Drop in by Kitty Donnelly

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Kitty Donnelly, prize-winning author of The Impact of Limited Time, to reflect upon a poem from her collection.

Thank you for letting me drop in to share one of my poems from The Impact of Limited Time. The collection was written over many years. When I found out it would be published by Indigo Dreams, I was just about to board a ferry back from the Isle of Arran in 2019. There is a wishing well at the ferry port and I threw some money in on arrival and swore to myself that if I went through with the reading for the McLellan Poetry Prize then good luck would come of it (I was trying to overcome my ridiculous shyness).  I managed to read aloud to an audience for the first time, after a large brandy in the hotel room, and the following day I got the email about my collection. It felt fated. Growing up with an Irish father and second generation Irish mother, I was full of superstitions as a child with a fearfulness and a very early, morbid understanding of the brevity of life. My father told bedtime stories about wakes, Banshees and strange supernatural experiences. I was equally horrified and enthralled! I have chosen to share this poem as it reflects many of the themes in the collection, including loss, the concept of time and the story telling quality that feels natural to me, plus a pinch of the unexplained and the mysterious which drives my imagination.

The first part of the poem tells the tale of an Irish relative who disappeared one morning in Newry. I have used some poetic licence, but it is broadly based on fact (wiry terrier aside). I am attempting to form a picture for the reader of a traditional, Irish Catholic living room with all it’s formality, morbidity and piety. A typical morning, a stable routine, the awful breakfast slithering across the plate. Then something unexpected and unexplained happens. Why does he choose that moment to leap from the table? What is happening in his internal world that we can’t understand?

I’ve always played with language, making up words, writing and speaking in grammatically incorrect sentences (not always, or often, purposefully!). I used to get in trouble for this at school, but to me language should be pliable. The line that ends with the statement that the missing man ‘…not only did not come, but never came’ may sound clumsy but it is meant to be a double negative, repeating and emphasising its point. Hopefully the humour in it also comes across, as well as the need to graft the past onto the present through stories that become part of your inheritance.

Somebody recently told me the indentation in the 6th stanza was unnecessary. I usually go with any constructive criticism I can get, but the break in this line is important to me as it represents a change in the narration and an immediacy that severs the poem into two pieces. The narrator is now more than an observer and also has something startling to disclose to the reader:

I hope this has the intended impact. I have experienced mental illness and worked in the mental health field for many years. I think the best ways of understanding another person’s struggles are instinct and intuition, with a dose of experience. The poem ends with a question mark, as does the story in my family history. I often wonder what happened to my relative. Whatever it was, I hope he is where he wanted to be.

Next week read my review of Kitty’s fabulous The Impact of Limited Time.

3 thoughts on “Drop in by Kitty Donnelly

  1. ‘I know what it is to find yourself on the edge of yourself’. These two visceral and intimidatingly haunting lines have been tumbling through my head on repeat like a refrain from a Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan song or poem. Melodious but melancholy they frame Kitty’s poem like a border of rusty barbed wire with obsequious intent. One wants both to acknowledge and encompass them while at the same time subconsciously and uncomfortably push them away. The questions they pose are lucid and valid but one needs courage and fortitude to address them. I allow myself the time between now and Nigel’s full review to consider my options. I am in any event captivated by this poem and will read and re-read it regularly.

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