Dr Padraig Regan is an award-winning poet from Belfast and one of the two new Fellow Commoners in the Creative Arts at Trinity. Here they write about ‘intellectual voraciousness’ and their current plans for the Fellowship.
Please tell us a little about yourself
I’m a poet and occasionally an essayist from Belfast. My first book, Some Integrity, was published at the start of this year by Carcanet. I’m generally against saying what any of my work might be ‘about’ for fear of overdetermining it for the reader, but I’ll say that the poems in that book seem to come out of my recurring interests in food and art. Both are, essentially, ways of asking questions about the body, especially in its queer grotesquery, its material interactions with the world.
I did a PhD at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, which looked at hybridised writing on the boundary between creative and critical practice, with a focus on the works of Anne Carson and some Medieval texts.
What plans do you have for your time here?
Because my book was only published earlier this year, I’m hoping to spend my time here working through some very inchoate ideas for new projects. Superstitiously, I’m sure, I don’t want to predict exactly what these will be, but I’ll give a rough sketch. I’ve been trying to write an essay about effeminacy, particularly the effeminate child as an object of horror.
I’ve also become interested in some unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo (perhaps an elaboration of the ekphrastic* work in Some Integrity). Exactly what these ideas might become (and whether or not they are related) will hopefully reveal itself in the next year. I’m also starting an informal poetry workshop for Trinity English students.
What do you hope to achieve?
Ideally, I’d like to write a short non-fiction book, and make at least some progress on a second poetry collection. I do have a tendency to design projects then getting bored of them and deciding that they need to be something else entirely, but that’s the general plan for now.
Beyond an income and place to live, what does the role of FCCAs mean to you?
Of course, an income and a place to live is nothing to be sniffed at, especially for someone working in the least commercially driven genre of literature. And there are other practicalities that the role affords: access to a well-stocked academic library would be high among these. I’m also looking forward to being in an intellectual culture that is less separated by discipline.
Already in the short time I’ve been at Trinity, I’ve found myself having conversations with physicists, historians, philosophers, computer scientists: people who, at another university, I would be unlikely to spend much time with. Writing poetry requires a kind of intellectual voraciousness: anything I’m told may well end up being exactly what I didn’t know I needed to write a poem.
Who inspires you?
Inspiration and influence are tricky things to talk about. I often think that my biggest influences are poets who I sound nothing like: Wallace Stevens, Anne Carson, Medbh McGuckian, Sylvia Plath, all of these have been absolutely central to my thinking about poetry, but I would never attempt to model myself on them (perhaps what I have taken from them is a sense of the poem as a record of an individual mind having thought through language).
I must also mention Ciaran Carson, who was not just an influence through his own incredible poetry, but an inspiration through his teaching at Queen’s. One of his maxims was ‘if you know what a poem is going to say, why bother writing it?’ and this is representative of his approach to poetry as a site of infinite possibility, infinite play, which is, I think, the guiding principle of all my work.
*An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art.
Meet Fellow Commoner in the Creative Arts, Mona Arshi.