Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Juno Charm by Nuala Ní Chonchúir (An Interview)

Around the beginning of November I posted about a short story collection, Nude by Nuala Ní Chonchúir and learnt from a fellow blogger that she had a new collection of poetry out and was in the process of organising a virtual interview tour. Well that was me interested, I'd read a few of her poems on sites such as Poetry International and loved what I’d read, and I even posted one of them on my post of Nude. So I asked if I could take part, and Nuala kindly said Yes, sending me a copy of her new book “The Juno Charm”. This is a wonderful collection of poetry that investigates what it is to be alive, to love, to hurt. Nuala conjures up charms and incantations and calls on artists as varied as Frida Kahlo, Marc Chagall & Soozy Roberts, writers such as Basho, Kafka  and Plath to craft a poetry that is so personal and intimate and yet resonates. Salvatore Quasimodo stated that “Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal, which the reader recognises as his own”. This collection is the perfect representation of that quote. Whilst taking part in this virtual tour, one of the facts about Nuala I learnt is that amongst the poets she admires is Sylvia Plath, who I’ve also been a big fan of & amongst the fantastic poems in the collection I noticed one that was based on the first line of one of my favourites (The Moon and the Yew Tree) by Plath


Poem Beginning with a Line by Plath

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary, itJuno Charm cover

keeps me solitary, stumbling inside paranoia.

My anchoritic needs are not a bow to religion, they

are as prosaic as any modern-day hermit’s:

who is there to trust with the black of my heart,

when some trample, some steal what’s mine for

their own?


Now over to the writer of this beautiful collection of poetry


I think there's a duality in your poetry between the mundane and the spiritual, between the visceral, and borrowing a  phrase I used before "of a corporeal sexuality" and with what I can only describe as more ethereal tenuous nature, would you agree with this yourself and how do you create this duality?


Yes, I think all life can be celebrated in poetry and I love when other writers highlight the beauty in ordinary things: I like to do that too. As for creating the duality, the poems in The Juno Charm cover about four years of writing so I have recorded the ups and downs in my life, and my interests and passions, over that period and before. My poetry tends to spring from the personal – my fiction less so – and so the struggles and joys of my life come out in the poems: fertility issues, pregnancy loss, marriage breakdown, new love, babies, travel etc.


One of your previous collections Tatú/Tattoo was released as a bilingual edition with Irish/English versions both by you, how does the process of translation affect the writing of the poems.


Well, only a handful of the poems were written in Irish, the rest in English and then I translated them. Once the collection was ready, the publisher – Arlen House – wanted to highlight the fact that I have Irish. They knew I had some poems written in Irish so they commissioned the translations.

So the poems weren’t written with translation in mind. I love translating – I have a masters degree in Translation Studies – and I really enjoyed the challenge of transposing my own poems into my second language (Irish). Irish is a very succinct language with a lot of beautiful words and I had fun trying to create a new poem rather than sticking slavishly to the English version of each.


I run a Poetry site on Twitter (@pomesallsizes) with the aim of introducing as wide a range of poetry from all corners of the world to anyone interested, my question is how much does international/translated poets/writers influence your own work.


I read Poetry International every month and through that I have read and learnt about poets in translation from all over the place. I heard of Ingrid Jonker (South Africa) there first, for example.

I tend to look outwards (from Ireland) rather than inwards, anyway. I consider myself a European writer rather than just an Irish one, so I am open to influences from everywhere.


This is my tricky question, how do you see the current state of poetry and with the need of promoting your work to get it out to those who read and how do you see the role of bloggers in this process?


Poetry is in a healthy state in the sense that it is being written and published, and there are a lot of readings taking place. The small presses keep poetry alive.

I think any writer who believes that the world is going to discover them, without them doing any work on their own behalf, is deluding themselves. We live in the age of media – the more you can promote your writing via radio, TV, the papers and the net, the more people will care.

For me, blogging is a no-brainer. It is free and easy; it’s a great way to promote your own work and to meet other writers and potential readers. I have made so many friends through blogging and there is nothing better than a really lively and active literary blog. Elizabeth Baines, for example, runs two great blogs and she always has interesting things to say. I love blogs that are varied, thought provoking, opinionated and, sometimes, a little bit personal.


Finally a seasonal question, at this time of year I post a poem with a seasonal theme, this could be weather or spiritually relevant. So as I have a fabulous writer here I thought I'd offer up the choice to you and ask what is your favourite seasonal poem, which I will then post for the Yuletide.


