Smorgasbord Guest Post – Writing all the Wrong Things by Anne Casey


Anne Casey was my first guest writer back in 2013 and I am delighted to welcome her back again with her debut poetry collection “where the lost things go”. Published by Salmon Poetry

Writing all the wrong things by Anne Casey

It is a heart-stopping moment as a professional writer when you realise you have spent 25 years writing all the wrong things. That is the realisation I came to around three years ago. At the time, I could never have guessed the whirlwind journey that lay ahead.

From as young as five or six years of age, I had known that all I wanted to do was write. I had a fake toy typewriter I spent hours playing with, crayoning out my own little storybooks in my small west of Ireland hometown. By the time I was 10, my parents had realised too and they bought me a ‘Lilliput’ typewriter. That was the start of many late nights spent gleefully tapping out poems and stories, the happy ‘ting’ at the end of each line sending my heart soaring.

In my teens, I had various poems published in youth magazines and local publications. My English teacher, Harry Hughes, was very encouraging of my short story writing. But by the time I was leaving school in the mid-1980s, the economic situation was pretty dire in Ireland. Jobs were hard to come by. The reality hit home that my long-held passion for creative writing was not a viable career path.

Determined to carve out some kind of livelihood in writing, I attained a law degree and worked at night to support post-graduate studies in Communications. With part-time work at a small magazine house along the way, I was lucky to land a full-time job in a reputable public relations consultancy. Although it was a compromise, I was thrilled to have swung a position that involved writing for most of my working week, particularly in tough economic times. There happily followed a move into a larger magazine publishing house where I eventually managed two monthly magazines, spending most of my days writing and editing.

In my mid-twenties, I migrated to Australia and pursued a career that has facilitated not just writing, but my second love of travel. Over the past 25 years I have had thousands of pages published. As a journalist, magazine editor, legal author, corporate and government communications director, I’ve written reams. I have been extremely fortunate to meet and to work with some extraordinary people, while travelling across the world and back. I’ve penned speech notes for a nation’s President, government Ministers, CEOs and entrepreneurs; news articles on emerging industries and multi-million dollar business deals; and books on new laws and commercial implications.

Along the way, however, my inner voice never stopped whispering. Sometime in the last few years, it escalated to a shout. Having children and prioritising family over my corporate responsibilities gave me the space to see things a little clearer. In my heart of hearts, looking back over my career I realised I had sold out. For all the ‘important’ things I had been writing about, I realised that none of it really mattered… “Today’s headlines are tomorrow’s fish and chips wrappers”. No-one will remember any of it, not even me.

That’s when I dug out my old notebooks. I carved out some time, set up a blog and some social media sites and started to write. I wrote about anything that wasn’t ‘serious’… the stuff that set my heart alight. I wrote about nature, my children, my family history, even my dog! Soon I was back writing poetry, and letting go of some of my corporate consulting work.

When my first poem as an adult was published, it was in The Irish Times. I had written about my journey as an emigrant against the backdrop of losing my mother. The guilt and grief in that poem resonated with others. The comments section at the end of the article kept filling up until it closed. Then people were tracking me down via Google, my website, Twitter and LinkedIn to tell me how much that poem had affected them.

It was a watershed moment for me. I realised that this was what I had always wanted to do – to write something that touched people’s hearts. To shake people out of the semi-conscious daze we walk around in and wake them up to the things that truly matter.

I set about capturing the things that have really mattered to me. As an emigrant, in returning to my homeland each year I have become acutely aware of the changes. Each time I fly away and come back, I find that another face or another little piece of my growing up years has disappeared. These are the things that sowed the seeds of who I am, growing up on:

“A little street
In a little town
At the wave-washed edge
Of the world”.

This was a place and a time where a child wasn’t brought up by one or two people, but by the many hands of a community and all they had passed down. Every bump in the path had its history and its meaning. I set about capturing and preserving those pieces that were slowly slipping away – the things that made us who we are – people, places and credos.

There are other places and faces that have marked my journey which have also ended up in my poetry. I have never been short on political views but, unshackled from censorship due to work sensitivities, I have a newfound courage to actually write what I really mean!

The west of Ireland wind must have been blowing my way about 18 months ago… With offices a stone’s throw from where I grew up on the County Clare coast, Salmon Poetry has been a tour de force for Irish poets – women poets in particular – over the past 36 years. I am a great admirer of Salmon’s managing director, Jessie Lendennie. She was the first book publisher I contacted with what had grown into a poetry manuscript.

