It feels like my poetry collection, Flower Press, has come into existence both very slowly and incredibly quickly.
I never set out to write a poetry collection. I definitely never intended to write one like Flower Press. It’s an unusual book; at twenty-five poems it’s somewhere between pamphlet and collection length-wise. It focuses on a single narrative. It has illustrations.
The poems in it were written out of necessity; I was trying to process a loss I’m not sure I could have processed otherwise. I can describe the act of writing this collection as an obsession. While the narrative of Flower Press occupied my head, most poems I wrote turned their way towards it. I frequently woke up in the middle of the night to jot down ideas. So many of those clichés are true.
There were other poems. When I first considered putting together a collection I’d been publishing poetry for a couple of years. I had quite a few, I think there were eighty on the list when I totted them up. In this mass of poems of questionable quality there was a distinct vein of twelve or so poems. There was a heart beating. The Flower Press poems didn’t fit with the others, they skewed the focus of the collection. I knew this was the story I had to follow, and that it needed a book of its own. If you don’t follow your heart with poetry, what’s the point?
I decided to allow myself the time to properly explore the poems I couldn’t stop writing. By the time I’d compiled the first draft of what was to become Flower Press, there were maybe thirty poems. Some poems, I removed: those I needed to write, but didn’t need anyone to read. I wrote drafts and drafts until it made sense, until I was sure the right poems were there.
The period from the writing of the first poem to the collection’s publication will be about three years, which is quite short, really. But of course Flower Press really started much longer ago, with the memories that inspired the poems, and with my preoccupation with poetry in general.
Poetry is addictive, and writing poetry is a slippery slope. It just takes one poem and then you’re hooked. That’s how it was for me anyway.
I was nineteen when I started writing my own poetry regularly, in the first year of my undergrad in English Literature and Philosophy and struggling with mental illness. Writing poems was incredibly cathartic. It helped me to wrap my head around feelings and memories that I hadn’t properly processed. Reading the poetry of others also helped me. At that time I was drawn to poets such as Sylvia Plath, Carol Anne Duffy, Anne Sexton; famous poets.
I was dating a musician at the time and we used to go to Open Mic sessions. During a snow flurry one January morning, we went to the Ash Sessions in Ranelagh. Huddled in Nick’s Coffee, for the first time I saw living poets read their work out loud. Kerrie O’ Brien, Fiona Bolger, Dimitra Xidous were among them. These captivating women were reading work that was both skilfully written and incredibly raw. Before this, I don’t think I’d ever considered that maybe I could share my poetry too.
The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. I joined the Literary Society in Trinity College, and began attending Open Mic Nights. The work done by those who run Open Mic nights, such as Aidan Murphy, Declan Mcloughlin, Kenneth Nolan, to name just a few, is extraordinary.
It took me a couple of years to start publishing poems. The early days were all about writing. Writing terrible poems full of honesty, churning out the sentimental to get to something richer, something more authentic. For me, that’s how it had to start.
If it weren’t for the community of poets I found in Dublin, I don’t think I’d have ever attempted publication. We are lucky to have a wealth of literary journals available to us. Christine Murray at Poethead, for example, does incredible work. Having my work published on Poethead really gave me the confidence to take myself seriously.
Providing a platform for new poets is so much more than sharing poetry with the world. It is giving a person permission to have a voice. It is promising that if they speak, someone will be there to listen.
There are so many poets who have influenced me in the writing of Flower Press. I’ve been reading poetry ferociously since I was in my teens. While writing and editing Flower Press two collections in particular attracted me: Denise Riley’s Say Something Back and Victoria Kennefick’s White Whale. These incredibly beautiful and heart-breaking collections contain poems that portray grief so delicately and with such intimacy. I return to them again and again.
Flower Press is the most intensely personal thing I’ve ever written. The poems were all written in solitude, but the collection wasn’t written alone. I have so many people to thank for that.
By the time you’ve published a collection, so much time has passed since the poems were written that it feels at once very old and completely new.
I finished writing Flower Press about a year ago, and it had been over a year in the making before that. I’ve been working on other things for months. I’m so grateful now for the chance to write pieces like this, and to talk about the book, otherwise I’d be afraid I would blink and have missed its coming into the world.
I’m working on a full-length collection now, exploring themes of illness, faith, and science. I’m in no rush to finish this one. I’m just enjoying the writing, and enjoying where the poems are taking me.
Alice Kinsella’s Flower Press (Onslaught, 2018) will be launched in Books Upstairs, Dublin by Kerrie O’ Brien on February 22nd at 6.30pm. https://www.facebook.com/events/154204821902009/
(c) Alice Kinsella
About Flower Press:
This short collection of poems can be described as an elegiac apostrophe. In three sections —Bud, Bloom, and Blood—it explores the growth of love in childhood, the loss of innocence, and the fallout of that loss.
While these poems take place in the world of pretence: childhood fantasies, imaginings fuelled by mythology, and the unreliable narrative of the human memory, it is the physical details, the lingering on physical sensations, smells, tastes, and personal totems, that gives the poems the life that allows them to explore the emotional, psychological, and moral questions that they raise. However, Flower Press does not claim to offer answers, but the consolation of the act of remembering.
Beautifully crafted, Alice Kinsella’s new collection of poems, ‘Flower Press’, or love letters to a love lost, sink into the heart and quietly explode. I adored them. – Rosita A. Sweetman
A deeply moving first collection, Flower Press treats of love and loss with mature and memorable insight into the questions and longing which absence brings in its wake. A bright and convincingly poetic voice beckons in Alice Kinsella’s debut: ‘pure potential’. – Gerald Dawe
Intimate, lyrical and full of pathos, Alice Kinsella brings an otherworldly quality to the quotidian, in work that is unsettling and transformative. Flower Press is a debut of rare beauty, revealing multiple epiphanies and the power of the poet’s wielded pen. – Sinéad Gleeson
Order your copy online here.