The poetry family
By Keith Payne
Asked once in an interview what mattered most to me in poetry, I answered without hesitation that it was the poetry family that mattered most.
Sure, we’ve all seen the biopics of inebriated egotists tormented from page to bar and back, leaving in their trail irreparable destruction and master works. But I dispel that frankly disingenuous and dangerous image of the writer at work.
What we don’t see portrayed often enough is the camaraderie and support from living and working within the poetry family.
Ok, being honest, most of what we talk about when we get together is money: how to find it, how to earn it, and how to keep it coming in while you dedicate yourself to poetry.
There are thousands and thousands of night hours and early-morning-still-abed hours and over-the-desk-with-a-coffee hours where a fellow poet is sat reading your poems; actively having a hand in the shaping of your book while it’s still shaping up to be a book. Friends, readers, poets and mentors; without them this would indeed be a most lonely and difficult world.
The original Mentor, as we meet him in Homer’s Odyssey, has been charged with keeping an eye on Telemachus and the house while Odysseus is away at Troy. Speaking sometimes as himself and sometimes in the guise of Athene, he urges Telemachus to stand up to the suitors and to set sail and seek out his father, Odysseus.
Mentor is a friend and an advisor. He is simply someone who takes the time to think about your work, to give it the same effort that went into its making. Each of you do this every day; over tea, over the back wall, on the phone or online. You give someone your time and attention as they deserve it. You are being human.
And so, it gives me quite a tidal lift indeed to announce Athlone’s own Paul McCarrick as this year’s John Broderick Writer in Residence Poetry Mentee.
Already a full-blooded member of the poetry family, Paul’s work is intrepid, invitingly casual and yet deeply observant; layered with a content that belies concern for his community, for humanity, for love and, thankfully… for music.
As you’ll read in Paul’s poem below, he’s well-anchored to the long family line of poets all the way back to Homer whose gods sailed into our towns.
Keith Payne is the current John Broderick Writer in Residence