Prose of the week is an interview with Sinead Morrissey with our very own Greg McCartney which featured in the HU edition of July 2014. 

To read the full prose click here.

For writers, putting words on a page is a daily challenge but for most, life often does its best to thwart such efforts. Berating herself over missed writing moments is not, however, something that our inaugural poet laureate is in the habit of doing, as for Sinéad Morrissey, writing is rather cyclical.

“I don’t write all the time but then I’ll go into a period where I’m writing a lot,” she says. “Then that will speed up, when I’m writing all the time, and that’s always just so special. I think it’s a matter of balance.

“After I have written intensively, I don’t want to write for a while – there’s a fallow period. Then I start to feel fraudulent and feel really frustrated. I’m beginning to feel really ready now to start writing.”

Having published four previous collections - There Was Fire in Vancouver, Between Here and There, The State Of The Prisons and Through The Square Window – with Carcanet between 1996-2009, it was Parallax (2013) which finally saw Sinéad scoop the coveted T.S. Eliot Prize this year. Coincidentally, it also happened as she took on her poet laureate role.

The prize-winning collection – which picks apart how we perceive people, places and objects in myriad mediums – was the result of one of Sinéad’s intense writing periods.

“I had a year off work in 2012 and I had, I think, 10 poems that I liked,” she says. “I’d written quite a lot I didn’t like. Ten poems finished since Through the Square Window (2009) wasn’t a lot in three years, but then I got this year off and started writing on the day of my leave, at 4am, and it was just like that for the whole year.

“I finished Parallax at the end of September. Just being able to spend day after day in the study writing was so rare and private. Everything clicked and one poem generated another. I felt in a very special kind of place.

“When I finished Parallax I had a commission to write an updated cantel of Don Juan. I went out to Japan for nine days and came back and wrote this long, long rant about the Euro Crisis. It took three months and that was really fun. I finished that in January. So, February 2012 to January 2013 was just amazingly creative for me. I haven’t really been able to write much since.”

Her time has, however been put to very good use over the past 12 months, as her laureate role saw Sinéad engage with a huge variety of people with an urge to put pen to paper. Her last official day was on June 2 and it is, of course, a role the poet is keen to see continuing on.

“I felt really honoured to represent the city and honoured to be associated with the mayor and his tenure,” she adds. “I think he’s been amazing – he’s been so positive and so great for the city.”

Describing Belfast as “a poetry-rich place,” Sinéad says there was “such enthusiasm for poetry” everywhere she went over the past year.

“The poetry scene is really buzzing and alive at the moment. Just the openness and receptivity towards it was something that took me by surprise. Lots and lots of people were excited about participating.

“I think there is this idea which persists, that poetry has lost its audience and isn’t relevant. I don’t think that’s true. This year I saw just how much brilliant work is going on in the city with literature and engaging people. I would like to thank Ruth Carr in particular for her amazing work.”