Meet the Artist: Sinead Morrissey
How did you start on a career as a poet and what encouraged you to pursue a love of poetry professionally?
I don’t think I ever considered having something as concrete as a “career” in poetry: I just knew from an early age I wanted to write poetry, and keep writing it, but envisaged for many years having to do other jobs to survive. It’s still that way to an extent. Though I teach and work in the field of creative writing at Newcastle University now, far more of my life is still spent not writing than writing and it’s seems a perennial struggle to get the balance right between writing and earning a living.
As a teacher of creative writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Queen's University, Belfast, what is you experience with youth engagement with poetry? Is there any way you think we can encourage greater engagement?
The students at Queen’s were wonderful to work with – talented, passionate, so well read. They developed their own dynamic creative culture outside the classroom and were a source of profound inspiration to me over my many years working there. Now I’m at Newcastle I’m encountering a different but equally vibrant creative culture among young people here. I think enabling young people to have their own creative voice and then listening to it are both very important, and this can be encouraged in all kinds of ways: competitions, programming, work in schools.
Do you get the chance to visit and showcase your work at many arts festivals? And how do you think the St Magnus Festival will compare being set in a relatively unique island setting?
I’ve visited and read my work at lots of different festivals all over the world for over two decades now, but I’ve never been Poet in Residence at a Classical Music Festival before, and I’ve never visited Orkney, though it’s been a dream of mine for some time to come here. I’ve never been so far North in my life, and I’m particularly excited to travel to Orkney on the Summer Solstice for that reason. I’m excited to see what the sky is like at midnight.
In your most recent book, "Parallax and Selected Poems", you discuss taking different perspectives on multiple subjects. The reader finds themselves in Belfast, Kyoto, and a “midnight-bound Vegas plane”. Having lived all around the world yourself, do you think a global, outward looking perspective is important for young people to have?
Oh yes, absolutely – in the world in which we find ourselves, we have no choice but to have an outward-looking perspective. Which doesn’t mean we have to forget more local lines of connection and inheritance. I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive at all.