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Holly Darragh-Hickey

Location: Cork, Ireland


Holly Darragh-Hickey is a Cork poet and artist. Writing has long been an outlet to her, as someone living with mental ill-health. Her poems catalogue challenging experiences from her life, endeavouring to create beauty from the darkness. She also writes about the solace of the natural world.

Holly has poems published in Skyway Journal and Aromatica Poetica. She is also due to be published in Shine this year. Holly is a volunteer writer for Libero Magazine—a peer-led magazine that champions good mental health practice.

Current project

I have recently been awarded a place on the Walls of Limerick Mentorship Programme. For the duration of this programme, I have chosen to work towards a poetry collection. I will be under the guidance of an experienced poet throughout, who will aid in my growth as a poet and help me corroborate the collection. I am due to be published with Silver Apples Magazine, alongside other successful Wall of Limerick candidates by the end of 2021.

My proposed collection of poetry will be centred on my journey with mental illness. My poems are narrative insights into various personal challenges and victories over the course of my mental health journey thus far. They focus on personal truth, self-acceptance, resilience, human frailty and “trauma grief”.

Mental illness is a subject that I am very passionate about. The idea of connection greatly appeals to me—especially connecting with others who have experienced similar struggles with mental illness. It is fair to say that mental health has become incredibly topical over the last few years. It is even more relevant in the current Covid 19 crisis, where society is experiencing more heartache and anxiety than ever before. I intend for my body of work to build on the headway our society has made to date, with the intention of highlighting mental health advocacy and awareness.

My poems seek to reassure, and to combat the loneliness and desperation people can often feel when life is difficult. For I believe: to be human is to struggle. We need to remind ourselves that it is okay not to be okay and we should love ourselves especially, during these challenging times.

Of course, my recent opportunity with The Walls of Limerick has inspired me to continue on my writing journey; however my long-term goal is to be picked up by a literary agent and publisher.

Writing sample

Excerpt from: The Home Stretch

Now long-dormant vigilantes are reviving,
amassing in me yet, at a cellular level—
Her unspoken mandate
drilling me to never falter—not even for one moment—
For she never forgets that beauty can be but a veneer,
the reality is often far uglier.

But I am that girl no longer—and she is certainly not me,
having collected decades in her absence—
She need not bend my brow lines into deep “vs”,
to holster my tension there no more—
nor pull my teeth up forcibly into my cheeks,
where they can grow rotten with silence.

I had outgrown that girl, I had shed her like a chrysalis—
watching her vanish behind me,
until she was separated by the reel of my life.
I had to leave her, like all the others had,
so I might remove the pins she had placed so carefully in me—
For then I could age like I was meant to,
where it matters, on the inside.

Excerpt from: Outsider

My eyes traced the paths of waders,
on the same rounds, yet always on separate schedules.
My new school and I were just like that—
Two birds in different colonies.

I marked the homes of classmates—
I dared not impose.
Three terriers scattered from a gate, yammering—
echoing the words already pervading my mind—

Those first months passed like slow moving clouds,
my thoughts weighted like magnets—
reflexively circling back, towards old friends—
seeking freckles and dimples round every turn.
I wondered—who now guided their steps?
Who had claimed my silence?

I cloistered sorrow in my heart,
for I was uncertain where else to commit it.
My heart swelled, gestating to overdue;
The exertion of propping it up was just too much.

Excerpt from: Appointed Rank

I saw a moment’s opening, squeezing into fifth place,
weaving underfoot like a stray—
If I had a tail, I would have raised it disarmingly—
Instead, I tacked on my breeziest grin, printing over a fragile smile.

Fifth’s outrage ripped the air like a missile;
it hunted behind seats, where I huddled between two others,
hoping to blend into bodies of glitter and heels.

The lesson that followed,
dismantled her face into red apoplexy.
That voice that commanded, was an inconvenienced deity—
her words forming, like clenched fingers round my scruff,
tangling into the tender hairs—and slamming me back to earth.

My paper-thin resistance was struck down.
That was to be expected, when teaching an Omega deference.

Excerpt from: No confidence

My wary palm liked to hover
just long enough, to wring the dregs of my courage;
That old longing seized me—to possess that precise scenario—
to pull each piece apart, like a blueprint of the other side.
It was all I felt—hating and fearing the not knowing.

That exposure, when the latch snaps
every head to attention—
To stand, in the gaping of a doorway—
like a rabbit strung up between the vastness of field and sky.
To witness the moment, when I “faux-passed”.

Excerpt from: Coming of Age

The barbs of her look wilted me;
My friend had vacated those eyes,
shuttering against my existence already.
I was faced with a match that would not catch,
a thread that could not pass through the eye.

Just one harmless snip,
that would starve me—a tourniqueted limb
torn from the groove I had carved, with seamless perfection.
Those well-worn trails had grown cold—
There would be no touch down.

She was so unerring, so Cromwellian in her course—
always circumventing corners,
undercutting my understanding of the world—
the back wall of the cinema, a school corridor, a shop aisle—
Anywhere was game along the stomping grounds.

Excerpt from: The Soul of the Torrent

My arms began their pendulum—
protesting, as if they were lengthening like a toddler’s growth spurt,
until they made a full windmill revolution—
Pressing white-knuckled fists against the full assaulting force.

My rubber soles sucked their track—
prying themselves again and again,
until water peeked inside, like a bold child.
I hardly noticed the corner of my shoe lifting,
and my legs raising to clear the puddles—
As if to make great round-house kicks.

The asphalt was a conduit for the streetlights,
like an ocean is to phosphorescent fishes—
But my equipment did not aid me here.
My eyes tried to blink their lens clear,
smearing my glasses in a lightshow,
with the jubilant flair of a Jackson Pollock.

Excerpt from: Spring in my Step

Spring was pealing back winter shadows
which had lain too long and deep—
those last vestments were crackling like hard foil,
the corners tearing clean off.

What emerged was like the first full breath—
refilling our hemisphere with life.

My eyes were pulled skyward
to drown alongside all manner of fowl,
to drift with snagged tender stems and telephone wires,
like black and green appliqué on blue—
Stitches to keep the sky from leaking out.

Excerpt from: My Protector

I could be marooned there in that limbo,
mired so completely I could never rise again—
But your arms have a way,
of gently, painstakingly brushing off every last burden,
when I melt into their full circle.
They remind me where the good still resides—
To carry on seeking it in the world.

At night I shirk the darkness,
tucking under the eaves of your chin—
like how a bird folds beneath the safety of its own wing.
I perceive that fear is a state, transitory and nothing more—
I can see you were right again.

As you lie above, with all the planes of your face
outlined, with your lax mouth breathing into my hair;
The fact you are beautiful is lost on you.
It hardly matters, when your kindness
is what really makes your soul shine.

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