The Monthly interviews Damien Donnelly from the “Eat the Storms” Podcast – Part 2

Part one of this interview is here

How have you approached people to get on the podcast?

At first I approached poets from my own publisher, The Hedgehog Poetry Press as I had already met some of them online via zoom launches.

I often take part in the online #TopTweetTuesday from Black Bough Poetry which is a wonderful way of supporting and promoting poets every Tuesday on Twitter so I also invited a lot of poets I know from that exceptional platform.

Eventually, as people started tuning into the podcast and sharing their enjoyment of it, I became a bit braver and started to ask poets who I didn’t know but greatly admired, like Linda McKenna, Victoria Kennefick and Simon Maddrell who will be on the podcast in a few weeks.

Some episodes recently have been accompanied by singers and musicians and sometimes it’s the poets who bring along guitars or fiddles to demonstrate their range of talents.

You want to have a diverse group of voices?

Yes but not only that. I want to hear poets read their poems out loud. Sometimes when you read someone’s work your mood can determine your attitude to the writing; it is your voice interpreting their words.

But often, for me at least, when I hear a poet read their own poem in their voice you hear all sorts of tiny nuances and subtleties you weren’t able to pick up when you were reading their work.

Occasionally I look at the possibility of having a thematic thread through an episode. Obviously a Christmas, Valentines or LGBTQ+ episode will lend itself to a specific theme but I’m not insistent on what the poet gives me. I listen to what they send me first and then I set about connecting the dots but I do find the best episodes have diversity not only in theme but also style, mood and certainly accent.

Do you commission the poets or do people send material to you?

I go to open mics; Over the Edge in Galway, Ó Bhéal in Cork, Cheltenham Poetry Fest and Flight of the Dragonflies in the UK to hear new voices and then invite them onto the podcast.

I’m also conscious that I don’t want it to be just about material that I respond to. Listeners tuning into the podcast need to hear a variety of voices, so I try to be objective in my choices of guests and sometimes make open calls to poets to come and join the show.

It all works well for me in both aspects as I can find new poets for the podcast at these events but it also gives me the chance to share my own poetry.

Do you have any international poets as part of your podcast?

The international following and participation in the podcast has been very good, actually I probably have a greater audience abroad then here on this island. I’ve had poets reading on the podcast from New Zealand, Canada, The United States, Germany, Spain, France, The Netherlands and have covered most parts of England, Scotland and Wales, we even had the wonderful Irish poets Anne Casey join us from Australia and Kathy D’Arcy recently took part from Reykjavik in Iceland.

Are you noticing any trends given that you are selecting from such a wide geographical area?

Not necessarily but I do think there has been a greater embrace of spoken word since Covid, perhaps a certain comfort for poets who can now read their work on Zoom while in the safety of their own home, less pressure than a bog stage and spotlight.

I feel poets are stepping up the ways they can express themselves and doing it from home can be a confidence builder. I have noticed a lot of conversational styles of poetry lately, perhaps because I recognise that a lot from my own work. Right now I’m just happy that people are noticing the podcast and positively responding to it when invited to take part because. As I’ve said, I want to make sure this platform is open to as many poets and writers as I can and from all stage of their careers.

Where to Now?

Right now, I’m halfway through the second season and currently working on a special Paris podcast episode as I moved there when I was 22 and have lived there on and off since then and the episode will feature 4 other poets who all spent time in the city or have published collections inspired by it; Sue Burge, David Leo Sirois, Paul Stephenson and Mary Cummins. Other than that I am working on my first full poetry collection which will be about the years I lived in Paris as well as working on a conversational collection with another writer.

It takes a fair bit of commitment to produce the podcast, from researching and finding the poets, adding the musical jungles and introductions and then there is also the website to keep active so listeners can find details of all the guest and links to their website and the collections. As the podcast builds an audience, other avenues have begun to open up for me like doing interviews with poets, reviewing books and hopefully, one day, having a poetry journal that will feature poets who have appeared on the podcast.

I am now looking into the possibility of funding to help the project properly develop. Wherever I end up I am happy with the way everything has turned out in such a short space of time. As my poem says; Eat the Storms, Mother said!

artist forms link
New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.