Sarah Clancy: It’s poetry, Jim, but not as we know it
By Kernan Andrews
SARAH CLANCY began writing poetry just three years ago. Her first published poem, ‘Hippy Get A Job’, appeared on the Over The Edge website in August 2009.
Since then Sarah’s poetry has been published in magazines from Cavan to Mexico and she has been a prize winner in various competitions. This time last year she read at Cúirt and also won the festival’s Poetry Grand Slam. If there is a better word than meteoric to describe her rise, I cannot think of it.
Sarah is in every sense exceptional. She clearly has no interest in advancing her ‘career’ as a poet. She sometimes threatens to give up poetry altogether because, she thinks, there are more important things to do. And yet in a short space of time she has established herself as one of the most important emerging voices in Irish poetry.
Sarah’s is perhaps an example some of the poetry world’s more obsessive ‘networkers’ should take note of. She writes poetry almost continuously, often publishing first drafts on Facebook. She workshops her poems; for most of the past three years she has been an active and generous participant in the poetry workshops at Galway Arts Centre. She gets her poems out into the world by submitting them to magazines and entering them in competitions.
Apart from that she pretty much ignores what some like to call the ‘business’ side of poetry. When a magazine or competition or literary festival overlooks her, not only does Sarah not complain, she does not even appear to notice. Her poetry is similarly unpretentious and yet hugely ambitious in terms of its subject matter. Sarah has no time for what she describes as “polite little poems you might knit by the fire”.
The poems in her irreverently titled debut collection Thanks For Nothing, Hippies (Salmon Poetry) are conversational, sometimes confrontational, and generally full of life in a way that poems knitted by the fire rarely are.
Her poems regularly use what your granny might describe as rude words, but Sarah is never gratuitous. As William Wordsworth aspired to do in his time, she just writes in the language the people around her speak. Her explosive end of love poem ‘Riot Act’ finishes: “you left me with/my fucking heart looted and then said I over reacted.”
‘KindlyCompleteyourPurchasesandProceedtotheNearestCheckoutImmediatelythisStoreisnowClosing’ starts memorably: “A particular way of speaking got lodged in my sphincter; we’ll call it/a cliché affliction for a whole wet month it stuck like too sweet cake/and every time I spoke, out the fuckers came; it could happen to a/bishop, great day for ducks and we are where we are god help us…”
Sarah’s poetry always comes down on falseness and hypocrisy wherever she perceives them, but she is never shrill, preferring the altogether more effective weapon: wit.
She is also a poet of rare compassion who empathises with the world’s underdogs in a way that most poets who pretend to absolutely do not.
Thanks For Nothing, Hippies will be launched as part of The Cúirt International Festival of Literature in the Galway Arts Centre on Sunday April 29 at 3pm.