Samantha Maw is studying a Creative Writing MA at Lincoln University in the U.K. and is a member of Lincoln Creative Writers and Outspoken Poets. A qualified teacher who has worked in primary and secondary schools in the UK and in Africa; she has now gained the confidence to impose her poems and blogging skills (couragechasers.com) on the general public. She lives in Lincoln with a scruffy golden lurcher and two ridiculously cuddly cats. In her spare time she likes to tread the boards at her local amateur dramatic society, and leads story time at the local village library.
After the Fall: Brian Kirk
This is the first collection of published poems by Brian Kirk. He hails from Clondalkin in Dublin and is an award-winning poet, short story writer, playwright, and novelist. He is a member of the Hibernian Poetry Workshop and blogs at www.briankirkwriter.com. Kirk was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2013 and shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 2014/15. He won the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing award for Poetry in 2014, the Bailieborough Poetry Prize in 2015 and the Galway RCC Poetry Award in 2016. Red Line Haiku, a poetry film, was featured in the Red Line Book Festival in October 2015 and was shortlisted for the O` Bheal Poetry Film Competition in 2016. His poetry has been published in a variety of journals and has been nominated for the Forward Prize and the Pushcart Prize. The Rising Son, a novel for 9-12 year olds, was published in December 2015. His short story Festival was longlisted in the Galley Beggar Short Story Prize 2017/18. The Visitor featured in Fictive Dream and Special was published in August 2017.
The Bible was Kirk’s first introduction to the notion of poetry, and Milton’s Paradise Lost, Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound and Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience also made an impression. He grew up with the concept of original sin as a very real part of his consciousness and he took the idea further in his poetry. He suggests that the fall of humankind was key to our future freedom, and despite our flawed nature, our lives are made all the better for the greater knowledge we acquired. After the fall, our senses were truly opened up. As well as functioning as a title for the collection, the phrase, `after the fall` appears in three poems and fall as a season predominates. When putting the collection together, Kirk comments that it was difficult at first to organise his poems in a thematic fashion as a first collection tends to be essentially a showcase of your best work to date. However, when he stopped looking for connections, he began to find them; `The more I worked on the collection, the more I saw the threads emerging. `
After The Fall
Somewhere east of Eden
gorged in a blind moment,
lips lost between wet lips,
tongues tasting summer fruit
before it ripened.
In the other’s eyes-
we recognised our teenage selves
as something more than
hungry looks, black nailed
fingers seeking yielding flesh.
The residue of that first kiss
upon our lips
like a bruise
we can test
reminding us of
our twin staples:
lack and appetite.
In this first poem, Kirk reflects momentarily on the passion, impatience and naivete of youth from the viewpoint of adulthood, perhaps middle age. When you are young you crave knowledge and experience; when you are older you wish you were young again and there is something of this irony here. This paradox seems to have infected Kirk’s use of structure and form throughout the collection. He comments that he used to see a form as a restrictive and inhibiting set of rules, but learned to stop worrying and now sees it as an opportunity. Although he does enjoy using quite a bit of formal structuring, at times he has a structure to start with but this may not be there when he reaches the end. Sometimes the traditional form gives way to the creation of a new form. He also talks of the `magic of creation. The moment of transcendence that arrives unannounced and leaves before you can know anything about it. There is a sense that the poem arrived by itself and you had very little to do with it. ` Another hint that the creation of poetry perhaps has a spiritual and mystic element to it.
Kirk has always had a love of narrative poetry and refers to George Szirtes' description of poetry as an `amalgam of memory and imagination`.  After The Fall seems to emulate this. The themes of family, relationships, love, religion and politics are presented with a narrative quality. The collection represents the journey that we are all on, regardless of age, and the difficulty of navigating ourselves through rough emotional terrain. There are plenty of links between experience and place, but there is the suggestion that place alone cannot preserve memories for any length of time. There are several references in the collection to map making and orienteering, and I am reminded of Pilgrim’s Progress, another piece of religious literature that discusses the idea of free will and destiny. In The Man, The Boy and the Map a father tries to prevent his son becoming lost by drawing him a map, but to little avail:
Sometimes they managed to forget their lack
when they walked the island hand in hand
over rugged hillsides with the map
the man had drawn to help him guide the boy.
The words they shared were scattered by the wind,
and meaning and intention were all lost.
Also, in Orienteering, we are asked:
Even if you found
your way back home
what difference would it make?
There’s no one there;
the people and
the place that you held close –
embraced or restrained
(you never were sure which)
the words they said,
have all dissolved
Other poems talk about the painful reality of love, life and death and the inevitability of time passing. Ordinary moments are observed closely with a rich imagery- Kirk does some pretty intense people watching! The reader is reminded that a lot of moments pass by that are forgotten but that shouldn’t be. However futile life feels sometimes, Kirk firmly believes that there is an underlying sense of purpose that holds everything together.
So as an established poet, what advice would Kirk have for new poets such as myself who are developing their first collection? I will leave you with his advice:
`Poetry is a long game. It keeps. Be patient and keep working, building your profile, publishing poems, reading at events, reading and listening to other poets, getting and giving advice…find some time somehow to keep writing regularly. Be organised. Take your work seriously. If you don’t, nobody else will. `
and Brian Kirk himself via email!