Contributors to the Only Connect anthology of poetry at the book’s launch in Brewery Lane Theatre’s tearoom. Photo Pete Smith
A collection of prose and poetry written by the Poetry Plus collective of writers during the first Covid-19 pandemic lockdown last year, was launched by award winning poet Mark Roper at an event in Carrick-on-Suir.
The official launch of the Only Connect anthology, published by Tipperary based Beir Bua Press, took place at Brewery Lane Theatre on Friday, November 26. It was attended by many of the anthology’s contributing writers. Much of the book’s poetry and prose were composed by members of the Poetry Plus writers’ collective at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic between March and June last year and offers a valuable insight into and record of that time. It all began when the monthly Poetry Plus open- mic sessions at Brewery Lane Theatre’s tearoom where writers from a wide catchment area around the south east gather to recite and share their work was forced to go online at the start of the first Covid pandemic lockdown in March last year.
Creative writing tutor Margaret O’Brien of Writing Changes Lives, who has run the open-mic sessions at the theatre for the past decade, recalled the first Poetry Plus session held via Zoom on March 20 last year was such a success that she decided to run it every Friday night, initially thinking it would be just for a few weeks.
“The enthusiasm and interest was such that the group met continually for a total of 15 weeks, until June 26 last year,” Margaret recalled.
“It was a remarkable time of lockdown restrictions, 2km limits on travel, then 5km, no inter-county travel for a period and so on.
“During that period bereaved families, those in nursing homes and the over-70s forced to cocoon, suffered greatly from the imposed isolation.
“Many businesses had to close their doors. The news on the airwaves each day was grim. For everyone there was hardship, worry and stress.
“As the world seemed to shift on its axis, the Poetry Plus Friday nights on Zoom provided an anchor.
“It became a welcome creative and social outlet and each week 20 writers showed up and shared poems, prose and conversation.
“Some gave themselves the challenge of writing a new piece each week, or shared work by a favourite writer.”
She pointed out that moving the Poetry Plus session online meant other writers could now join them from outside the South East.
“There were two writers who regularly joined from the US. New friendships formed as trust developed and deepened through the mutual sharing and support,” she told The Nationalist.
Margaret said Only Connect is filled with writing from the group created during that period.
“Some of it reflects on the pandemic, but not all.
“As the writers zoomed in from places as far apart as New Jersey and Massachusetts in the US, to counties Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny, Wicklow, so the subject matter for the writing also ranges widely.
“Many of the writers included here also contributed to other pandemic creative projects in partnership with Carrick-on-Suir based arts collective, the Tudor Artisan Hub. These include the Legacy Project with bereaved families, In ár gCroíthe go Deo; the Radio Plays project in association with nursing homes in Tipperary; the Lockdown is/was… Sketchbook project with artist Sheila Wood, to name just some,” she added.
Copies of Only Connect are available at the Tudor Artisan Hub (051) 640921 and cost €10. They are also available online through Beir Bua Press, www.beirbuapress.com. All royalties go to the neonatal and stillbirth charity, Féileacáin Ireland.
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