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‘A couplet of questions with the Manx Bard’

Thursday 7 october in Community

Today, 7th October 2021, writers all around the world are celebrating one of the oldest language writing forms; poetry. Up and down the British Isles schools, writers and students alike will be honouring National Poetry Day through the spoken word.

Islandlife’s very own Tia Welsh, who is partial to creative writing and dabbles in poetry writing herself, caught up with the Island’s Manx Bard Owen Atkinson about what poetry means to him.

Owen grew up on the Island and attended university studying French and Spanish before returning to the Isle of Man, he was appointed Manx Bard earlier this month.

It’s great to finally meet you. How did you get into writing poetry?

I’ve always written in some capacity, but it was only at university when I started revisiting it – little bits here and there. I think doing languages provided me with the skills I need now. I always find going to see poetry makes me want to write more.

Has it helped you get to where you are now?

Since coming back to the Island following university I’ve been slowly getting more involved in the creative arts and poetry scene - I especially love taking part in poetry slams.

I work part time at Sound Records in Douglas, running their marketing campaigns and promoting music journalism, so my background definitely helps in that creative aspect. When I heard about the upcoming Manx Bard applications I told myself to just go for it.

Was the Manx Bard a role you had always been in interested in pursuing?

Not really – though it had been on my radar for a little while! The role itself is not something I’d been yearning to do for many years, but it felt like the kind of thing I’ve been looking for when the opportunity did arise - it’s funny how things work out. Being able to get poetry out there into new spaces is something I’m really passionate about.

As a writer why do you think poetry is important in everyday life?

It’s a very cathartic and cleansing process for your emotions, thoughts and feelings. Being able to share the beauty of the written word and language is a great way to connect people, learn from others and understand people’s perspective on a deeper level. I think poetry is very good for empathy - it’s a beautiful way to get in touch with yourself.

Do you have a specific writing routine?

It all depends on how I’m feeling. Creating poetry often relates to the moment I’m living in. If I see something or feeling a particular emotion, that’s when a line or a poem will come to me. From here I can try and craft it into a poem – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. For me, it’s constantly about the editing… editing is so important!

Why do you write….where do the ideas come from?

I tend to write for myself rather than anybody else - it gets my feelings out on the page, to reflect on things in everyday life… If people appreciate it or get something from it - that’s a bonus. The Isle of Man offers so much inspiration so my writing has really accelerated thanks to its stunning scenery.

Do you have a favourite poem…or top 3?

Oooh that’s hard! The Two Headed Calf by Laura Gilpin…Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare….and The Listeners by Walter de la Mare. I’ve always appreciated poems that create a very specific image.

Who would you consider to be your biggest influences?

My mum because she helped me to start writing poetry… I’m a big fan of performance poets – so someone like Maya Angelou is a big inspiration, but I also love foreign language poets like David Aninir too.

Early bird or night owl writer?

Probably daytime… I don’t have the energy to write at night

The best food and drink accompaniment to writing?

Herbal tea and cake – a classic

I write when I’m feeling…

… something!

At the moment I’m reading…

It’s a book by a Japanese author [Mieko Kawakami] called Breasts and Eggs. I’ve been reading a lot of feminist books with female characters who are having to deal with the patriarchy - it’s helped to bring new ideas into my own writing.

Favourite writing spot?

Somewhere I feel comfortable and safe so it would have to be either my sofa or my bed

Can you write a poem about yourself?

Grass afar looks green;
In wanderlust, I spread wings!
Now at last I'm home.

Beautiful! Do you have any advice for any aspiring writers or poets out there on the Island?

Get out there and read your writing - perform it, feel it. Don’t be afraid of writing something bad- just keep writing.

Best poem written:

Traa dy liooar

I know that I can always turn
To fields of heather, gorse and fern
Forever sure I’ve got this place
A calm and peaceful breathing space
An atmosphere that’s crisp and clear
Where urban stresses disappear
In horizontal hail or rain
I hear an echoing refrain

Ellan Vannin
Lungs expanding
This land I love
There’s time enough

Sea breeze
Soft ease

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