Leona Francis.

Athlone woman publishes her first poetry collection

An Athlone woman has taken the plunge in publishing her first collection of poetry through Amazon, having always had an interest in writing.

Leona Francis, from Bealnamulla, has been writing since she was a child and finally decided to publish her work after previously reaching out to publishers.

“I found it very difficult to get started in poetry to be honest,” Leona says. “I approached a few different publishers in Ireland because I wanted to keep it as Irish as possible. The responses were always the same, that they have their own pool of poets and they don’t veer away from them.

“It’s hard to break into it as an Irish poet, and I kind of got the general feeling that there’s a bit of a clique with it.”

From there, Leona chose to self-publish, and she says that the world of poetry is changing.

“I just decided then at that stage that I shouldn’t wait. With Amazon, there was an outlet there and that I though I should just go for it. I never really shared any of my poetry up until now. Family and some friends had seen my work and the feedback from them was always good.”

‘Poetic Intricacies’ is the name of the chapbook (published under the name Leona Francesca).

“A chapbook is anything from 10-20 poems, and there are 14 in mine,” she explains. “It covers human interest areas; day-to-day life, death, love, things that everyone experiences. I worked on it myself, and its available in paperback and download on the Kindle store.

“It’s scary publishing your work. You’re leaving yourself open with the point of view that you that you offer on things. It’s all out there in the public domain then.”

Leona admits that “poetry is not something that everyone is into,” but believes it is becoming more accessible than ever.

“‘Instapoems’ are short, maybe five or six lines, and they’re visually appealing because social media is all about reeling people in. That seems to be the way it’s going these days, and it’s good because you can gain a following.

“Rupi Kaur has millions of followers now, and she started online. I have separate Instagram and Facebook pages that I update with my work, because I know that not everyone on my personal pages would be into poetry.”

Looking back on her school days in St Joseph’s Secondary School, Summerhill, Leona attributes the beginning of her love for poetry with her English teacher Ms McGuinness.

“I’ve been dying to try and find her somehow. I would love to send her one of the books. When I was thirteen she asked us to write about someone we admire for an essay. My grandfather had just passed away and I decided to write about him.

“I ended up writing a poem, and she forwarded it on to the Strokestown International Poetry Competition. I ended up winning a prize there and I had to read it in front of everyone there. It’s a real highlight of my school years.”

Alongside her poetry, Leona works in the insurance industry.

“It can be a heavy work week, but then I try to write after work although the urge to write isn’t always there. It could be 2am and you’ll be lying awake and something will come to you and you’ll have to write it down.

“Things slowed down a bit with work for a few months last year and I found myself proactively writing during the first lockdown. I was basically writing all the time, alongside studying for my insurance qualifications.

“I would love to be able to make a living out of writing full time, but it’s just not feasible at the moment. I don’t think there’s many rich poets out there as it is!”

Looking to the future, Leona hopes to see a poetry group come together to share work after the pandemic, believing that Athlone’s cultural history is rich.

“Poetry Ireland have a mentorship programme where they pick from applicants and you get the chance to read your work in front of people at a festival,” she says. “I’ve entered that and I’m waiting to hear back from them, but I would love to get chosen for that.”