with Kitty Donnelly:
Bio: Kitty Donnelly’s first collection, ‘The Impact of Limited Time’, was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Collection Competition and published in 2020. Since then, she has had poetry published in Dear Dylan; The Honest Ulsterman; The Rialto; Ink Sweat and Tears, Mslexia and Interim amongst other magazines and anthologies. She lives in West Yorkshire, works in mental health services and has adopted (too) many animals. My book is available here: Kitty Donnelly – Indigo Dreams
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Kitty: I kept diaries and things when I was very young. When I was around 7, I was actually interested in writing comedy. I was obsessed with The Rutles (Monty Python plus Neil Innes brilliant spoof of the story of The Beatles) and wrote my own version of a fictional female band. My sister is a bit younger than me and I made up jokes and plays to make her laugh. We usually played characters from male bands, for example The Kinks, and would write scripts about what happened to them on tour. We also made-up episodes of Inspector Morse. Our mum had to play Superintendent Strange! In terms of thinking seriously about writing, it was probably when I more or less dropped out of school when I was about 14 or 15. I listened to music and read all day in my room and thought I might grow up to be Oscar Wilde. It was probably more educational than having chewing gum spat in my hair!
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Kitty: When my dad died in 2003, he left us his commuted pension and I saved this for about 16 years until, on a whim, I decided to apply for an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and I used this money for it. I was introduced to writers on the course than still inspire me and Carol Ann Duffy’s teaching was the just brilliant. It was worth trekking through a rainy winter’s night for, including being hassled in Manchester City Centre and having to run to catch the train from Victoria when I had a 7am start in a nursing home the following morning. She was generous, but would also tell you when a line didn’t work – that was also kind, although sometimes devastating.
Fiona Benson, Anna Saunders, Katie Farris, Day Mattar – all these poets are inspiring me at the moment.
Song lyrics inspire me as much as poetry. I’m listening to Cohen, The Fontaines DC, Elvis Costello and Nirvana at the moment. They all have a uniqueness with words, a way of bending and twisting them so they sound fresh.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Kitty: I think I’ve said this before, but reading a poem like ‘The Listeners’ by Walter de la Mare when I was at school intrigued me so much. The concept of ‘nobody’ actively listening. I think Salinger uses that in The Catcher in the Rye when Holden makes a phone call: “Nobody kept answering”. The first poem I remember writing was my own version of ‘The Highwayman’.
Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?
Kitty: My dad helped me more than anybody else with writing. Perhaps not in a practical sense, as I hadn’t written much when he died, but as a lover of language. He used to quote my Shelley and Nabokov on the way to school. Books were just part of life. He would have a quote for every situation. He was a wonderful writer himself and the last thing he ever said to me referred to his novel. My partner helps me more than I could ever hope for – listening, proof reading.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from there influence your work?
Kitty: I was born in Oxford, but my parents are both Northern Irish. My dad was from Newry and my mum’s family are from Portaferry one one side and she’s just found out that her father, whom she never knew, was also Irish. From age 11, I lived in West Cumbria. We were just bogged down by poverty. We got the free bus to the supermarket once a week as an outing – that’s actually true. It was Safeway in Workington at the time. I was miserable. People were cruel to each other at school. Outsiders may as well have been from outer space. Since then, I’ve lived in London, Chichester, Swansea, Yorkshire… Visiting Northern Ireland more often and getting back in touch with my roots has made a huge difference to my writing. I did an Ancestry DNA test and I was 86% genetically linked to Ulster province specifically. I thought I’d better find out a bit more about it!
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Kitty: The poems that mean most to be are those I’ve written for my daughter. We’ve had a rocky road at times, with circumstances and things, and I want to put something in writing for her so she knows I love her absolutely. I’m very excited about my novel, as it brings a voice back from the dead that I wanted to be heard.
Q7: Favorite activities to relax?
Kitty: I find it very difficult to relax. I don’t suppose I can without artificial means. I’m not very good at meditation!
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
Kitty: ‘The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold;
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.’
These lines by Louis MacNeice are the ones that come into my mind most often.
Or Yeat’s ‘…the falcon cannot hear the falconer…’ from ‘The Second Coming’.
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Kitty: I have finished a second collection of poetry, which has been provisionally accepted for publication next year, although I feel I have a lot to do in terms of revision and substituting poems. I am writing a novel. The first draft is done. The story came to me whole in a dream, but – when I think about it -these are subjects I’ve been obsessing over my whole life so it’s no great miracle I was dreaming them into a book. As Jean Rhys said, “All of writing is a huge lake…all that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters.”