What do you like best about teaching creative writing?
Meeting so many different people and personalities who have so many different stories to tell and are trying to find a creative path that suits and satisfies them, and being able to help out with achieving that in most cases. I see my role as a creative writing teacher as being to help facilitate this individual process of self-realisation and self-development through writing. Sometimes this will lead to the person pursuing a career in writing, other times it won’t, but either way they will have, with the teacher’s help, found a way to express themselves more artfully and with more clarity than previously, and will have explored creative capacities which may have remained dormant for some time, and which otherwise would not have been brought into play for them atall. It’s great to have a chance to have a positive impact on people’s lives like that and, as time goes by, one builds up teaching skills and experience which help to make a good and satisfying outcome more likely for everyone. I’d like to see creative writing teachers take themselves a bit more seriously in terms of professional organization and professional development – I think there is huge potential for the profession to develop in so many ways that reflect the changing make-up of society, technology, education and health systems, and so on, but the impetus is going to have to come from ourselves.
What are your own favourite and least favourite things about writing?
I like two things about writing. One, the pleasure to do with the intense self-involvement involved in writing itself, when you get into the flow of a piece and it starts to cohere in a almost magical way or at least in a way you couldn’t have predicted, or when you go to sleep with a line or an image in your head and wake up before dawn full of mad energy with half a poem or a story having written itself in your unconscious while you were sleeping…that kind of thing. It’s like we are allowed to talk to ourselves and indulge in fantasy continuously – things other people, who maybe haven’t discovered the ancient trick of calling themselves ‘writers’, would be sacked from their job or locked up for. Secondly, I really enjoy sharing my work and connecting with others through it and I do that enthusiastically in a whole variety of ways, artistic collaborations, performances, publication and so on. About writing itself there’s nothing I dislike. I think there are serious problems around how writing is institutionalized and funded in Ireland, in a way which I don’t believe reflects the needs or nurtures the talents of most Irish writers, and that we are going to have to have a public conversation about that in the run-up to the next general election, after which I hope there will be democratic changes for the better in this area of Irish life, as well as in many others
What writing project are you working on at the moment?
I’m still trying to get my last book, Lost Tribe of The Wicklow Mountains, out there, get it read and reviewed and so on, but I am nearly at the end of that now. Here’s a video I did with runawaypenguin.com of one of the most popular poems in the book, My Mother Speaks to me of Suicide.
My big literary project at the moment isn’t a writing one but an editing and facilitating one over at the bogmanscannon.com, the community creativity website I founded in January, and which has gained a lot of popularity by publishing a serious of excellent non-fiction pieces on a whole range of topics. I’m also the editor of Young Irelanders, an anthology of new Irish fiction due out from New Island in a couple of months. I’m up for something completely different – for me – writing wise. I’d like to explore collaborative projects further, and I am also interested in writing more for young adults. I don’t know yet where that is going to take me. We’ll see.
What are you reading right now?
I read lots and I also listen to audio books on LIBRIVOX. At the moment I’m reading Letters from Sweden by Mary Wollstencroft, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau, Hells Angels by Hunter S Thompson, Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer, The Sermons of Charles Maturin. I read a lot of contemporary writing for work purposes, so my ‘leisure’ reading tends to focus on classics.
What was the last poem you read that stuck with you?
I really enjoyed Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Gilgamesh. I used it as a teaching text during a session I was doing with Carlow Youth Theatre and the kids loved dramatizing it – i’d love to work with a youth group who staged dramatizations of ancient epics. Also, I have been devouring the work of Christina Rossetti. And I am making my way slowly – because there is so much to take in – through Holderlin.
Dave will be co-facilitating the eight-week Poetry – Reading, Writing, Editing course at Big Smoke, starting Saturday April 11th, 11am-1pm.