all over again.

9. How has this past year impacted you emotionally, how has it impacted you creatively if it all?

Damien:  I have never written so much as I have this year. As I mentioned I wrote over 300 poems during the first lockdown thanks to Poetry Prompts on Twitter while also editing my novel. I moved back to Ireland with a dream of setting up a writer’s retreat on the west coast but, at first, I said I’d stay at the family home for a few months to make up for being away for so long. Then Covid hit and it is now one year later and I’m still in that family home on the east side of Ireland. I think I’ve left this village about 6 times in the past 9 months. It has been an extremely strange year from being basically housebound, which is not normally in my comfort zone, to also being a non-stop year of writing, being published, winning writing competitions, starting a podcast and interviewing other poets as part of a series on my blog. I was given the rare opportunity this year to focus solely on writing and am thankful that I will not look back at this year as a wasted opportunity

10. Please give us any promotional info for your work, social media, blogs, publishing company info, etc that you’d like to shout out.

Damien: My bog is http://www.deuxiemepeaupoetry,com where you can buy signed copies of my debut chapbook Eat the Storms in the bookshop there. My publisher is www.hedgehogpress.co.uk For details of the podcast check out www.eatthestorms.com I am on Twitter as @deuxiemepeau, Instagram as @damiboy and @eatthestorms and Tiktok as @eatthestorms

  1. When did you get the idea to start the “Eat the Storms Podcast”?

Damien: I first came up with the idea of the podcast as it came close to the launch of my collection and I realized that because of lockdown restrictions I would not be able to have a normal book launch in a library or a bookstore and there would be no interaction with people. The focus would have to all take place on social media platforms and I was already on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and had a pretty good following but I wanted to find more ways to get my voice out. I started by using TikTok to make short video poems and then someone suggested a podcast but I was worried about setting it all up on my own as I’m not the most technologically minded person even though I’ve used computers for 25 years in terms of creating patterns for clothes but then I discovered the app and podcast platform Anchor which let you produce your own podcast and it was so simple and easy that by the next evening I had the first episode already recorded with jingles and introductions and pauses. It started as a platform just to share poems from my debut collection Eat the Storms, but that changed immediately as I realised everyone was in the same boat, all looking for outlets to be heard and so I opened the show up to have guest poets each week and it had taken off from there and it is showing no signs of slowing down as the audience is picking up more listeners each week so I am very happy to say that I was able to offer connection in a time when we were being told to stay away.

2. What have you found most interesting in the poets that you have interviewed? Are you ever surprised by what the poets have to say when on the podcast?

Damien: For me, personally, I think the most interesting thing about the podcast and having guests on is hearing poems that I know I’ve already read myself, read to me by their author and hearing their original idea instead of my understanding because of the tone of their voice, or a giggle or a pause when perhaps I had missed that moment of stillness that was so vital to how the poem would be. When you hear a poet read their words I think that brings us to a whole other level of understanding

3. How do you scout out a poet to have on your own show?

Damien: Sometimes I have themed episodes which makes it easier to put the content of the show together, like the LGBTQ+ episode that recently went down a storm or the Irish episode I am currently planning. At other times it’s just a question of who’s in my line of sight, who’s the most popular name of the day on Twitter that I happened to hear of, who were the people that I dreamed of taking part and so I just drop them a little message and cross my fingers. Sometimes, with age comes bravery

4.Where can one find episodes of “Eat the Storms”?

Damien: At the moment Eat the Storms, the poetry podcast, is on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Breaker, Pocketcasts and of course Anchor. A new episode drops every Saturday around 5pm but all the shows are there to listen to whenever life needs to be a little more poetic

5.Who helps you with the promotional vignettes for the show? I feel like I’m about to go into a “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” style show, but with the souls of poets instead of Rich people’s homes.

Damien: The promotional vignettes for this show are all homemade, its me with my camera positioned somewhere halfway into the sand and resting against a shell while I walk across the beach or me with a tiny tripod because I don’t want to look too much like an idiot or in the garden, or a field or down a country lane or me and the back bedroom here in the family cottage that has been home to my family since 1904. I don’t have any extra help, I’m a fumbling, giggling one man show trying to figure it all out and occasionally calling on the 80-year-old mother to focus the camera.

By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to feversofthemind@gmail.com. Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1

1 comment

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s