Jenny Cox and Eileen Acheson, who edited and contributed poems to Wild and Wonderful, Poems from Poetry Lane at the booklet’s recent launch at the Chou Cottage in Clonmel. Picture John D. Kelly
A booklet of 33 poems composed for Clonmel Applefest Festival last autumn celebrates the beauty and wildness of nature and people through the eyes and imaginations of the writers who composed them.
The collection, entitled: Wild and Wonderful, Poems from Poetry Lane, was published and launched at the Chou Cottage Shop in Clonmel last month.
This anthology is a prime example of how the Covid-19 pandemic has acted as a driver of creativity and inspiration for local writers.
Clonmel Applefest marketing officer Jenny Cox, who designed and co-edited the booklet, said the festival received 19 poems in 2019 in response to a “call-out” issued to local writers but there was nearly double that number of poems submitted for last September’s Applefest.
“We received such a strong response from poets that we decided to publish the collection in a booklet,” she told The Nationalist.
Writers were asked to submit poems of 25 lines or under based on the 2020 Applefest’s theme of “Wild and Wonderful”.
During the festival, the poems were printed on pictures of apples and displayed at the Poetry Lane exhibition at Market Place. They were displayed at Market Place for about a month and were then exhibited at the Showgrounds Shopping Centre for a further month.
An outdoor poetry recital event called Words Spoken in the Wild took place during the Applefest. It gave some of the poets, who submitted poetry to the festival, the opportunity to read their works in the scenic surroundings of Ravens Rock glamping site in the Comeragh Mountains.
The event was hosted by Eileen Acheson, who curated the festival’s poems and co-edited the booklet with Jenny. It was filmed and can still be viewed on the Clonmel Applefest website.
Applefest poets also recited their poetry at the festival’s Spoken Word event hosted by Eileen and Jenny Cox at Place4U in Clonmel. These poetry readings were conducted via Zoom due to Covid-19 restrictions and Eileen and Jenny hosted the event.
Eileen believes some people are put off by poetry thinking it’s too difficult and her aim with the Poetry Lane exhibition and poetry reading events at Applefest was to make poetry more accessible to writers and the public.
She said the writers who contributed poems for Applefest ranged from novices to well known poets like Mark Roper from Piltown, who submitted a beautiful poem about opening your heart called, Early Marsh Orchids, Bohadoon, to the collection.
Most of the poets live in county Tipperary and many are involved in local writers groups like Poetry Plus in Carrick-on-Suir, The Backroom Poets based at Clonmel Library and The Wild Scribes from Clonmel and Newcastle. One of the poets, Gina Dennehy, lives in Germany and is married to a Clonmel man.
Her poem Apple Tree is a celebration of the life of the fruit tree over the four seasons - a very apt submission for Applefest.
What is striking about the Wild and Wonderful poetry collection is the wide variety of subjects chosen by the 33 writers for their poems. It’s a testament to their creativity.
Many, like Gina, drew inspiration from their observations and love of nature.
Others focussed on the ways people can be wild and wonderful from the romances described in Vincent Kiely’s - A Perfect Match - and Bernie Condon’s - A Wild and Wonderful Summer - to Kate O’Meara’s poem of children playing called Small Ones in the Wild.
The pandemic, unsurprisingly, features widely in the collection. Karen Kiely’s poem Wild and Wonderful, for example, tracks the constraints the virus placed on our lives between March and autumn last year.
Eileen Acheson’s contribution - Storm Ellen 2020 - combines both the wildness of nature and its power “like a wild banshee” to blow off the roof of Clonmel’s Regal Theatre with the public outrage over the flouting of Covid-19 restrictions in the Golfgate scandal.
Jenny Cox is one of the anthology’s novice poets. Her poem Wild Nights Before Winter is an atmospheric celebration of the changing colours of nature in autumn and the fun of a Halloween bonfire.
“I have been dabbling with poetry for the last few years,” she explains.
“What appeals to me is the way poetry gives you the freedom to express yourself whatever way you want.
“I don’t have the patience or attention span to write a novel. I like the instant gratification you get from writing poetry.”
The Applefest poets collected their copies of the booklet at the official launch, which took place before the current Covid-19 Level 5 restrictions. Jenny says two of the writers was so overwhelmed to see her work in print that she cried when she collected her copy.
Eileen said bringing together this collection of poems for Applefest and publishing them entailed a lot of work but it was well worth the effort
For her, the anthology is a project that has brought writers together and lifted their spirits during the pandemic.
“It’s just something positive for people to share and say look what we did during the pandemic.”
Wild and Wonderful, Poems from Poetry Lane is on sale at Chou Cottage and the Book Market in Clonmel, the Tudor Artisan Hub in Carrick-on-Suir and Healthy House in Cahir.