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  • Writer's pictureBelle Kenyon

Anne Walsh Donnelly, in conversation with Kayla Jenkins

We were delighted to publish Anne Walsh Donnelly's trail-blazing debut collection of poetry, 'Odd as F*ck', following her star chapbook debut with us in 2019, 'The Woman With An Owl Tattoo'. It has been a BUSY few years for Anne, with vast success across her writing endeavours, so Kayla managed to grab her to chat all about her work!

So, this is your first full collection with Fly on the Wall since your debut chapbook, 'The Woman With An Owl Tattoo'. That came 2nd in the International Poetry Book Awards 2020 – how did that feel? We were absolutely thrilled. What are your aspirations for ‘Odd As F*ck’?

I was delighted with the award, particularly as I hadn’t known Isabelle (Fly on the Wall, Editor) had entered it into the competition until the longlist was announced. It was lovely to have the collection recognised internationally given the theme of the collection i.e. my coming out journey. What are my aspirations for ‘Odd As F*ck’? I’m delighted to see it published and am very proud of the collection. I hope it will be read far and wide, but most importantly, I hope that it resonates in some way with the reader.

Onto ‘Odd As F*ck’ now, and obviously the title is incredibly striking. How did you settle on the name? Were there any other contenders you had in mind, or had it always been the sole choice of title?

It was my first and only thought as a title. One of the poems in the book is called, ‘Odd As F*ck.’ I wasn’t sure though if a publisher would want to go with such a title. Thankfully Isabelle embraced it, though we decided on replacing the ‘u’ with an * after much consideration. It’s actually an expression I heard first when I lived in a rural area in the west of Ireland. Someone once called me ‘Odd as F*ck.’ I am not at liberty to say who that person was. Suffice to say that I’m embracing and celebrating all things odd, including myself.

You deal with some seriously deep themes in ‘Odd As F*ck’, including womanhood, ageing and death, family, and sexuality. How did you even begin to approach these topics? Has your poetry always been tethered to personal experiences, or have you had external influences and inspirations that have helped?

My poetry is a mix of personal experience, observation and fiction. I write from the heart to communicate emotional truth in my poems. I blend fact with fiction to convey that truth. It’s all about what’s best for the poem, not whether it’s fact or fiction.

I won’t spoil it too much for our readers, but it’s safe to say that ‘Odd As F*ck’ does, as the title suggests, grow more and more odd as it progresses, especially in terms of voice. I especially enjoyed, as I think have many others, ‘My Therapist’s Dog’. Your voice is nuanced, balancing humour with subtle senses of grief or loss. Does this come naturally to you when writing about pain, or was it a deliberate choice that took some serious revisions?

My therapist would be delighted to know that the poem about her dog is being enjoyed by others! I really enjoyed writing that poem. It was one of those poems that just landed on the page with very little effort and I was laughing as I wrote it. Balancing humour with grief or loss in my writing comes naturally to me. There’s pain in some of the poems in the collection but this is balanced by humour in others. And then there’s places where I use light and dark in the same poems. Poetry for me is not about just dumping your grief or pain onto the page and walking away. Poetry is expressing those feelings and crafting them into poems in a way that will resonate with the reader. As Carl Rodgers said, ‘What is most personal is most universal.’ A good poem transforms a personal experience into a universal experience.

You’ve had an incredibly accomplished career so far as a poet, playwright, and author, including the aforementioned 2nd place for the International Poetry Book Awards and being shortlisted for the 2019 Hennessy/Irish Times New Irish Writing Literary Award. Do you have a stand-out moment of everything you’ve achieved thus far?

Being shortlisted for the Hennessy/Irish Times New Irish Writing Literary Award and getting a poem published in The Irish Times, is a stand-out moment. When I started writing that was the dream. It’s the award every emerging Irish writer aspires to. Having said that the first time I held both my chapbook ‘The Woman With An Owl Tattoo, and of course ‘Odd As F*ck,’ in my hands were also very special moments.

Despite its heavy handlings with death and some inarguably dark themes, I finished reading ‘Odd As F*ck’ with a rejuvenated sense of appreciation and hopefulness for life. What’s the one thing you’d like your readers to take away from your poetry?

I’m delighted that you came away with gratitude and hope for life after reading ‘Odd As F*ck.’ That’s precisely what I hope readers will take from this book. Life is messy, full of dark and light moments. None of us escape from some kind of pain but it’s that pain that can lead to tremendous growth if we choose to acknowledge, honour, and learn to sit with it. Someone once said to me, when I was in the throes of depression, that the experience would make me a better writer, and it has. But at the same time it’s so important to be able to appreciate the good things in life and laugh a lot. As my mother used to say to me when I was young, ‘there’s no point in taking life too seriously, you won’t get out of it alive anyway.’

And lastly…if you have one piece of advice for others to embrace their own quirks and idiosyncrasies, what would it be? How can we all embrace, as humans undoubtedly are, being odd as f*ck?

Gosh, Kayla, that’s a difficult question to answer. It’s crucial for both our own wellbeing and for those around us that we embrace all that makes us who we are. It’s the quirks that make us all special and we all have them. So stop striving for perfection. When you make mistakes, own them and learn from them. Be yourself in your entirety and love that gorgeous person that looks at you each morning in the mirror. Love yourself as deeply as you love your nearest and dearest. And don’t feel one bit of guilt for doing so.

Thank you for your time!

Thanks for having me!

You can grab a copy of 'Odd as F*ck' from our website and all major retailers.

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