Conor O'Reilly is a writer and teacher based in Dublin, Ireland. After spending over eight years in South Korea where he started writing he returned to Dublin with his young family. As well as publishing poetry (and occasionally getting paid for the task) he has had short stories, memoir, blog posts, and various other articles in both digital and print magazines. For more words visit ifihadaminutetospare.com
DV: I really want to thank you for your contributions to duanespoetree. The site wouldn't be the same without them. But I'm sure people wonder why you write. In particular, why do you write poetry?
COR: It's a pleasure to be featured, and I'm more than happy to contribute more. I first started writing properly only around ten years. I mean properly because that was when I first actively sat down regularly and started trying to be creative. I had wanted to do journalism in university but ended up on another path. So when I started writing poetry I felt like it was some kind of a creative realisation, and because of this I dived in with plenty of enthusiasm but very little actual understanding of what it was I was doing. At the time I thought of poetry as easier than other forms of writing, but I know how wrong I am about this. Poetry for me now is a way of saying and looking at things which cannot be explained, and which do not necessarily need explaining. I look at it as a very visual form of writing, and I try to capture a moment in which I find a certain poetry. Perfecting this is a work in progress.
DV: So for you it was a lightning flash epiphany rather than a gradual process? Did you have any mentors or role models, either in print or in person?
COR: I'm not sure if I would say it was an epiphany or anything remotely similar. I think I had always wanted to write but wasn't really sure where to start. I think because I met some people who did it, and talked about doing it, made me feel comfortable trying it. At home, that is in Ireland, I hadn't really come across anyone who wrote, I think. I should say that I never really went looking, but what made my Korea experience different maybe was I found something without looking, I just turned up in this place one night and there it was. And I was hooked. I suppose I should mention a few of the people who have written on this site, like Keith Francese and Jeremy Toombs, who helped and guided me a lot in my early stages. But after a while I just went out and did stuff on my own and have been my own mentor in that I know what goals I want to reach as a writer, and I think I know how to go about meeting them.
DV: Do you really mean to tell me that everyone in Ireland isn't a poet? But, seriously, you say you try to capture some moment in which you see a certain poetry. So far you've given us a stalled elevator, a curse, grapes, and a Wizard of Oz reference. These "moments" all seem quite varied, like life I guess. What is it that usually sets you off? Can you recapture that creative experience for us?
COR: It would appear from my experience in Ireland there is poetry, but not in ever orifice, or indeed in most. But it is there and that's what matters. About mine, I think my poetry is quite visual. So it's often something I see or remember which starts me. Or it may be something that someone says which captures such sort of image I've come across before. The time I came up with the elevator poem, I was living on the twentieth floor of an apartment building in Suwon, Korea, and I recall looking out the window and seeing these black hills poking up through the urban sprawl. It was quite sunny and hazy at the same time, so it was hard to make out anything other than the grey of the highrise, the black cone shapped peaks, and the bright blue cloudless sky. If there was life there you would have had to squint hard to see it, maybe like when you are in an aeroplane or the likes. Unfortunately I'm still quite impatient with my poetry, so I think this is something I need to address. I rush them a lot, and try to force the words and believe too much in their own brilliance. I think it's a bad thing as I should really know when a poem isn't really worth more time and I should move on to something else, be it a new piece or the reworking of an old one from a notebook. I wish too much for the single turn of phrase which will ignite some vein inside me, and while this kind of happens from time to time, I really need to sit down and apply as much time to my poems as I do to say imagining what I'll do with all the Nobel Prize prize money.
DV: And what WILL you do with it? That's 8 million Swedish kroner, or some $1.2 million -- €0.93 million! That's a large sum indeed for a starving poet. (Just as a point of reference, and I know many have done much better than this, I was paid for a published poem one time only -- the princely sum of $50.) Is there an O'Reilly Prize in the offing?
COR: Actually I managed to convince one literary magazine to pay me €30 for a poem. I was so enamoured by this that I never cashed the cheque. I thought I'd save it and use it for entering writing competitions or something but realised that this was unlikely to happen, so I've just left it in a drawer. I pick it up and touch it every so often, just to make sure it's real. But an O'Reilly Prize? Maybe, but it won't be from or dedicated to this O'Reilly. For me writing is not something for fame. It's nice to be noted of course, but I don't envisage any major success, at least not until I can find the time to sit down and really and truly dedicate myself to my writing, and that means spending hours and hours at it, spaced over days, weeks, months, and even years. Family and other commitments are my priorities for now.