In conversation with Dave Lordan

Cork poet, Dave Lordan, arrived in the Burren last week with an unexpected appraisal of the future of the poetry – in short, it doesn’t have one. Lordan, who has just been appointed as Doolin’s first ever Writer-in-Resident, believes that poetry, the like that is thought in school at least, has long ago lost any real resonance and must be replaced with something altogether new. The poet is dead, long live the… In conversation with Andy Hamilton.

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AH: As a poet, does spending time in a place like the Burren tend to inspire you to be creative?  
Dave: I’ve written three books of poetry and they’ve all done very well. I was the first guy to win all three of Ireland’s national prizes for young poets, I’d be quite popular at festivals and things like that. But I’ve had enough of poetry to be honest with you. I’ve done it for ten years, I’ve three books out, the world doesn’t need any more straight forward sorts of poems. So I’m moving into other forms now at the moment. I’m interested in teaching, in multi-media than I am in other forms of poetry. So inspired, I am absolutely, I’m using my new tablet to make little film, little postcards and that sort of thing. So I am engaging creatively in the local area, but not necessarily in what we think of as poetry. I see poetry as making meaning out of symbols, it doesn’t have to be words even, in can be pictures, it can be anything.
AH: So the work you are doing now, does that satisfy your creative urges in the same way that poetry maybe did in the past?
Dave: Absolutely it does. I get a huge amount of satisfaction from meta-creativity, that’s a fancy terms that means that I facilitate the creativity of other people. I do a huge amount of that. God knows, I’ve worked with maybe 10,000 kids in Ireland over the last few years. I see myself as I sort-of artists artist. I would be very interested in creating creativity, that’s what I do.
AH: What about you idea that there is enough poetry already in the world. That is big thing for a poet to say.
Dave: I work for the RTE poetry programme, a job I enjoy a lot. It strikes me that poetry for 95 per cent of history was a purely performance based art form, and it still is in many places. Since the invention of the printing press we have thought of poetry as something that is read in a book and occurs silently. I think there is enough of that sort of poetry in the world. The greatest poem in the English language, by almost common consent, is John Milton’s Paradise lost which was written is 1650 – that’s a long time ago. I think poetry in its textual form has ran out of steam and I don’t think I’m the only one saying that. I’m not saying that people cant produce nice poems or interesting poems but they are really producing them as echoes of greater poems which have already been written. So where are the new territories being opened up? I think that is coming in digital, in on-line and in performance. Nobody buys poetry books anymore, but a lot of people go to live events or cabaret events, or watch them performed online. You might see something online with 2 million views where as the average book of poetry might sell 50 copies, maybe 100 if you include family, friends and libraries. I think we have confused poetry on the page with the overall art form, when it’s just part of the art form and a part whose greatest achievements are in the past.
AH: Do you think there is potentially something to be lost in this? You can draw a parallel with the newspaper industry and the switch over to the new media, which is wonderful for delivering news but is very immediate, very surface and not as in-depth as…
Dave: To be honest with you I’ve watched a lot more on Vice News [online news channel] than I’ve read in the Irish Independent. That tablet-isation of the broadsheet press has made that argument redundant. You wouldn’t go The Guardian today for balanced reporting. There is no large newspaper in the world that isn’t almost completely under the control, at an editorial level, or the neo-liberals. The Internet allows us to democratise art. Whether reading something is superior to hearing it or watching it, I think that is an absurd argument. It’s a sentimental argument and I’ve never seen any scientific basis for it. If you take it to it’s logical conclusion everyone should be writing with quills and not word processors – to maintain that authenticity. So I don’t think there is anything to be lost and there is a huge amount to be gained.
AH: I wonder though is there an argument to be made for the aesthetics of reading – it’s a slower process, you can stop where you like, you can read it twice, you can read it three time. It’s a personal, introverted experience that maybe – in some circumstances – could offer something different from a more interactive experience?
Dave: I think human being will adapt their receptive capacities to whatever media they are engaging with. I’ve heard that argument lots of time, nobody has ever proved it and they never will I think. It doesn’t have a scientific basis. My personal opinion is that effectiveness and moving people, which to me is the goal of art, can be done just as effectively and more effectively in digital media and performance than its ever been done in text.
Extracts from an interview conducted in January, 2016.

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