Aoife Mannix Interview
Posted on 11 May 2005. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
Aoife Mannix is an Irish poet based in London. Her first poetry chapbook ‘ The Trick of Foreign Words’ was published in 2002 by Tall Lighthouse. Her poetry has also been published in the anthologies Short Fuse: The Global Anthology of New Fusion Poetry, The Book of Hope, In Our Own Words, 100 Poets Against The War and Gargoyle as well as numerous magazines and e-zines.
Tell us all about your writing background- what you’ve written, what you’re currently writing
I started off writing poetry and that’s still my first love. I’ve got my first collection ‘The Elephant in the Corner’, being published by the Tall Lighthouse (http://www.tall-lighthouse.co.uk ) on July 1st, which I’m really excited about. At the moment, I’m in Bangkok co-writing a non-fiction book that has been commissioned by Medecins Sans Frontieres on their work in Thailand. I’ve also got a novel called ‘The Burner’ due to be published by the Xpress later on this year. I’ve just finished writing my second novel, provisionally titled ‘The Vertigo Trap.’ I write short stories too, some of them can be found at http://www.spoiledink.com . I’m also interested in comedy and my sitcom ‘Since Dad Left’ was short listed for the BBC’s Two Timing competition. I’m currently writing on a freelance basis for a lifestyle magazine in Bangkok called ‘Apartment Living.’
Other work besides writing; ie. Editing, dramaturgy etc
Before moving to Bangkok last August to write this non-fiction book, I ran a lot of poetry and creative writing workshops in London. One of my favourites was a course I ran for Apples and Snakes, one of the UK’s leading performance poetry organisations, called ‘The Furnace.’ It was aimed at young performance poets aged 15 – 25 and we used to meet every second Friday in the Battersea Arts Centre. At the end of the course, Apples and Snakes held an evening showcase where my students got to strut their stuff. I was even more nervous than when I perform myself but they were just brilliant! I also ran a shadow scheme for the BBC’s New Writing Initiative for writers they’d selected as possible future contributors to Holby City. I used to be a script editor for the show, which is a very popular hospital drama on BBC 1.
How, when and why did you first start writing?
I started writing poetry when I was eleven. I didn’t actually realise that was what I was doing until my mother asked me what I was scribbling. When I showed it to her, she enthusiastically informed me this was poetry. I think I started to write because my family had just moved from Dublin to New York. It was a huge culture shock and writing was a way for me to express what I felt!
Who are your favourite writers and why?
One of my favourite writers is Margaret Atwood. I think the subtle way she’s able to bring you inside the minds of characters that don’t really know themselves that well is just genius. She describes the confusion and ambiguity of the human heart with great precision. I also love John Irving for his ability to make the bizarre completely ordinary and the ordinary completely bizarre. I read ‘The Hotel New Hampshire’ when I was about 14 and it’s still one of my favourite books. Poetry wise I’m a big fan of Carol Ann Duffy for the sharpness of her images. I also really like Roger McGough because of his humour and humanity. I’ve also been very inspired by performance poets like Francesca Beard, Malika Booker, Zena Edwards and Heather Taylor.
How did you get your first agent/ commission?
I was performing my poems in a pub in south London about four years ago. After the show, Les Robinson, of the Tall Lighthouse, came up to me and said he’d love to read more of my work. I sent him a batch of poems and he offered to publish my first chapbook ‘The Trick of Foreign Words’ which came out in 2002. That seemed to go pretty well so now they’re publishing my first full collection.
What's the worst thing about writing?
When I finish a piece, especially a story or a novel, I have about five minutes of total euphoria. Then I go into a downward spiral, which often ends in me convincing myself I’ve come up with the worst thing that’s ever been written in the history of literature. The worst thing about writing is definitely my own insecurity!
And the best?
The best is when it’s going well, the words are flowing or I manage to come up with an image or a phrase that rings true to me. It’s these little nuggets of gold that keep me digging
Tell us what kind of responses you get from audiences\ readers.
I do a lot of performance poetry gigs and I get a real buzz from being on stage. Actually, it’s kind of masochistic, for a long time I wasn’t too sure if it was just the relief of getting off the stage that gave me this adrenaline rush! But now I’ve got myself to the point where I only feel very nervous (as opposed to physically sick) before a show, I’ve really started to enjoy it. For me poetry is about the sound and the rhythm as well as the meaning of the words. There really is nothing like the feeling of connecting with a live audience. When performance poetry is good, the atmosphere can be magic and this inspires me more than anything else. London has a particularly vibrant poetry scene and there’s nights for everyone from comedy to soul stirring. They’re usually really friendly and welcoming. It’s a great way to meet other people interested in writing.
I’m particularly interested in combining poetry with music. In 2003, I produced a CD called ‘Did You Forget To Take Your Tablets?’ with musician Richard Lewis. Basically, I gave him a recording of me saying the words to a number of my poems and he wrote the most amazing music to go with them. It was originally a commission from Apples and Snakes but afterwards we performed together live quite a bit and people seemed to really enjoy the combination.
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