Recently I met with the very talented Sligo poet Elaine Cosgrove to discuss the recent publication of her poem Firemen Waiting in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2017 collection, produced by the London-based indie press Eyewear Publishing. She reflected on the diverse range of new writers published by Eyewear, told me the story of the Claddagh fire station that inspired her to write the poem, and recommended some experimental poetry publishers based in the west of Ireland.
Congratulations on your recent publication of Firemen Waiting in The Best New British and Irish Poets Collection 2017 collection, Elaine. Could you tell us about the competition itself, and what inspired you to submit the piece to Eyewear Publishing?
Thanks so much Megan! There’s some amazing poets selected for this anthology so I am very happy to be in their company.
The competition is modeled on the famous U.S. ‘Best New Poets’ , and this is Eyewear Publishing’s second year to host the competition for British and Irish emerging poets. It is open to any poet of British or Irish citizenship and/or UK or Irish residency who has not yet published (and is not under contract to publish) a full-length collection of poetry at the close of deadline.
Firstly, I’d enjoyed the 2016 anthology – its quality and range of voices – and think Eyewear’s output and style pretty cool overall, so that was an inspiration to enter. Secondly, I was encouraged to enter by Galway poet Elaine Feeney. I try to send out work as much as possible and sometimes you need a little prod from someone, especially after a run of a few rejections.
What genres are published by Eyewear and where are they based?
Eyewear Publishing is a British indie press founded in 2012 by Dr Todd Swift, based in London. They publish poetry and prose, in English and translation. Their website states that their mission is to find emerging talent, and neglected out-of-work authors, as well as well-established figures. The books have been well-reviewed in the TLS, The Times, Poetry (Chicago), PN Review, Poetry Review and Poetry London; and have won major prizes for criticism (The Pegasus Award) and for poetry (the Edwin Morgan Award), and been longlisted and shortlisted for others. Their titles appear in major bookshops across the UK, Ireland and the USA, distributed by Central and SPD. Authors include a Poet Laureate of Canada, a TS Eliot winner, and the world’s leading expert on John Ashbery. Their renowned pamphlet series has been shortlisted for the prestigious Michael Marks Award, given each year at The British library. The novels have been well optioned for film, and adapted for radio and broadcast on the BBC.
Through their annual Melita Hume Poetry Prize they discover, support and develop exciting new poets, while also taking pleasure in working with writers at all stages of their careers. They are varied and welcoming, and believe books should look good, read well, and they love to support local printers.
If readers would like to get in touch with them, who do they contact?
If you’d like to support their work, you can get in touch with Todd Swift, director and publisher, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Could you tell us more about your piece Firemen Waiting?
Sure, it’s a straightforward poem in the sense that it describes what I saw while I was walking by the Claddagh fire station one evening (three years ago I think), and it was this beautiful Autumn evening, and there were two firemen playing hurling on their green area just outside the station while another one was watering the window boxes. I overheard him telling the two hurlers to be careful. I thought it was pretty humorous and endearing to see these people who devote their time to caring for, protecting us, saving us, rescuing us; having a breather themselves, and getting on with domestic chores. So, it’s a simple portrait of the calm before the next emergency.
What was the name of the first poem you ever wrote, can you tell us more about that poem, and who is your favourite poet?
Ohhh. Lemme think. I’d say the first proper poem was called Wildflowers. A short one about the wildflowers that grew around my house and desire for wildness (I was thirteen! Ha.) Too many favourites! Each one has a special place, for different reasons, in my heart.
What do you enjoy most about poetry?
Its musicality and resonance, for sure.
Do you have any future plans for poetry collections in the pipeline?
Yes! Fairly fresh news and early days yet but (thankfully) a debut collection of poetry has been selected by an Irish poetry publisher, following their open call for submissions. They’re a publisher I respect and adore. Ecstatic about that coming out and, all going well, hopefully will be out later this year.
Do you subscribe to any poetry publishers in the west of Ireland, or would you recommend any quality poetry publishers?
Sure! There’s a nice clutch of poetry publishers based in the west of Ireland. I am genuinely a big fan of Irish poetry so I try to support as much as I can. For fear of leaving out anyone I’ll keep as local to Galway/Clare as possible: Doire Press, Salmon Poetry, Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Galway Review, Skylight 47…all worthy of attention if you’re looking to dip your toes.
Will you be attending any arts or writers’ festivals this year?
I will be attending as a spectator – hopefully two or three here in Ireland and maybe one in England. I’ve been invited to read/speak at one festival in Ireland so far (tba).
I’m also factoring in my first love – music festivals. Much to be excited about this year! Ability to go to festivals are always free time and funds dependent.
If you could give any advice to a poet starting off, what would you tell them?
Hmmm… I still consider myself very much still in the starting off phase; in the grand scheme of things, but I guess if someone were to ask me what I would have told myself, say five years ago, I’d say something along the lines of: Read as much poetry as you can, and if it brings you joy, keep with it. Each to their own pace. And if you want to publish, you may get a ton of rejections, but that’s part and parcel. You have to take care and mind yourself. Very important. And having trusted readers is super valuable.
–Thanks so much for taking the time out to talk to us, Elaine.
You can find out more about Elaine’s work on her tumblr page: https://elainecosgrove.tumblr.com/
Also, you can preorder a copy of the 2017 collection here: https://store.eyewearpublishing.com/products/best-new-british-and-irish-poets-2017