We are delighted to announce that Irish poet, Steve Denehan, has joined the Poetry Cooperative as an honorary member. Steve was extremely generous with his time when sharing his experience and wisdom and we very much appreciate it, knowing full well that his insights will help all our members. Cheers, Steve :)!
About Steve Denehan
Steve Denehan lives in Kildare, Ireland with his wife Eimear and daughter Robin. He is the author of two chapbooks and three poetry collections. Winner of the Anthony Cronin Poetry Award and twice winner of Irish Times’ New Irish Writing, his numerous publication credits include Poetry Ireland Review and Westerly.
A Rainy Night on Wexford Street, Dublin
I sit in a Dublin café amongst other stragglers it is cold it is rainy condensation beads on the windowpane droplets snake down and puddle on the tabletop I pierce meniscuses with a toothpick there is a bang outside not too loud but loud enough for everyone inside to turn, to look one car has driven into the back of another several perfect moments of utter stillness drip by before the car doors open a man emerges from the first a woman from the second the man points his finger at her I watch him fling words the woman puts her hands on her head and starts to cry I look away to see what Dublin makes of it all some people stare most just walk on by heads down earphones in it takes less than one half minute for the backed-up traffic horns to start blaring when I look back they are standing beside their jigsawed cars he is holding her in his arms she is heaving with sobs I see puddles ripple with neon and understand that streets like flowers come alive in the rain
Anita: “Please tell us a little about your poetry journey; the start and how you transitioned to becoming a published, well-established poet.”
I left it a little late really and only started submitting a few years back, in 2017, when I was already into my forties (super old!). I had always enjoyed writing and had written all sorts of things over the years but never thought of submitting. I love reading but was never a massive fan of poetry, so it was a bit of a surprise when I found that, more often than not, when I was writing it was poetry that seemed to come out. I’m not sure why that was and is, maybe it’s because it’s so immediate. Writing a novel or a screenplay is such an enormous thing and requires lots of planning and, of course, time. Whereas poems are quick and easy, a thought or a line comes along and then bam! a few minutes later you have a poem. I love that.Steve Denehan
Anita: “What was the key step to publication?”
The key step to publication was submitting! It sounds obvious but honestly it was something I had never thought of. I wrote purely for the love of it and that was it. It was only down to the persistence of my wife who kept at me, for years really, to do something with the writing. I eventually submitted to a small journal, literally the first that popped up on Google, and, amazingly, they accepted a poem. If they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have bothered submitting anywhere again I don’t think. Though I would have definitely continued to write.Steve Denehan
“What makes a poem publishable?”
I think there are a few things that make a poem publishable but there is one thing in particular. First of all, I think it helps if it stands out from the crowd a little. There are so many poems about the wonder of nature and that kind of thing. I think everyone knows that flowers and sunsets are pretty snazzy so it might be better to write about something different. Or at least come at nature from a different and more interesting angle.
I also think that a poem should have a rhythm, almost a melody. It might be a good idea to read the poem aloud to yourself after, just to see how it feels and whether there is a flow to it. The flow is very important and that comes with rhythm.
Most importantly of all though the poem must be real. It cannot have been written for the sake of it as this will come through and be obvious to a good editor. The poem should read as though it was meant to be written, that it had to be written. It should not be contrived, overly crafted or overwrought. It should be clean and pure and real; it must be real.Steve
“What are today’s poetry publishers looking for?”
Hopefully just good work. Often a journal or press will detail what they are looking for in their submission criteria but, almost as often, it will be an incredibly vague and unhelpful statement. I would think any journal would be delighted to read good, original work.Steve
“What resources can help budding poets?”
Two things, firstly, Spellcheck! This sounds like a given but holy moly I’ve been amazed at the number of poems that I’ve read with spelling mistakes and blatant grammatical errors. I have been involved in judging a couple of competitions and it’s honestly staggering how little care some people put into what they are submitting.
Secondly, the most important and, happily, most readily available resource for budding poets is books! Read books! The great thing is that there are loads of books around and better yet, lots of them are absolutely wonderful. I don’t think it’s necessary to read poetry either. Fiction, non-fiction, anything at all is good as long as you love and are transported by it.Steve
“Do you advise people to work with mentors or hire an agent?”
I don’t know a thing about agents I’m afraid. From what I can tell agents aren’t interested in taking on poets as it’s such a hard sell. I read somewhere that there are less than ten poets in the whole world who make a living from poetry. That’s a pretty low percentage when you consider that there are about ten zillion people actually writing poetry.
In terms of mentors, I’m not too sure. I think it is very important to have your own style and voice and I’d be reluctant to risk losing or diluting anything. I’m sure that having a mentor works for lots of people but it’s something that I would run a mile from, I think. Possibly because talking about literature or the technicalities of writing is my worst nightmare.Steve Denehan
“How can people improve their poems?”
It might seem counterintuitive but, in my opinion, people can improve their poems by leaving them alone, for the most part, once they are written. I love realness and rawness and strongly believe that they are lost when a poem is overly honed and smoothed down after it has been written. It’s important to make sure it is clean and reads correctly but as important to know when to stop, to know when it is finished.Steve
“What’s your process for writing a poem?”
I don’t really have a process and very rarely actually sit down to write a poem. My brain is pretty much empty at all times until an idea, or a line comes along. Then I grab the laptop and a poem plops out. I write quickly and forget about the poems afterwards when my brain becomes empty once again! One thing that often gives me a poem is a misheard song lyric. I love music and so many times have written a poem after completely mishearing a line from a song that end up being an interesting idea. To me at least!Steve
“What is your top piece of advice?”
I’m not sure I’m really qualified to give advice but, if I have to, I will say to only write if you love it. It’s the same with anything I suppose, do what makes you happy. If you are writing for any other reason I would say, stop. If you are writing to make money, to be famous, because you feel you have to, stop. If writing is something that hangs over you, that is torture (amazingly this is not uncommon!), that you do to show off, stop. Write because you love to write. That’s it.Steve Denehan
I look at the photograph curled at the corners dulled by time I look at her my mother old to me then young to me now I blink look again she is younger still
More of Steve Denehan’s Fabulous Poetry
You can read three of Steve’s poems in the Terror House Mag.
And listening to recordings of him reciting three other poems is an absolute must. Just brilliant!
Finally, here’s the link to Steve Denehan’s website.