There are so many gorgeous Christmas poems; and also songs that are like poetry. This one ‘Don oíche úd i mBeithil’/ ‘To that night in Bethlehem’ is a traditional Irish carol that reads well as poetry. There’s a lovely version of it by Celtic Woman on YouTube here:


Don oíche úd i mBeithil

Don oíche úd i mBeithil

Beidh tagairt ar ghréin go brách

Don oíche úd i mBeithil

Go dtáinig an bhréithir slán

Tá gríosghrua ar spéarthaibh

'S an talamh 'na chlúdach bán

Féach Íosagán sa chléibhín

'S an mhaighdean á dhiúl le grá

Don oíche úd i mBeithil

Beidh tagairt ar ghréin

Beidh tagairt ar ghréin go brách


To that night in Bethlehem

To that night in Bethlehem

Forever under the sun

To that night in Bethlehem

That the word safely came

There are red-hot edges on the sky

And the ground in a white covering

Look at baby Jesus without a crib

And the Virgin in delighted love

To that night in Bethlehem

Under the sun

Forever under the sun

(Translation by Norland Wind)


Parrish, thanks so much for having me on this the last stop of my virtual tour for The Juno Charm. It’s been a pleasure. Nollaig Shona/Happy Christmas to you and all your readers.

Thank you Nuala for the opportunity to read this collection and “Nollaig Shona agus Athbhliain faoi Mhaise Duit.”*

Nuala 2011 B&W

Bio: Born in Dublin in 1970, Nuala Ní Chonchúir lives in Galway county. Her début novel You (New Island, 2010) was called ‘a heart-warmer’ by The Irish Times and ‘a gem’ by The Irish Examiner. Her third short story collection Nude (Salt, 2009)) was shortlisted for the UK’s Edge Hill Prize. Her second short story collection To The World of Men, Welcome has just been re-issued by Arlen House in an expanded paperback edition. The Juno Charm, her third full poetry collection, was launched in November. Nuala's newest short story collection Mother America appears from New Island in 2012.




(photo credit, Emilia Krysztofiak)


The Juno Charm


Here are my fellow tour members with the questions they had for Nuala.

 Órfhlaith Foyle's Blog
Vanessa Gebbie's Blog 
Niamh Boyce's Blog 

 Rachel Fenton's Blog 
Tania Hershman's Blog 
Mel Ulm's Blog

*Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (I hope)


Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview and I love the song! So beautiful. Irish is such a mystical language to me.

Col (Col Reads) said...

Thank you for the lovely interview. The cover of the book is absolutely beautiful, and makes me want to open it. I wish my family hadn't lost the Irish language -- the last person who knew any was my grandfather, and he's been gone for 17 years. It must be wonderful to be able to read it...

Unknown said...

Well done Gary, a great interview :) I can only echo the comments about the Irish language and wish I'd learned it at some point - maybe one day ;)

Rise said...

Great interview and excerpts. Loved how it ended in Christmas spirit!

Group 8 said...

Leeswammes, Col, Tony and Rise - thank you all for the great comments and to Parrish for hosting me so graciously.

Irish occupies a funny position in Ireland - it is compulsory at school and yet people leave school often a lot less than fluent. And often disliking the language. Something went wrong with the revival of the language. It is still spoken by natives speakers and in enclaves in big cities. There is a lot of goodwill towards the language but also some hostility. It's an odd one.

Merry Christmas/Nollaig Shona to you all.
Very best wishes,
Nuala x

Órfhlaith Foyle said...

Enjoyed this interview very much. Brilliant questions and answers. Happy Christmas, Parrish and Best Wishes for New Year 2012

Tom Cunliffe said...

Very interesting - the choice of a Yuletide poem is very apt and the video is good.

Thanks for visiting my site over the year and leaving comments - all much appreciated.

Mel u said...

Great Interview -I think Parrish and I may one day look back with great pride on the fact that we interviewed Nuala Ní Chonchúir on our blogs-I enjoyed read what she said about blogs-

gina said...

Great interview, Gary and Nuala Ni Conchuir!

Merry Christmas from sunny California:)

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Judith,thanks for your comment.

Hi Col, the contents are worth the opening & far exceed the beauty of the cover.

Thanks Tony, & my language of your choice to learn would be Japanese.

Hello Rise Thanks That was my aim.

Best of the season to you Órfhlaith & thanks for your comment.

Hi Tom and may I return the thanks for some inspired posts on The Common Reader.

Hi Mel,Thanks & yes I agree with your comment,will be following with interest.

Hi Gina,A wonderful Yuletide from a cold & wet Kent (but I have The malt)thanks.

Again my heartfelt thanks to you Nuala, for allowing me to read this wonderful collection of poetry.

Laurie said...

Thanks so much for hosting this stellar poet, and for alerting me to your interview. You and she are on my "Pay It Sideways Challenge 2012" list now! (I'm hosting it at What She Read.)

@parridhlantern said...

Thank you for your comment & I know you will enjoy this collection of poetry.

Rachel Fenton said...

Superb intro and interview - there's always a little more to discover about Nuala's writing and the processes and inspirations for it. Thanks for a lovely and thoughtful interview, and Happy New Year!

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Rachel thanks for your comment, anything that allows an insight into the writing or translation process interests me and this is a also a wonderful book of poetry, in fact I choose The Juno Charm as one of my favourite poetry collection of 2011.
Thanks again & may your year be as you wish it to be.