Home » Breaking News » The Poetry Collective in motion
Sinéad Nic Síoda, Amanda Jane Shannon, Marion Moynihan, Arthur Watson, Donal O'Connell, John Killeen, Martin Vernon, Neil Bedford, Patrick Glynn, Deirdre Devally and Tessa Lund from the Poetry Collective

The Poetry Collective in motion

Car Tourismo Banner

For more than 30 years The Poetry Collective has been bringing together writers from across Clare and the Mid West. After taking a break during Covid the Collective are now back, recently hosting their biggest ever poetry reading and open mic event in glór, which co-founder Arthur Watson describes as being “like the Guinness Book of Records for poetry”.
The Clare Champion is sitting down with Arthur and fellow poets Patrick Stack, Marion Moynihan, John Killeen and Sinead Nic Seoda who reflect on what it means to be a part of the group, the growth of poetry in Clare, the Collective’s history and its plans for the future.
By its very nature creating poetry is a solitary endeavour, however through the Collective vital positive connections are being made bridging together a wide range of diverse writers.
Patrick explains, “Writing poetry is a lonely thing. You don’t know, at least from my experience, if the writing is any good or not. Meeting other people who are doing the same thing is always beneficial. Having a group to sound it out. The very fact of reading it out loud brings a whole different dimension to the art”.
John, who joined the Collective having returned to Ennis after many years living in the UK, adds “This is a very important group if you are an artist, a poet or writer. There is a nurturing element from the camaraderie, and a sounding board where you can read your stuff out loud and get feedback.
“When I came back from the UK I found this group was a kind of artistic home because it is a solitary thing when you are writing. You are there on your own for hours depending on how dedicated you are. With the group there is that balance and it’s a good thing.”
Sinead, who as well as being a member has hosted poetry readings at The Record Break, recalls how she joined after coming across a reading in glór. “It was just lovely to find a tribe,” she tells us.
Marion is one of the newest members of the group having previously immersed herself in the poetry scene in Galway. “There, it’s all poetry and we were reading all the time, I was at workshops every week. Then when I came to Miltown Malbay it was all music and I couldn’t find any poetry anywhere. I was there 11 years before I found the Ennis Writers’ Group and that started me back writing and it was brilliant. We got a theme every week, and I’m very good to do my homework which meant I was writing a poem every week. That’s when I got involved with the Poetry Collective.”
Clare is experiencing a surge in interest in poetry, with writers’ groups emerging right across the county, Arthur tells us. “There are poets and writers groups all over the place like Kilrush, Scariff, Shannon, Ennistymon, Kilkee. Just last night I was at an event up in the hills in Broadford and there were about 20 people reading poetry. I’m personally trying to visit as many readings as I can around the county, getting to know the people. What we want to do is connect poets as a collective, to help one another and appreciate one another in whatever common things we can find to do,” he says.
John has his own theory on why more and more people are putting pen to paper and engaging with the written word. He believes that for some it can be a form of therapy and relaxation.
“It’s a bit like why people have started swimming in the sea in wintertime. We live in such a fast paced life now, we’re glued to technology and the car. We’re busy and people are now realising what is therapeutic.”
Sinead adds, “It goes back to Bardic traditions, it’s in our DNA especially around Clare.”
However, things were very different in Clare when the collective began life in 1990 from an idea formed by Arthur and fellow poet Ruth Marshall.
Arthur remembers that back then there was little original poetry visible in the Mid West. “We thought how strange it was that everywhere there is music, at any event in Ireland there was music and singing but very little poetry or spoken word. The Irish oral tradition goes all the way back to Brehon times. It seemed spoken word was non-existent, yet Ireland is famous for poets. So Ruth and I thought why don’t we have a poetry reading”.
The held their first readings in Mountshannon Festival and Tulla Courthouse with Brian Mooney, PM Moore and singer Tembre de Carteret, also producing a pamphlet of poems. From there the idea for the collective was born under the original name of the ‘Three Legged Stool’.
“We had actually meant to be international where any poet could join from anywhere but we didn’t get as far as that. That was probably too ambitious. They were difficult times. Looking for work because most of us were self employed, so surviving and managing and bringing up families and writing poetry and being creative was a challenge. But we maintained it, and we developed readings in different areas, going to festivals and producing books and pamphlets,” says Arthur.
Over the years poets from all over Clare became involved with the collective including Frank Golden, Knute Skinner, Rob Hopkins, Michael Reeves, Brendan O’Beirne, Geraldine Hetherton, Donal O’Connell, Patrick Stack, Noel Mulqueen, Murdoch Lothian, John Doorty, Orla McGuinness, Isla Thielan, Sean O’Brien, George Harratt, Padraig Haugh, Karen J McDonnell, Sinead Nic Seoda, Deborah Ryan McFarlane, Jinny Thomas, Noel Harrington, Peter Kay, Fred Johnson, Mary Ellen Fean, Deirdre Devally, Martin Vernon, Maria Keane, John Killeen, Tessa Lund, Madge O’Callaghan, Lily De Sylva, Donough MacNamara, Marion Moynihan, Gill Moses, Neil Bedford and Nicki Griffin, Karen O’Mahony, Patrick Glynn, Theresa Hogan, Madge O’Callaghan and Roisin Bugler.
Members have produced anthologies, personal collections, broadsheets, CD recordings, calendars, broadcasts, poetry trails, workshops, exhibitions and read at festivals including The Electric Picnic. A children’s Haiku festival was a popular feature of the Ennis Book Club Festival while members also became fixtures in the local media including The Clare Champion’s Poetry Corner.
The Collective have hosted guest poets, open mics with invited singers and musicians in glór, libraries, bookshops and the Record Break. Other highlights include the creation of an improvised choral poetry performance called MUXZ pre-Covid which was performed in glór, The Belltable, the Lime Tree and other Mid West venues.
All of their events are public, free and while small public donation may be sought they are a Not For Profit organisation. They are currently sourcing core funding from government agencies along with seeking new member poets.
The Poetry Collective have a warm and strong relationship with Inis Creative writers in their new EASI Studios as well as a partnership with glór, Ennis Library service and Clare Arts Office.
Looking to the future Arthur says the Collective will continue to work towards promoting a greater appreciation of poetry in Clare. Future aims include the creation of an anthology of Clare poetry next year and achieving more public awareness of poetry through local and national media.
“We want to connect poets as a collective, to help one another and appreciate one another,” says Arthur.
Following the success of January’s poetry reading and open mic they invite poetry lovers and other open mic poets to join them and four guest poets to a second free glór foyer poetry reading and open mic on Saturday, March 23 from 1pm to 2.30pm.
They also host free open mics in glór studio theatre from 6.30pm until 8.30pm on Thursday, March 7 and Thursday, April 25. Check glór website and their brochure for more on upcoming events.
As part of the Ennis Book Club Festival on March 3 there will be a reading by Mary Ellen Hodgins from her new book, Life and Other Poems, followed by the Poetry Collective Open Mic at the Record Break Cafe at 9am.

About Jessica Quinn

Check Also

Brennan is back and raring to go

Cillian Brennan is Clare captain like his brother Gary before him, but that honour aside …