STEPHANIE CONN / ISLAND & THE WOMAN ON THE OTHER SIDE
(click to view cover)
by Stephanie Conn
2018 / 80 pages / €12
Cover art: Hamilton Sloan
(click to view cover)
The Woman on the Other Side
By Stephanie Conn
2016 / 80 pages / €12
Cover photograph: Johnny Conn
STEPHANIE CONN graduated from the Creative Writing M.A. Programme at Queens University, Belfast. In 2012 she was shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Award and Anam Cara Competition and highly commended in the Doire Press Poetry Chapbook and Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet competitions. The following year she was shortlisted in the Red Line Poetry Competition and her work was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series. In 2014 she won the Translink Haiku Competition. In 2015 she was awarded the Yeovil Poetry Prize and the inaugural Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing.
SAMPLE POEMS FROM ISLAND
The First Lighthouse
Cross Island, 1714
Even then, the flaming beacon was old-fashioned;
lensed lamps had been available for years, yet
an open-fire blazed on top of the white-washed tower;
three storeys of island-quarried stone, picked
and carried on the convicts’ backs.
They built the walls two metres thick.
These twenty acres never did attract the sun;
there was no call for a mirror to catch the light;
Alexandria’s blue skies were little more than fables.
The people here had no time for sea-gods
who shepherd seals or speak of the past or future;
in these parts, that is better left unsaid.
This land lies three miles from the Lough’s mouth,
knows nothing of the Nile’s flat plains or
the limestone pharos, reinforced with molten lead.
But yes, the fires burned alike. An iron spindle,
twenty metres up, revolved beneath the brazier;
the hot coals kept burning by the keeper —
a ton and a half on a windy night;
the old donkey lugging the black stuff
up the hill from the moonlit beach.
To live on a small patch of flat land,
in the middle of the sea, you need defences.
If herbs and fruit trees are to grow,
if you want chicken flavoured with rosemary
or poached pears and blackberries,
you must build four walls, raise the temperature
by degrees, to coax saplings to the sky.
The stone absorbs what little heat the sun gives,
prevents frost forming on fuchsia
flowered currants and salt-laden iced winds
from battering the swelling fruit.
There is nothing ornamental about this square
of stone built so close to waves
churning up porcelain and flakes of skin.
SAMPLE POEMS FROM THE WOMAN ON THE OTHER SIDE
We hide between the land’s contours until they leave,
resist the temptation to sleep on the still-warm ground
intoxicated by the shrub’s scent clinging to our skin.
All this grew from a small bag of aromatic seeds
taken from high in the French Alps and planted
here, at just the right altitude, in the red soil.
Precious cargo carried from their London perfumery
to Van Diemen’s Land, along the lanes past Lilydale
to Nabowla, to settle on this vista fit for the strain.
We wait to see the last sun setting, backs pressed
against the massive oak, speak only in whispers.
No-one in the world hears. No-one knows we are here.
Without local varieties to cross-pollinate or corrupt
their perfect crop, they stayed, worked the empty fields,
placed the fragrant drops into the earth in curves.
The lilac moon keeps us alert, that and our finger tips.
When the solstice sun rises over the mountain we are
feasting on lavender honey, our eyes glowing amber.
(Alexander Naumov, Pushkin’s Duel, 1884)
I still recall the picture —
black sapling branches against snow
and the wounded Pushkin held upright.
The pistol shot to his stomach sends me reeling
back to the undersea under-piano world —
the palms, the pots of philodendrons, their green light;
mother’s foot on the gold pedal, her music pouring down,
the white keys always happy, the black reliably sad.
I see myself sneaking out, once she has left the room,
to blow on the most sacred surface in the house,
hurrying to press my face onto the sheer black lake,
printing puffed lips on my own receding breath
knowing the piano will take away my mouth.
LINKS TO ARTICLES, INTERVIEWS & REVIEWSAuthor website
Canadian Christmas youtube reading
Community Arts Partnership video interview
Poetry Ireland Introduction Series video reading
Article on writing in the Irish Times by Stephanie
The Display youtube reading
Photos from the Belfast Book Festival