Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Interview of a poetess: Sarah Maria Griffin

When I was writing for, (For people who don't know what is, it's a non-profit arts collective which aims to put creativity at the centre of public consciousness in Ireland) I was asked to get the views and thoughts of poets and writers on the Upstart Project.

The project was to put original art and poetry posters on Dublin streets during the Irish General Election Campaign 2011. It engaged the interest of hundreds of artists, writers and volunteers, capturing the imagination of the public and featuring widely in the national and international media.

And so to generate more interest around this collaborative Project, Upstart had started a blog and contacted 8 bloggers (me included) to keep the momentum going.

Their blog was in site maintenance for a while and I thought it would be a shame if all that content was lost. We must have written more than 100 posts in the first 4 or 5 months and generating about 500 comments in that time. Poems, interviews, news, essays and reflections.
And so I promised myself that when and if the site was back online again, I'll put some of my interviews here.
Besides who doesn't like to read a good interview whether it is about a writer or a poet or an engineer? At the end of the day, interviews are about people and people are fascinating creatures.

The first interview I did was with Sarah Maria Griffin On February 22, 2011

We sat down in a nice coffee shop off Dame Street. I turned on my recorder, put it on the table and proceeded with my questions. It went very well.

Since then she has gone to live in San Francisco. She was 23 at the time and was writing furiously as her blog states and still does. Through the interview, I learned that she was a diversified writer: poetry, plays, online blogging and storytelling. She has won first prize at 2010's Over the Edge Fiction Slam. She performed at Electric Picnic 2011’s Mindfield in the Arts Council Literary Tent. In September 2011 she won the Literary Death match Dublin.
She is everywhere and does everything.

I didn't know all this about her when I interviewed her. But I did sense the "fury" of getting her words out there. It translated in how lively her eyes became when she spoke and how fast her words flew out when she talked about writing.

Anyway, here is this retrospective interview:

Hi Sarah, glad you could make it today. Will you tell me a litle bit about yourself?
I come from Dublin but I am currently living in Galway where I’m doing an MA in writing. I am a poet, mostly, although I’m working on a few other projects at the moment. My first collection Follies is coming out soon.

How have you heard about UpStart?
I used to go along to Wurm im Apfel which is a spoken words night run by Kit Fryatt, and it was through her I heard about the initiative. They were looking for poets to take part of the poster campaign. I sent one of my poems in andit was accepted. It is up near Jervis Street at the moment. I also performed at a recent UpStart fundraiser — the poetry and wrestling night.

It must feel strange to see your work out there in the street?
Yes, but it also feels great. You have to remember that this might be the first poem that people have read this week, this month, this year and it is fantastic to be part of that.

Do you think it is important to encourage a debate on the role of the arts in Ireland?
Oh absolutely. It is part of our culture and always has been and the current climate has encouraged creativity. Every single month there are so many nights where people put on spoken word shows and storytelling nights in Dublin, it has created a huge revival of that kind of culture. I think with the way things have gone, arts have taken a new place in people’s heart.

What about funding?
Most people I know who run those nights aren’t funded but they still do it any way because it isn’t about that, it is about loving what we do.

How long have you been writing?
Since I could hold a pen, so pretty much all my life.

Is there something in particular that triggered writing for you?
As you change from a teenager into an adult, a lot of things also change in your world, the way you look at the world, at people and the way they look at you. That for me, was really what pushed me into writing. Nothing is ever still, not even for a moment. Ever!  There is so much going on all the time, between people and outside, everywhere, I feel I have to track it.

Who are your favorite poets?
e.e. cummings wrote wonderful poetry on nature. Although I wouldn’t be inspired by nature I feel his use of the language pulled something out of me that nobody else has before. I discovered him through the film maker Woody Allen.  Th poetry featured in one of my favourite films,  Hannah and her Sisters, and that led me to e.e. cummings. On the other end of the scale, I also really like Charles Bukowski. e.e. cummings had an huge influence on Bukowski. He was the complete opposite of him, drinking, smoking, hating women…but what they shared in common was an identical visual style. Those two poets mean an awful lot to me but in terms of Ireland, people like Rita Ann Higgins had a huge influence on me.

What do you write about?
I write about being young. I write about being twenty-three. That’s all I know about. Finishing college, people moving away, having a partner. I write about my life with him and the not-so-fashionable notion of wanting to settle down.

So I believe you are working on other projects as well?
I have written a 1000-word short story which I think could be expanded. It has the potential to become a very long and interesting journey but it is hard to maintain stamina for long things, especially when the longest poem I had ever written  was a page and a half long!  Then you suddenly find yourself facing into writing 52 000 words, it can be a bit daunting. I’m also working on a screenplay called Sleep Skips my Heart based on a song called “Narcolepsy” by Ben Folds. It is going to be produced this week in NUI (Galway) on two nights as part of the Jerome Hynes one act series.

I wish you good luck with the writing and once again thank you for meeting up with me.
For more details on Sarah Maria Griffin, check out her blog:

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