with Nathanael O’Reilly:
BIO: Nathanael O’Reilly is an Irish-Australian poet residing in Texas. His books include (Un)belonging (Recent Work Press, 2020); BLUE (above/ground press, 2020); Preparations for Departure (UWAP, 2017); Distance (Ginninderra Press, 2015); Suburban Exile (Picaro Press, 2011); and Symptoms of Homesickness (Picaro Press, 2010). His poetry has appeared in journals & anthologies published in fourteen countries, including Anthropocene, Beir Bua, Cordite Poetry Review, The Elevation Review, fourW, In Parentheses: New Modernisms, Mascara Literary Review, The Quarantine Review, Skylight 47 and Westerly. He is the poetry editor for Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian/New Zealand Literature.
Twitter: @nathanael_o Instagram: nathanael_73
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Nathanael: I wrote my first poem when I was about thirteen and started to get serious about writing poetry when I was seventeen. My first poetic influences were Keats, Yeats and Hardy. By the time I was eighteen I had been introduced to the works of Heaney, Plath, Dickinson, Lowell, Sexton, Eliot and Murray, and I was influenced by them all in different ways.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Nathanael: Seamus Heaney remains my biggest influence, followed by Keats and Yeats. I’m also influenced and inspired by contemporary poets, including Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Jessica Traynor, Eleanor Hooker, Anne Casey, Jane Clarke, Victoria Kennefick, Traci Brimhall, Ada Limón, Ellen Bass, Michelle Cahill, Ilya Kaminsky, Terrance Hayes, Jericho Brown, Alex Lemon, Lachlan Brown and Jonathan Bennett.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Nathanael: I don’t remember an exact moment of epiphany, but by the time I was eighteen and in my last year of high school I knew I wanted to be a writer. I just didn’t know how to go about it at the time, nor did I presume to call myself a writer or a poet. Writers seemed to me like minor gods that lived on another plane and possessed talents far beyond mine.
Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?
Nathanael: I don’t think I could single out just one person. I’ve been fortunate to have had great teachers and mentors and fellow writers willing to read drafts and provide feedback. I’ve had the most frequent and detailed feedback, advice and support from Alex Lemon, Lachlan Brown and Sean Scarisbrick.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & have any travels away from home influence your work?
Nathanael: I was born in Australia and grew up there. I was born in Victoria and spent sixteen of my first twenty-two years there; I lived in Queensland for the other five years. I consider myself a poet of place, and I always loved the landscapes in Australia that I grew up in and traveled through. I’ve now spent more than half of my life outside of Australia, but Australia will always be my first homeland and its landscape and culture are present in much of my poetry on a fundamental level. Even if I am not writing directly about Australia, I write about other places and subjects from the perspective of a person who grew up in Australia. I’ve lived in the United States for more than twenty years, but still write about it from an outsider’s perspective. I’ve spent time in forty countries and lived on three continents, so my work has been tremendously and irrevocably influenced by my travels and experiences as an expatriate and immigrant. I would probably need a whole book to write about all the ways living outside of Australia has influenced my work.
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Nathanael: Almost all of my creative work is still meaningful to me, so it’s hard to single out a single book or poem. As a body of work, the poetry I’ve written since about 2005 (more than 300 published poems) has allowed me to come to terms with my identity as an immigrant with three citizenships and three homelands and to accept my hybrid outsider status, and that’s been tremendously helpful on a personal level, as I felt quite lost for a number of years with regard to my place in the world, especially in relationship to nation-states.
Q7: Favorite activities to relax?
Nathanael: Running, walking, skateboarding, listening to music, reading, watching films and television.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others?
Nathanael: “… You are neither here nor there, / A hurry through which known and strange things pass …” (from Seamus Heaney’s “Postscript) and “I had my existence. I was there. / Me in place and the place in me.” (from Heaney’s “A Herbal”)
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
My most recent full-length collection, (Un)belonging, was published by Recent Work Press in Australia in 2020: https://recentworkpress.com/product/unbelonging/
My most recent chapbook, BLUE, was published by above/ground press in Canada in 2020:
https://amzn.to/2VYv6z8 for Nathanael’s book “Distance”
https://amzn.to/3sl6Umg for Nathanael’s book “Preparations for Departure”
https://amzn.to/3m8cUhi for Nathanael’s book for “Suburban Exile”
https://amzn.to/2VReeKd for Nathanael’s book “Symptoms of Homesickness”