Stephanie Conn from County Down is a former teacher. Her 2016 collection, The Woman on the Other Side (Doire Press), was shortlisted for the Strong/Shine Award for Best First Collection. She has won a number of prizes, including the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing. Her new collection, off-kilter, has just come out from Doire Press.
Nandi Jola is a South African-born poet, storyteller and playwright. She represented Northern mIreland at the Transpoesie Poetry Festival in 2021 and is a commissioned poet for Poetry Jukebox, Ambiguities, a James Joyce programme of the Centre Culturel Irlandais. Her first poetry collection, Home is Neither Here Nor There, is also published by Doire Press.
Stephanie Conn’s collection deals with two crises – the climate crisis and the bodily and mental trauma as a result of illness. She draws links between the damage wrought by both and the efforts made to overcome them. Her observations come from her own experience of a chronic illness and her experience of the ravages of wildfires during a visit to Tasmania a number of years ago. She also looks at the life of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and how she also lived and worked with chronic illness.
Nandi Jola’s debut collection is the story of one woman’s arrival to Belfast from South Africa and how she made a home there. It deepens to examine the lives of other black South Africans, from the mathematician Gladys Mae West to the Khoikhoi woman Sarah Baartman who was lured to Europe in the 19th century and kept here as a freak show attraction until her death.
Both poets have signed up to the Northern Ireland Emerging Poetry Mentorship Scheme and are mentors to new poets. They discuss the importance of mentoring and share some of the advice they offer mentees.