‘Poetry has always been a constant in my life’

‘I wanted to stimulate the love for this special shape…’ Aoibhín Garrihy introduces her new collection, Every day is a new beginning: meaningful poems for life.

‘Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful’ – Rita Dove

Poetry has always been a constant in my life. During the milestones, the big moments, poetry seemed to mark everyone. But it was also there in the quieter times, a form of comfort and a path to meditation, bringing me comfort and inspiration when I needed it most. It always occurred to such an extent that I almost took it for granted and forgot the power it has for me.

It took a few turbulent years and a global pandemic for me to realize how much I really valued the healing power of words. I found myself turning more and more to poetry as I felt confused, angry, overwhelmed, sad but also elated, overjoyed and completely in love. I was attracted to the words of others and sometimes even felt compelled to write myself, however simple.

Perhaps poetry requires you to be in a certain headroom. Lockdown gave us that time, that headroom and the spark was rekindled for me and so many others, it seems.

In 2020, I packed my wardrobe (the closest it came to a sound recording booth!) couple of years. I recently heard Ethan Hawke speak of poetry and art and that in our hour of need it is no longer a luxury; it is sustenance. We need it. This was certainly true for me.

Now I keep my poetry books by my bed and at the end of the day, depending on my mood or what’s happening that day, I scan those books for that sustenance, a poem, some healing words to help me process a certain emotion or feeling. That to me is therapy.

My love for poetry started with my father. He dropped out of school at sixteen, but that didn’t stop his poetic flair – a great man to put pen to paper when he was in the mood. He wrote four rhyming stanzas entitled ‘Aoibhín O Aoibhín’ on the back of a cigarette box while I watched from the buggy on a lazy sunny afternoon! The poem describes the delightful diaper change cycle and it still hangs proudly in Mom and Dad’s downstairs toilet. It hasn’t made the final cut for my new anthology, needless to say, but I’m delighted that one of his more recent works has!

Aoibhín Garrihy: ‘Poetry is subjective and open to each individual’
interpretation, which has always been the beauty’.

I think for most of us our relationship with poetry started with our teachers. I was fortunate to have wonderful teachers who instilled in me from an early age a love and hunger for poems and reciting poetry. I remember learning and reciting my very first poem at school feis, queen bee by Mary K. Robinson. I still remember every line:

When I was in the garden

I saw a large queen bee:

She was the greatest

That I’ve ever seen.

She wore a shiny helmet

And a beautiful velvet dress,

But I was kinda sad because

She was not wearing a crown!

In second grade, I had a very special teacher, Miss Susan Ryan. One of those teachers who will leave a lasting impression on you, etched in your heart forever. I was in love with her. We all were. She was bigger than life and loved the arts. So theatrical, full of charisma and when it came to poetry, the words jumped off the page when Miss Ryan would recite. She would animate every line in a way that I will never forget.

I had a really great speech and drama teacher, Maeve O’Donoghue, growing up and especially during my teenage years she honed and developed my love, knowledge and appreciation for poetry, the language and the power of the voice. It was the extracurricular activity that took me away from the pressures of study and school life. I loved playing with the delivery, the musicality of the vowels and consonants, the rhyme and rhythm, the inflection, the expression in the voice and in the face to tell the story and capture the emotion through this very unique medium.

That passion grew even stronger when I went to Trinity College Dublin and started my Bachelor of Acting Studies at the Samuel Beckett Theatre. Voice coach Andrea Ainsworth spent hours dissecting every verse, line, word and syllable and I felt so privileged to have that time and space to enjoy. That was a special time in my life – I was in a bubble, playing, taunting, telling, sharing, trying, failing, trying again without the pressure of the industry and the reality of being a runway actor!

'Poetry has always been a constant in my life'

It was only when I later learned speech and drama on my own and began to share and explore poetry with my own young students, making new discoveries through their eyes, that I developed a deeper appreciation for form and discovered how, regardless of the century, certain themes are universal and totally timeless.

And so my book, everyday is a new beginning, feels like the most natural, joyful project I’ve ever embarked on. I felt like I was back in the Samuel Beckett Theater dance studio ‘indulgence’! But I want you to join me. I’ve shared some thoughts on each of the choices, but left room for yours as well. Poetry is subjective and open to any individual interpretation, and that’s always been the beauty of it. The poems reflect moments large and small in the journeys of our lives, from our dreams and our relationships to love and loss, courage and compassion.

I wanted to break down the barrier some may have to poetry; to create an accessible collection of poems, you really don’t need to have an English degree to enjoy it. I wanted to encourage a love for this special shape. I really wanted to share some of my favorites; the poems that resonated for me at different times in my life and helped comfort me. I wanted to share poems that inspire, poems that empathize, poems that encourage us all to pause, but also to persevere. Poems that give hope for tomorrow… because every day really is a new beginning.

Everyday is a New Beginning: Meaningful Poems for Life is published by Eiru

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