with Nicola Heaney:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Nicola: I started writing poems in primary school. Then, the typical teenager poetry writing that will never see the light of day. Dabbled here and there but it wasn’t until 2017 that I really focused and began writing regularly – it was always something I wanted to do, but I could never find the time or energy. My Dad is a big fan of poetry and I was introduced to Yeats, Heaney (of course) and Patrick Kavanagh from a young age. When I was a teenager, I became really interesting in Ginsberg and the other Beat poets.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Nicola: There are so many! Poetry that pulls together the everyday in fresh and interesting ways really inspires me. In the last six months, I’ve been moved by work by Seán Hewitt, Fiona Benson, Jay Bernard, Colette Bryce and Micheál Mc Cann.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?
Nicola: I grew up in Derry, a city on the border in Ireland. It was a huge influence – a lot of my work is struck through with the motif of thresholds, border places and a sense of being unanchored. I’ve travelled across Europe and lived in Spain for three years and there’s definitely residue of this in my work. I’m very interested in how we are formed from our histories and I think this stems from exploration of ancient civilisations in countries like Greece.
Q4: What do you consider your most meaningful work that you’ve done creatively so far?
Nicola: It’s hard to pin down one poem that’s the most ‘meaningful’. When the conversations started about the border as part of the post-Brexit debate, I knew I needed to try and articulate how I felt. I’ve written a few poems but none really seem to have hit the mark yet…
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Nicola: I think I’ve always known at some level. I come from a family of carpenters and ship builders so it’s always been natural for me to create.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Nicola: I love exploring new places – they don’t have to be far flung – even exploring little-known parts of Bristol can keep me entertained for a while.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Nicola: Just before lockdown, I had the wonderful experience of writing a book of myths and legends for children with my dad. It takes local stories from each of the nine counties in Ulster and retells them for children. Unfortunately lockdown prevented us from touring together which would have been a real hoot! https://obrien.ie/ulster-fairytales-and-legends
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
I hoak and hack to scour some roughness back –
my tongue is polished smooth
as marble yet still speckled green.
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Nicola: I’m lucky to have an incredibly supportive circle of family and friends who are always there to cheer me on and keep me going after a slew of rejections. I’m also part of a fantastically supportive writing collective in Bristol. They’ve given me so much guidance, advice and kept me buoyed these last months