I was blown away when Jessie agreed to meet with me on my visit home in 2016. The possibility of joining the Salmon Poetry family (which includes such salubrious poets as the President of Ireland, Mr Michael D Higgins himself) seemed liked a distant dream. My feet barely touched the ground after I left Jessie’s office with a 10-year publishing deal, my debut poetry collection to be published a year later.

Siobhán Hutson at Salmon Poetry did a stunning job on the design and production of my book, where the lost things go which was published by Salmon in July 2017. And I am eternally grateful to renowned Irish poet,  Eleanor Hooker for her glowing speech at my book launch in Ireland on 6 July.

And so, after all these years, and some major side-tracks along the way, this little girl’s dream has come true. My inner poet has finally emerged from the attic and the whispers have quietened for a little while. But we shall have to wait and see…

To follow are two poems from Anne Casey’s debut poetry collection “where the lost things go” published by Salmon Poetry.

In memoriam II: The draper

“The town is dead
Nothing but the wind
Howling down Main Street
And a calf bawling
Outside The Fiddlers”

My mother’s words, not mine
In a letter, kept in a drawer
These long years
She had a way with words
My mother

That’s why they came
The faithful of her following
Leaning in to her over the counter
For an encouraging word
Or the promise of a novena

Long before we had
Local radio
Our town had my mother
Harbinger of the death notices
And the funeral arrangements

Bestower of colloquial wisdom
Bearer of news on all things
Great and small
Who was home
And who hadn’t come

Who had got the Civil Service job
And by what bit of pull
The Councillor’s niece
Smug in her new navy suit
Oblivious to the circulating countersuit

“Would you ever think of coming home?”
Her words would catch me
Unawares
Lips poised at the edge
Of a steaming mug

Igniting a spitfire
Of resentment each time
Then draping me for days
I’d wear it like a horsehair shirt
All the way back

Until the sunshine and the hustle
Had worn it threadbare
This extra bit of baggage
In every emigrant’s case
Their mother’s broken heart

I never thought to ask her
“Would you want me to…?
So I could look out at the rain
Circumnavigating the empty street
And shiver at the wind
Whipping in under the door…?”

I don’t miss that question now
On my annual pilgrimage ‘home’
My father never asks it
Like me, I know he feels it
Hanging in the air
Alongside her absence

I miss my mother
And her way with words

(First published in The Irish Times, 31 January 2016)

Between ebb and flow

Mist rolls off moss-green hills
Where wind-wild ponies thunder
Manes flying as they chase
Their seaward brothers
Locked in eternal contest
On this deserted grey mile

Past the little stone churchyard
Long-forgotten graves spilling
Stones onto the sodden bog
A soft snore from behind
My two angels sleeping
Thirteen thousand miles

From all they have ever known
Running our own race
To make the best
Of spaces like this
A rainbow rises along the horizon
And I recognise her

Come for my mother
Locked in her own
Immortal struggle
The sister returned
So I know it won’t
Be long now

And I cry a little at
The unbearable beauty
Of these diastoles
When we are all
Suspended
Here in a heartbeat

Between heaven and earth

©AnneCasey

Buy this wonderful collection of poetry by Anne Casey direct from the publisher: Salmon Poetry Bookshop

About Anne Casey

Anne Casey’s poems have been published in The Irish Times, The Murmur Journal, The Incubator, Other Terrain, Backstory, Into the Void Magazine, ROPES Literary Journal, The Remembered Arts Journal, Dodging the Rain, Tales from the Forest, Luminous Echoes: A Poetry Anthology, Deep Water Literary Journal, The Blue Nib, Visual Verse: An Anthology of Art and Words and Thank You For Swallowing, among others.

Anne passionately believes that every poem, like all art, should leave you changed by the experience. Her poem, “In Memoriam II: The Draper,” was the fifth most-read item – across all categories – in The Irish Times on the day of publication, and resulted in a furore of social media commentary.

She was shortlisted for the Cúirt New Writing Poetry Prize in 2017 and the Bangor Poetry Competition 2016. Originally from the west of Ireland, Anne lives in Australia. She has worked as a business journalist, magazine editor, corporate and government communications director, author and editor. Anne holds a Law degree and qualifications in Communications.
Connect to Anne Casey via her website and social media.

Website: http://www.anne-casey.com/home.html
Twitter: https://twitter.com/1annecasey
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/1annecasey
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+AnneCaseyWriter
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anne-casey-aa998662/
Videos: http://www.anne-casey.com/videos.html
Publisher: http://www.salmonpoetry.com/

It is wonderful to feature Anne on the blog again and please help spread the news of her poetry collection across your own networks.. Thank you Sally

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