Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Jay: I first started writing when I was 11 or so. It was horrible self insert stuff that I’d rather not acknowledge existed, inspired by Doctor Who and the Skulduggery Pleasant series. But I really started writing some semi-decent stuff around the age of 13 and was influenced by the likes of Pablo Neruda, Liz Lochhead, Carol Ann Duffy and Charles Bukowski, as well as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jack Kerouac.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Jay: I’d probably say James Joyce, as stage Irish as that sounds. I think Joyce was a big driving force behind the development of my particular conversational, colloquial style of writing. I have a quote from Ulysses tattooed on my arm because I’m that type of Enlgish Lit graduate. It’s a line from Buck Mulligan, “He thinks you’re not a gentleman.”
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?
Jay: I grew up in the littlest city in Ireland, a place called Armagh. My secondary school (which I’ve been told countless times Paul Muldoon is an alumni) was on top of a hill beside a Catholic cathedral. So, I had this huge physical representation of Catholic guilt looming over my adolescence. I’m still nervous standing in it today. That was a big influence on my early work, rebelling against or coming to terms with my religious upbringing. My hometown is so small and remote it felt at that time like being detached from the world. I was always desperate to be where the ‘real’ world was happening and had this idilic image of America as the ‘real’ world. I later lived in San Diego for a while but I think, far from changing my work, America made me more interested in the themes that consume a lot of Irish writers. The only poem I wrote while I lived in the states was a parody of Patrick Kavanagh’s ‘inniskeen Road: July evening.’ It was about the frat row next to San Diego State University and was published in the Alcala Review long after I’d moved back to Armagh.
Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
Jay: In my personal life I’d say the chapbook I completed for my master’s degree is most meaningful to me. It’s called ‘Holy Things’ and I think it’s a really balanced mix of irreverent and earnest poems about faith, whether that be spiritual, philosophical or political. I’m quite fond of the first poem which is called ‘Orgasm.’ It’s exactly what you think it is. Some friends of mine who’re a couple have it framed by their bed. I’m still looking to get it published at some point. If I think of meaningful in so much as it’s done the most physical good in the world, I’d have to say my poem ‘I’m Magic Too.’ It’s a part of the Irish journal Lights on the Horizon which is a charity journal that was first published in 2020 to raise money for frontline healthcare workers in the north and south of the island. I’d encourage you to buy it, not just to read ‘I’m Magic Too’, but to support some truly selfless organizations that are helping so many vulnerable people.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Jay: The first time I felt like a proper poet was when I performed at an open mic in San Diego. I was still unpublished at this point but kept writing cause I knew it’s what I was good at. I read a poem called “Long Distance in the Age of Sexting” which I’ve since scrapped for being too convoluted. But I got applause, I got laughs (which was the aim), I got recognized on twitter afterwards by one of the other performers. It felt good man. Since then I’ve been published all over and have been in a few poetry slams, even got to the Ireland semi-finals. The tourism board for Fermanagh is still using my face to promote the annual event I believe. But that open mic in San Diego was the first moment of feeling like a proper poet.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Jay: I love video games, my favorites would be the Legend of Zelda series and resource management/base builder sims like Rimworld or Prison Architect. I really like playing pool too although I haven’t been able to in a long time. I think my last game was with my partner Allie in a bar in Belfast, before the global event which shall remain nameless happened. I love spending time with my nephew too. He’s 1 1/2 and I really don’t know how my family got along without him. His laugh I’d like nothing else in the world. It’s really good for the soul I think.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Jay: As I said before the Lights on the Horizon Journal is great to support if you can https://www.bozpublications.com/lights-on-the-horizon Besides that, I’ve recently lead a few of the Sage Talks interviews for the Sage Cigarettes Magazine. There’s some wonderful conversations on the website with a lot of interesting creators. https://www.sagecigarettes.com/blog
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
Jay: Oh there’s a few! I think one of my best is from the last stanza in ‘Orgasm’; “No wonder they say that the Lord is come.”
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Jay: My partner Allie is my biggest support. Her opinion means the world to me and she’s been the inspiration for more than a few of the poems I’ve written. She’s the person that makes me feel the proudest of the things I create. I don’t know what kinda shit I’d be writing if it weren’t for her.