Poetry and the Self

When Annemarie Ni Churreáin came to Solitude as a fellow she had with her a carefully prepared work schedule, ready to use the new precious time and freedom to get absorbed in long hours of reading, writing and dreaming. But then the unexpected happened, and time suddenly meant something completely different. Where does the line between the self and poetry lie?

»On January 8, 2014, I moved into Studio 25. It was (and still is, I presume) an architect’s space with a loft bedroom and lots of natural light. I fixed a poem to the outside of my door, hung a picture of the ocean, and plugged in my laptop. For the next six months this was »home.«

I threw myself into the routine I’d always fantasised about. I ate breakfast over poems, cooked dinner while listening to podcasts and went to sleep at night counting syllables. I became reclusive, poetry-centric and joyously absorbed in long hours of reading, writing, and dreaming. I indulged every poetry interest and among my research whims I began to count tree folklore, psychotherapy, ants and bees, sign language, and Japanese pearl diving.

On March 21, I received a call from my sister. My foster-brother had been in a car-accident, she said, and he would likely not live. I watched her face float on the Skype screen and felt the air turn cold. In that moment, I entered a completely new sense of time. I went home to Ireland and when I returned to Schloss, something in me had changed. I detail this personal event here because it shaped my writing over the second half of my residency.

I began to seek in my work a deeper and more evolved understanding of loss and control. I found myself in a conversation with Nadine from Germany about conflict and resolution in schools. I listened intently to Samir from Palestine talk about occupation, boundaries, and power. I discussed with Hanae from Japan the practice of shirabi or rope bondage. I was thinking all the time about social systems and personal narrative. Out of this dialogue, I began to write a series of raw and difficult new poems.

On the day of the summer solstice, my foster-brother died. He was aged just 23. It was early morning and I opened the windows to let in all the light and sun possible. I then stepped outside, lay down on the grass and experienced – before the surge of calls, travel arrangements, grief – an hour of intense stillness. I experienced a sense of clarity like no other. For the next few weeks I wrote very slowly and deliberately. Not long after, I came to the end of my residency period.

Time is the thing I continue to associate most with Schloss. Time to learn. Time to be alone. Time to accept realities. Perhaps most crucially for me, time to consider how and where the line between the self and poetry lies.

How did a residency at Schloss impact on me? Immeasurably. Would I ever want to relive the roller-coaster I was taken on during those months? Of course not. Will I be back? Definitely.«


by Annemarie Ni Churreáin

One cut and the hair worn since childhood
fell upon the floor
dead soft.

A spear-thistle;
her new, bald skull
refused order.

She belonged to heather
and in tail-streams
cupping frogs,

in the small, green pulse of life
between palms,

not here:
at the dark centre of reunions, separations,
starved of air.

This was a protest of love, against love
sun, rain, wilderness.

From a finger, she slid a band
placed it underfoot,
pressed down

until the stone
made the sound of a gold chestnut
cracking open.