The Arts Interview: Imelda Maguire

The Arts Interview: Imelda Maguire
Born in Kildare, at the age of three, my family returned to Limerick, which is my mother’s home town.

Born in Kildare, at the age of three, my family returned to Limerick, which is my mother’s home town.

However, while I was raised on St Patrick’s Road, I have actually lived all of my adult life elsewhere, first in Sligo, and then in Donegal. Nevertheless, as far as I am concerned, I am still very much a Limerick-woman at heart, and when I say ‘home’, that’s where I mean.

Originally, I went to the Presentation Convent, on Sexton Street, up to taking the Intermediate Certificate, followed by Laurel Hill for my Leaving Cert.

In addition, I spent a couple of years at the University of Limerick, or the National Institute for Higher Education (NIHE), as it was known back then. For various reasons I didn’t gradate from UL but, rather, went on to complete a psychology degree, at the University of Ulster, in 2006.

My passion for reading comes from having parents who were themselves avid readers.

I remember my mother laughing at Frank O’Connor’s stories over and over, and my aunt Imelda coming back from the library with a stack of books. While there wasn’t any overt evidence of writing talent within my family, there was, certainly, a huge emphasis on reading. My father especially was given to quoting poetry, Gray’s Elegy and the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, being his favourites.

From the earliest age I impulsively kept diaries and journals filled with ideas, of one sort or another.

I, also, read voraciously the likes of Enid Blyton, James A. Michener, Stephen King, Leo Tolstoy, and Spike Milligan. Their subject matter made me want to write myself. However, when it came to writing poetry, I didn’t find the poems at school all that inspiring, indeed, having to dissect Yeats’s poetry almost destroyed me. In fact, it was only in adulthood, when I discovered women poets writing about real-life subject matter, that the urge to write poetry grew within me.

My day-job involves working as a counsellor, until recently, with young people in a school setting.

So, I am happy to say, that I have managed to make a career out of my twin passions, namely, writing and working with people. Indeed, I currently give many workshops and courses in creative writing, collage, self-expression, and personal development. So, overall, I am very interested in the therapeutic value of writing and poetry.

The impulse to write almost always comes from reading great writers.

There must, also, be an insatiable urge to express oneself that must find its way out somehow. In some people this will be through writing, while in others, it may take the form of visual art, dance, music or through living creatively in the broadest sense. For example, through gardening, cooking, or crafts, for instance. This is why Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, is a particular favourite of mine.

Shout If You Want Me to Sing, published in 2004, was my first collection of poetry.

Even now, more than ten years since it was published, my greatest thrill as a poet comes from meeting someone who remarks: ‘I had your book in my hand lately, and this poem reminded me of something, touched me, or struck me deeply’. That makes it all worthwhile. Recently, I have even learned that some of my poems have been used in classrooms to prompt the writing of new poems. That is even more of a life affirmation. If anything that I have written has inspired someone else to write, my work is done, and I am left a happy and deeply fulfilled poet.

My second poetry collection is an evolving work-in-progress.

I haven’t found a publisher for it as yet, and consequently keep tweaking, and adding to the manuscript. Most recently, a sequence of poems based on the life of a fictional 19th Century Chinese man, called Wei-Chu, has found its way in there, somehow. So, as you can see, the themes of my poems are various, and include memories, elegies, and reflections on life experiences both good and bad.

If someone has the urge to write, they should follow it, without worrying about what happens next, or whether their work is good or marketable.

Those considerations only come later. There has never been an economic climate that is, particularly, kind to poets. Cuts to arts funding, and subsidies, that once allowed smaller publishers to consider producing work in the traditional manner, have led to far fewer possibilities for writers generally, and that is a great loss.

This month, I will be reading at the Hunt Museum as part of a lunchtime series of readings, together, with another poet, David Brennan.

I am very much looking forward to sharing my work with the public, there. I, also, frequently read at monthly ‘Arts Nights’ held in Letterkenny, where I now live, organised by North-West Words, who are an inspiring and very active voluntary group. Since I came to live in Donegal, twenty years ago, I have, also, been fortunate enough to join the marvellously supportive Errigal Writers’ Group.

Limerick has a very strong literary tradition, and a vibrant literary life, which certainly makes it a special place for writers to live and work-in.

There is a huge appreciation of the written and spoken word, here. So, it has been a great joy for me to read at the White House, to participate in Cuisle in past years, to attend events at the Limerick Writers’ Centre, and to be published in Limerick-based journals. In fact, I always feel welcomed home here as a Limerick writer!

A series of four Lunch Time Poetry Readings will take place in the Hunt Museum on consecutive Thursdays this month. Imelda Maguire will read her poetry on July 16 at 1pm. For more information please contact Dominic Taylor, Community Literature Officer of The Limerick Writers’ Centre (LWC), at mobile: 087-2996409 or email:

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