'Epitaph for Gregory O'Donoghue' by Frances Macaulay Forde is Write Out Loud's Poem of the Week
The new Write Out Loud Poem of the Week is ‘Epitaph for Gregory O’Donoghue’ by Frances Macaulay Forde, a tribute to the Irish poet who died in 2005. In the poem Frances recalls workshops with O’Donoghue at the Munster Literature Centre in Cork, and how such sessions naturally included liquid lunches, “Guinness frothed and creamy with subtext”, at the nearby, aptly named Forde’s Pub. She lives in Australia, her background is in “poetry, children's literature, film and theatre” - and she describes Write Out Loud as her “go-to daily fix”, with many of her current favourite poets on this website.
What got you into writing poetry? How long have you been writing?
I'm pretty sure my mum introduced me to her love of reading and writing poetry when I was very young, so naturally turned to it during my angst-filled teenage years, as many of us do.
Whenever I feel emotionally low I use poetry to make sense of what is happening in my world with poetic expression - either reading or writing although I secrete my notebook for long periods until another major heart-hurdle.
My divorce was the biggest influence on my poetry in later years because it eventually enabled me to free my creative soul and go to university to formally study. I gave myself a BA in creative writing with a major in media studies for my 50th birthday.
Naturally poetry was a favourite subject; other disciplines informed and enhanced my words. I was also lucky enough to have both environmental and Romantic poetic stalwarts as mentors whose excellent teaching helped define my style and process and importantly recognise my “voice”. Poetry exploded into my life.
Finally free to express my inner world and the confidence to share my words and encourage others to do the same, I began exploring the possibilities. As part of my degree we were asked to share our words in class, but also share our experiences and learning with writing groups.
Co-incidentally and at the same time, 17 years after my divorce, my first love from Africa found my name on the internet. Although he wanted to fly from Ireland to Australia immediately, it took nine months to convince me to explore the possibility of love, again. He whisked me away to the cradle of storytelling for 14 inspiring and very productive writing months.
The explosion of poetry intensified, writing reams in Ireland, publishing my first book there and workshopping with Munster Literature Centre and the Middleton Writers Group. Attending a weekend workshop with Ireland's iconic publisher Jessie Lendennie from Salmon Poetry was also huge.
Heavily influenced by the amazing writers I actually met and worked with - I loved every minute. Quite naturally, I came home to marry and settle back in Australia with an enormous need to share the things I'd learned and discover more poetry in my home town.
Do you go to any open-mic nights?
After returning from Ireland, previous community involvement fed well into setting up Poets Corner @ Pages Cafe in our State Library in the City. I wanted a venue which involved the general public as I believe we all have poetry in our lives, whether we realise it or not.
So on that premise, I wanted anyone to be able to listen or share their words, encouraging those who'd never previously had the opportunity. A busy cafe in the State Library Building in our Cultural Centre in the middle of the city, was perfect for a once-a-month afternoon of poetry. My strategy worked really well and surprised everyone - especially the pooh-poohers of poetry!
Also, I was one of three organisers of the inaugural (and following) Spring Poetry Festival which is still an annual event in Perth 12 years later. To encourage the newbies, I would read some of my own poems, but essentially I wanted to hear the words of others. Editing and publishing a chapbook, 'Pages Cafe ’05' was another way to encourage new writers; their poems appeared alongside established poets in a limited edition now held in the State Library.
Being asked to read as a guest poet with my two mentoring professors from university for the launch of a book by another professor, internationally renowned John Kinsella was a highlight. As was being the featured writer for the firstt Avon Valley writers festival held in Northam and Toodyay.
The opportunity to publish and sell a couple of my own chapbooks was also presented - something I have encouraged many to do. I’ve particularly enjoyed seeing those who first read in public at my events, now setting up their own groups and events - and publishing their work.
I still buy books and have been a stalwart myself in the poetry scene in Perth and online, although I stepped back when my screenwriting had to take precedence. Life gets in the way and other writing paid the bills.
My “public” poetic persona was last seen officially in 2013 at a six-month residence in Burns Beach Cafe representing Australian poetry by being poetically available to the general public.
As I get older, most of my poetic interaction is now on-line through keeping in touch with poetic friends and Write Out Loud (my go-to daily fix) or ABC Tales for general writing. I do attend book launches when I can but no, don’t read in public any more.
What’s your favourite poet/poem?
How can I possibly hone down on one favourite poet or poem? Many of my current favourites are on here: Tony Hill recently published an eloquent soliloquy on a hedge which I featured on my Wordpress blog with his permission. I’ve previously shared my reactions to Tom Harding ‘A Day Such As This’; ‘Bitchin’ in the Kitchen Sink Drama’ by Paul Waring; anything written by Esther Morgan; Rick Gammon’s ‘Village Scene, Lincolnshire’; ‘Sin’ by Tommy Carroll; ‘The Stand Up’ by Wolfgar (David); loads of Irish and Australian poets …
You're cast away on a desert island. What's your luxury?
I’d take a leather-bound illustrated version of the ‘Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’; a laptop; and my man.
EPITAPH FOR GREGORY O'DONOGHUE
by Frances Macaulay Forde
Seasoned, some will remember boozy lunches,
Tuna sandwiches peppered with slurred words
plated on sliced lettuce arranged ‘just so’...
Guinness frothed and creamy with subtext.
An Irish summer warm with purpose shared
eloquently with a visiting Australian at exclusive
Wednesday morning workshops obstinately
overseen each week, by a recalcitrant at MLC.
Since his silence, reverence is a poetry prize
keeping his name associated with his life love.
His canon forever in the library and his portrait,
eyeing the new wave with his silent critiques.
This writer will remember clever poetic reviews,
evaluating layers of old knowledge like a river
flowing effortlessly from the master to his student
and inspiration needing a break, at Forde’s Pub.