Three years ago, having made some tentative attempts at writing poetry, I sent a piece off to Listowel Writers’ Week to try my luck. Now, Listowel is one of the most prestigious literary festivals in the country – it was mostly out of naivety that I entered and, of course, I didn’t win.
About a month after the event, a letter landed on my doorstep bearing the Listowel logo. I remember I’d been trying to write a press release for my new business for the better part of the day, and heartily abusing my lack of writing prowess in the process. So when I saw the letter from Listowel, I thought, ‘That’s right – rub it in. ‘You’re a lousy writer’ – as if I didn’t know THAT already!’
But when I opened the envelope, it contained a lovely letter from the event organisers, thanking me for my participation and informing me that, although I didn’t win, my poem had reached the final shortlist of 5 and the judge had asked for her congratulations to be passed on.
It was a small and thoughtful gesture that gave a seed of encouragement to a doubtful beginner. A year later, I joined a workshop run by Irish language poet, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill – a wonderful, inspirational woman and poet – and never looked back. This year I received another of those lovely letters from Listowel Writers’ Week, adding to a list of accomplishments over the past 3 years that still makes me reel with surprise.
The Listowel judge to give me that first piece of recognition was Rita Ann Higgins and, tomorrow evening, thanks to an invitation from Kevin Higgins & Susan Millar DuMars, poets and organisers of the Over The Edge series of poetry reading events and competitions, I will stand up alongside Rita Ann Higgins, as a poet in my own right.
Nervous doesn’t begin to describe it. But also more than a teensy bit proud.