Arts Interview: Donal O’Flynn

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

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Born in Newmarket Co Cork, I was raised in Ballyhea and now reside in Charleville.

Born in Newmarket Co Cork, I was raised in Ballyhea and now reside in Charleville.

Initially, I attended Ballyhea Primary NS, and for Secondary School, Charleville CBS. My father loved a sing-song but could also recite long poems like The Cremation of Sam McGee and Dangerous Dan McGrew. I loved poetry from the start and all the rhythms, the sounds, and the music of free-flowing words. Later, I studied Civil Engineering at Bolton St. College of Technology (now DIT - Dublin Institute of Technology), and then completed a MSc at Brunel University, in London. I ran my own engineering consultancy and worked in the general area of South Limerick/North Cork for years. I worked on and off in the Philippines since 1995 and have worked there full-time for the past four years.

Writing is in my blood.

My brother Diarmuid is a sports writer for The Irish Examiner and has written a few books. My late brother Jack (RIP) wrote poetry, which we never knew about, until he died in January 2013. My sister Reidin is a songwriter while my mother is a great letter writer. For me poetry is a form of self-expression that I like to experiment with and when it comes out right it’s really magic. Currently, I am part of the Whitehouse Poetry Group but when I am back full-time (next year) I hope to become more involved with The Limerick Writers’ Centre (LWC).

Poetry has been a hobby since I was 18 years old but over the past five years I would have liked to have done it full-time.

I knew no poets or full-time writers personally while growing up so the idea of being a full-time Poet was not on my horizon. I just liked to read poems, hear poetry recited, and listen to poets read their own work while experimenting with writing poetry. Had I known a full-time poet I am sure that it would have steered me towards writing as a profession. While growing-up I enjoyed listening to the talk of local country people. Listening to them reciting a poem, or singing a song in the local pub, was the highlight of an evening’s entertainment back then. People who could recite a long poem from memory commanded great respect. The pub was everyone’s ‘sitting-room’. Country people even talked in poetry unknown to themselves.

My latest book of poetry, called Random Inspirational Words, was written between April and December 2010 while I was working in the Philippines.

I tend to write in spasms as the Muse takes me. Between these writing spasms I am an eclectic reader of books on a wide range of topics especially world poetry, mathematics/physics related books, religious studies, history, magic, and mythology. Since 2010, I have written only a few poems - to keep my hand in, as it were. However, I had an idea back then of writing an Epic Poem but found that it entails lots of research. This will be about an Irish mythological hero’s quest to find the ‘Holy Grail’. This is not of the Camelot variety but rather a poetic saga/journey through space and time right into the future while attempting to answer the unanswerable. To this end I have been studying myth in all of its international forms for four years now and have just completed reading an entire encyclopaedia on Man, Myth and Magic from the 1970’s (the entire seven volumes). I now have seven notebooks full of notes and quotes so the ‘Epic Poem’ will take at least a decade to complete.

Ten years ago I joined the Whitehouse Poetry Group started by Barney Sheehan and Dominic Taylor in Limerick.

This has been a fantastic experience and I miss it a lot while I am abroad. I feel that I am part of a special group of poets and we have great evenings together. I have heard some great poetry from guest mainstream poets as well as from our own home grown Limerick and surrounding area poets. Limerick’s Revival Press has published two books of mine. Lost Grace (2009) and The Tailor and Ansty Poems (2011) based on epigraphs I took from the original book The Tailor and Ansty (1942). It was banned until the 1960s and was the subject of a heated debate in Seanad Éireann where Timothy Buckley (the tailor) was accused of being ‘sex-obsessed’ and his wife Anastasia (Ansty) of being a ‘moron’. Together, they were collectively called ‘sores of moral leprosy’. The original book is just great. A hilarious and harmless read and it would be very hard for a young person today to understand what all the controversy was about when banned.

For a lot of people writing is a very satisfying and fulfilling form of self-expression even if it is only as a hobby.

To have a command and control over how you use words is a real form of magic. I agree with the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword. It is only when you see the effect that your own particular writing has on a person, how you can make someone live the words and get mad at you or laugh at you or cry (the raw emotion) that you realise the power you have in your pen (or word processor now!). If you are lucky enough to make writing a full-time paid job so much the better. Writing makes you a better listener and judge of people (and events) I would say. I will be returning to Ireland full-time from August 2015 and will be back into the swing of attending poetry sessions, LWC gatherings, and poetry workshops. I miss the poets and my friends from there a lot while I am in the Philippines!

Donal O’Flynn’s third collection of poetry Random Inspirational Words will be published by Revival Press, the poetry imprint of The Limerick Writers’ Centre (LWC), at the end of October.