with Robin McNamara:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Robin: The first time I wrote anything creative was when I was in primary school aged nine. I used write these essays for my English homework. I had such a vivid imagination even at that age, particularly as I read tons of comics and had several (and still have them!) Action Force figures who all had really cool names like, Baron Ironblood. These figures found their way into my stories. I recently found them in the attic, probably about 10/12 essays which I’m considering getting self published. Like a kind of Adrian Mole thing! So yea the world of comics and action figures were an integral influence for my writing & artistic development rather than any particular individual or writer at that time. Although later in my teens, Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole books, Sven Hassel, James Herbert and Stephen King were early influences into my literary appreciation of writers.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Robin: There are so many talented poets out there with many influences. My chapbook Under A Mind’s Staircase was inspired by T.S Eliot, Robert Frost, Seamus Heaney and Stephen James Smith. I’m currently inspired by the incredible Anne Casey. A prolific Irish poet who lives in Sydney, Australia. Her recent poem, The Light We Cannot See is an absolute masterpiece and will be in her forthcoming book being published by Salmon Poetry. Another influence is Doireann Ní Ghríofa with the brilliant To Star the Dark, her first collection of poems published with Dedalus Press. It’s such an arresting book of poetry. One cannot help but be inspired by the beauty of the language in her poems.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work/describe?
Robin: I grew up beside the beach in Co. Waterford in the South East region of Ireland near Dunmore East, a fishing village and a popular tourist destination. With it’s breathtaking cliff coast scenery overlooking the wild Atlantic sea it inspired a few nature poems. Raw beauty of nature on my doorstep the winter scent of salt air, the herbaceous summer scents, the petrichor scents after the rainstorms over the field. Such a sensory overload that the mind is enriched with these memories of nature at its best. The past few years I’ve traveled extensively strangely enough it’s not reflected in my poetry as so much I’m more culturally aware of other people’s lives in whatever country I visited. Perhaps there’s more appreciation for languages and obscure words or the origins of words reflected within my poetry. Generally I travel to escape life to switch off. If I take anything away from the holidays writing wise I’ll consider they a bonus. The next time I travel abroad I’ll be more astutely aware of what I can gather writing wise now I’m working on my first full collection.
Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
Robin: A poem titled simply, &. For over a year since the pandemic I’ve struggled to articulate within a poem the environment we’ve lived in under the lockdown. How the world changed in a way never seen before in our lifetime and in a way that brought home the fragility of mankind and indeed the environmental damage we had been doing to our planet with our excessive carbon footprint. Nature returned and wildlife roamed freely and cities began to breathe again after several decades of mass tourism. This was a great opportunity to do something meaningful with our lives to chase opportunities we never had the time or chance to do so when our lives were filled with noise and pollution of commercialization clouding our minds and soul. A chance to return to basics of life. Trying to incorporate personal reflection into a poem eluded me until I wrote, &. I’d previously written several lockdown poems some which are archived in University College Dublin’s pandemic poetry collection of poems written during this period in Ireland. & looks into the bare bones of the soul and shreds away all those distractions we had prior to the quietness and stillness of staying indoors and social distance and non traveling. This is one of my strongest works since I began writing seriously again in early 2020. It’s a snapshot of the mind of a poet in the twilight hours of darkness and the influences of the muse who’s inspired him to write and to improve his work.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Robin: Not really. I’ve always been an artistic creative kind of person. Doing painting when I was a child I won a local painting competition when I was seven. I drew cartoons also. It was only when I reached my 20s that I dabbled a bit in poetry writing and had three poems published in anthologies. I guess the answer to the question would be in late 2017 I decided to write more poetry and was published in print and online literacy journals for the first time in 2018. I decided to focus on writing poetry with more dedication in January 2020 with the aim of having a book published by 2021. Although I was already writing poems in 2017 it wasn’t until 2020 that I decided to take it more seriously as I never thought myself good enough to be considered a poet. Thankfully 10 months later after I decided to commit fully to my writing I got a publishing deal with Hedgehog Poetry Press in October 2020.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Robin: I used to be an Xbox fanatic and returned to it during the lockdown nowadays I just don’t have the time. These days I barely have any energy to do much on weekends as a working class writer. So I relax by editing and rewriting my poems. I’m desperately trying to read other poets books in the short periods of time I’ve got to myself on weekends to gain a better understanding of other styles & techniques used by my fellow poets. Listening to music is how I relax and it helps me to chill when I do re-edits and work on drafts of poems.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Robin: None at the moment, although I am working on my first full collection, provisionally titled: Clockwork Memories. It’s 90% written and hopefully I can get it published next year.
Q8: What is a favorite line/quote from a poem of yours or others?
This is from the poem The Devil’s List
(Under A Mind’s Staircase)
“The crowds dance like mistresses
To music of the Devil’s symphony.
Have the angels fled?
The sounds cascade down their writhing bodies- The fiddle has them captivated.
It’s inside them/possesses them. How they moan…
In a dream-like state, the music of the Stradivarius wraps its trilled
embrace round me.
The angels have fled.”
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Myself. There’s no particular individual involved in creating my belief that I was good enough to write. It had to come from within before I could write anything. You can’t wait around waiting to be ‘discovered’ or ‘appreciated’ you have to go out there and show what you’ve got. Take the good with the bad have 100% focus and belief and find those who are supportive in your development. Like for example Poetry Ireland’s #PoetryPrompt set up by Poet in Residence Catherine Ann Cullen during the national lockdown in Ireland last March onwards was pivotal in establishing my technique and writing discipline. Mark Davidson of Hedgehog Poetry Press was kind enough to approach me about a publishing deal and the result is my debut chapbook, Under A Mind’s Staircase which was officially released June 17th 2021. But this don’t mean I think I’m good poet now. I’m still learning and the chapbook is a stepping stone to getting to that level of the poets I admire. I won’t be happy until I get to that point it’ll probably take three or four books but I’ll get there one way or another. Nothing can stop you aiming to reach your aspirations which is what life’s all about, overcoming obstacles and reaching those goals.