Thursday, 18 June 2020

Poems from the Backroom 95: Aoife Lyall

Delighted to welcome Aoife Lyall to the Backroom today. She is an Irish poet based in the Highlands of Scotland who is on a great deserved run of successes and is due next year to publish her first full collection 'Mother Nature' with the excellent Bloodaxe Books. It's a double pleasure also because she and I, along with Thomas Clarke and Ceitidh Campbell, were recently appointed ‘Poetry Champions’, to root out emerging or neglected talent outside the Central Belt and showcase them on the SPL platforms. It’s a really good initiative born of a desire to highlight poetry from parts of Scotland that may often be overlooked but I’m not sure the others are aware of the fact that ultimately we have to fight to the death with long swords because as Christopher Lambert said, ‘there can only be one’.

Aoife was awarded an Emerging Scottish Writer residency by Cove Park in 2020 and has been twice shortlisted for the Hennessy New Writing Awards. Her poems have also been shortlisted in the Wells Festival of Literature Open Poetry Competition and the Jane Martin Poetry Prize. Her poems have been published in 'Acumen', 'Magma', 'The Stinging Fly', 'Banshee Lit', 'Butcher's Dog', 'Under the Radar', 'Poetry Ireland Review', 'The Irish Times' and 'Gutter', among others, and are upcoming in 'New Writing Scotland 38' and 'Staying Human: new poems for Staying Alive' from Bloodaxe. She is currently co-editor for the magazine ''Butcher's Dog'. 

Like myself and many others, I suspect, she came to poetry as the best way to articulate difficult circumstances in her life and has stayed with it, luckily, as she writes verse that is tightly wrought and highly accessible.  Here she is reading ‘Month’s Mind, which was first published in Poetry Ireland Review and then chosen by RTE as their Poem of the Day.

Reviews and News here:

More Poems from 'The Interpreters House':

Month's Mind

We don’t know which ones we’re meant to bring
so we settle on the yellows for all the sorrys
there are. We pick the smallest bunch. Full
of buds, but no flowers, we lay them to rest
in the river. Our slow footsteps mourn the dying
shadows as we walk back to the house, together
and alone. Once home, we bury our good shoes
at the bottom of the wardrobe. We pour the tea
and unwrap plates of sandwiches and cake.
In low voices we talk a little about the life
you never lived, and the house you never lived in
is overwhelmed by all the people who didn’t know to come.

Hermit Crab

I am your home
Hold me close and you can hear the ocean

Soon you will outgrow me
And gravitate to greater echoes

Moses basket, cot, bed
Shadowed by parents who marvel at your fragility

In each new space
You grow and grow into, grow and grow out of

The room, the house
The street too small for your itchy feet

You will cast your net wide
As you grow into the world (careful pet, not to burn your fragile skin)

I will wait here
Shell of a home (I hope you find a shell that fits us both)

Until at last
After a day at the beach

You line me up on the mantelpiece
With conches, driftwood, heart-shaped rocks

And marvel at how we grow
And shrink into the worlds around us

(Poems from the Hennessy New Writing Awards, reprinted from the Irish Times)

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