Interview with Julie Irigaray, whose poem ‘Treasuring Trieste’ is in Issue Two.
What are the major themes found in your work?
My writing mirrors my concerns about place and cultural differences. I am deeply passionate about languages and I lived in France, Ireland, England and Italy within the past three years. It definitely shows through, all the more since I wrote the great majority of my poems during my gap year in Italy while doing the “Grand Tour” to broaden my experiences. I also have a strong interest in the past, probably because of my background in studying History. These would be the two strongest components of my work, among others.
What influences you and inspires you the most?
Places I visited, especially across Italy where masterpieces and impressive landscapes flourish. My partner. History. Visual arts and the five poets I worship like gods: Rimbaud, Garcia Lorca, Shakespeare, Keats and Plath. The people overall: I like to think of my poems as snapshots capturing a particular moment or intriguing strangers I will never see again. I also tend to write about the various nuances of human suffering.
What not-very-famous writers should we check out?
I found that Shirley McClure’s second poetry collection Stone Dress deserves much more recognition as it is well-crafted and wonderfully witty and tender despite dealing with a heavy subject like cancer. I follow some writers like Paul Stephenson or Geraldine Clarkson whose popularity is growing as she is preparing her first poetry collection.
What’s a piece you really like in Issue Two?
David Hathwell’s “I’ll Be a Vessel” caught my attention straight away: the rhythm reminds me of Plath’s most famous Ariel poems. It stays with you for a while and it has a “voice”, or duende as Lorca called it.
What book are you currently reading?
I am more attracted to philosophy those days and I have just finished a book I had wanted to read for years: Thomas More’s Utopia. It contained many interesting points which are still relevant nowadays. I love reading early modern documents, especially sixteenth-century English texts.
Any background info to your piece in Issue Two?
“Treasuring Trieste” is actually one of my earliest poems, so I am quite delighted it found a home! I wrote it while travelling to Trieste with my partner who admires James Joyce. I was struck by the intensity of the Adriatic Sea’s shade of blue and the contrast with the town’s blank colours. I guess it is also a reflection on how someone’s love can challenge you, boost your self-confidence and enable you to make necessary changes in your life or about yourself.
Where else can we find your work?
What’s on the horizon for your writing?
I have recently slowed down writing poetry because I have too much professional work to do and stress doesn’t make me write anything of quality! So for the moment I’ve switched to newspaper articles, which is a good stylistic exercise. I’d like to move on to drama at some stage, and I’m also wondering whether I should come back to writing in French. I wish I had Samuel Beckett’s genius to be able to write masterpieces in two languages!
What are the benefits and limits of writing in your second language?
My appreciation of the English language and its poetic tradition obviously differs from a native speaker’s, but I want to believe it is an asset more than a weakness. I bring my own background and literary references with me and it might give me a touch of originality sometimes. Writing in English is also a way to be “anonymous,” in other words to talk about subjects which matter to me without having my nuclear and extended family analysing everything I publish!