Shape Shifting

640px-An_Experiment_on_a_Bird_in_an_Air_Pump_by_Joseph_Wright_of_Derby,_1768

‘Understanding and making shape of the past can surely give us more choice in the present, but I am also fascinated by the concept of ‘hungry ghosts’. I saw my mother become haunted by her past during her long drawn out years of dementia and since then I have felt it really important to feed my own ghosts, in the hope that they will rest in some kind of peace and let me do the same.’

I first came across the poetry of Moyra Donaldson a few years ago in a bookshop in Belfast that’s no longer there. They say to never judge a book by it’s cover and of course they are wrong. Donaldson’s book Miracle Fruit lured me in by having Joseph Wright’s endlessly fascinating painting ‘An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump’ (see above) on it’s front. Inside were tales of real-life ‘freaks’ and outsiders from the past as well as personal verse. It seemed to echo the songs of one of my favourite lyricists, Rennie Sparks of The Handsome Family, containing a unique but similar humanity and a creative fascination with uncanny, revealing and haunting details in modern folklore. To me, the book is an overlooked classic of Irish poetry, and is something of an inspiration for the collection I’m working on at the moment, The Ghost Republics.

With the recent release of her new collection The Goose Tree, it’s been my pleasure to interview Moyra for The Honest Ulsterman, which you can read in full here.

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