Meet The Poet: Damien Donnelly

This poem is from my debut collection Eat the Storms published by the Hedgehog Poetry Press, you can listen to an audio version of it here and see the beautiful video of it here

Damien Donnelly, 45, Dublin born, returned to Ireland in 2019 after 23 years in Paris, London and Amsterdam, working in the fashion industry. His writing focuses on identity, sexuality and fragility. His daily interests revolve around falling over and learning how to get back up while baking cakes. His short stories have been featured in ‘Second Chance’ Original Writing, ‘Body Horror’ Gehenna & Hinnom, his poetry in ‘Nous Sommes Paris,’ Eyewear Publishing and The Runt Magazine. Online, he’s been featured in Black Bough Poetry, Coffin Bell, Barren Magazine, the Fahmidan Journal. His debut poetry collection was published by The Hedgehog Press in September 2020 when he also began a poetry podcast Eat the Storms, available on Spotify, Apple Podcast and most podcast platforms.

Photo credit: Damien Donnelly

What does your memory smell like?

Sprinkles of dreams the boy still holds inside the man that never saw the light of day sweeping in on the scent of warming sugar turning, with cream, into fudge on Saturday nights while peas steep in the big pot on the cooker that was almost too tall, uncatchable cotton laundry turning over in the machines which I begged to be turned on at night to help me fall asleep to its rhythmic noise, splashes of Eau de Cologne, 4711, from summer’s influx of students fresh from the Rhine’s river who I wanted to be swept upstream with, glimmers of wishes as fine as icing sugar that were never meant to be caught like that unwrapping of strawberry, lime and blackcurrant scented erasers that never lasted longer than the line that had to be wiped clear. The rising heat from the hallway, early morning, reminiscent of nights climbing into a single bed with the slightly burning scent of wired heat sifting up through freshly pressed sheets from the electric blanket beneath, almost stifling, but a welcome embrace from the cold day that had begun when school yards waited for a boy who was pushed and shoved. Pine from the Christmas tree, early, after decoration, before the baubles started falling and I realised nothing floated for long and branches eventually bend to burden. A dozen or so perfumes that I can still catch if I dig my head deeper into the pillow that was also there to cushion the blow of departure, after, later. The scent of space, after, later, clearer, when you realised empty was the best place to begin to find yourself again, having for so long smelt of someone else and so you start over; the sprinkling of dreams.

What do you want your future to taste like?

A bowl of truth that comes upon the tongue with familiarity, eastern spices coating the smooth caress of a mango’s ripeness to acknowledge that I have questioned all the parts that were not of me but that I have come to know the value of. The earth next, arrdappel, as they say in Dutch, that I said once as I wondered how to sail away while living on a boat that never left its place on the canal, apple of the earth, grounded, to be able to taste in my mouth the weight of each path my feet have crossed. In the Netherlands, they wave their hand across the side of their face when they are pleased by the taste of something while the rest of the world rubs its belly, but it is on the tongue where all we have come to know tickles us first, after we lean in and kiss and lick and almost swallow, it is on the tongue where it comes to life and its memory resides long after it has passed. Swallow, I want to swallow an acknowledgement of peace after all this panic, after all the searching and turning and twisting and mixing of masks and mirrors that cut the inside of the mouth with all their sharp edges of misunderstanding. Some dishes are best served simple. Perhaps the sensation of the butter icing I add to the tops of carrot cakes but without all that weight. I want to taste lightness, later, after, in the future. The sense of having taken it all down into my being and then moved through it, holding only its essence, leaving the lies in the place of my footprints as I float above the confusion of things and thoughts. The yoke can carry me through life, but I long for the days of whisking the purity of whites into such an airy lightness that even the snow kissed mountains grow jealous of their structure that has no calculation on a scale. And lastly, for the memories made there; the taste of a freshly baked, still warm baguette with a slobbering of salted butter and a large lump of brie or goats cheese after a Saturday morning wander around the sweet-filled, strudel streets of the Jewish quarter in the 4th arrondissement or, later, climbing back home through Belleville, cold but comforted in the knowledge of the treats carefully wrapped in that brown paper bag.

Favourite line of a poem right now?

‘…NOT KNOWN AT THIS ADDRESS, I put, 

That wasn’t true, though, this address knew you to the bone.’

From the poem Transplant by Eilin de Paor, featured in The Stoney Thursday Book from Limerick Arts. 

The poet that gives me life:

In the beginning I found Whitman; long, thick, heavy longing and endless lines, that grew with me in understanding over the course of my own awakening. I completely admit that it was the film Dead Poets Society that introduced me to the magic of Walt and poetry, school certainly was not that electric when it came to educating anything other than how to kick a ball. Later, after leaving Ireland, I finally looked back to see where I came from and found Yeats, waiting to be admired in his tall tower from a far shore. When I started blogging my muses became modern and kicking ass; Jane Dougherty, Merril D Smith and Sarah Connor all added a freshness to my poetry fancy, and then came this world of Twitter and its poetry community that takes my breath away daily, even when I am running to play catch up constantly with its sparkling stars including Ankh Spice, Matthew MC Smith, Gaynor Kane, Eilin De Paor, Kevin Bateman, Devon Marsh, Lynn Valentine, Anna Saunders, Eileen Carney Hulme, Elisabeth Horan, Catherine Ann Cullen, David Hanlon, Robin McNamara, Jude Marr, Jessica Traynor, Kari Flickinger and, of course, Annick Yerem herself and this list grows by the day. I am so honoured to be able to host a podcast that welcomes poets to its platform and each week I grow to love another group of writers. 

What is your why?

Purpose, place, position; what is the reason for my being in this situation, on this day, in this moment. What are the steps that have lead me here, to question this moment, on this particular day, being this person time has seen fit to mould me into. How is it that this mind has taken up residence in this body, constantly trying on new shades of the same self, having more seasons than a cycle. What is the meaning behind each smile and why is it so much more widely accepted than the shedding of a tear? Position. Place. Purpose.

Tattered Brown Trousers

Father ate all the flowers
in the back garden 
because he couldn’t swallow 
the promise of happiness 
blooming within the home 
he couldn’t find his root within.

Father left all the flowers
in the front garden,
too proud for others to see
him pulling from the soil
everything he needed help with
but had never been taught the words for.

Father liked to laugh, first,
when others lost,
so no one could hear his own loss
tearing at him, like weeds twisting
behind the restraints he wore
like his inside-out jumpers
and the tattered brown trousers 
he thought no one could see through.

Father ate all the flowers
in the shadows 
of the back garden
and choked on a laugh 
that no one understood.

This poem is also from Eat the Storms and was recently featured in the interview series Red Ink by David Ralph Lewis . You can find a video of it here

Photo credit: Damien Donnelly

Ça Suffit !

I remember rainstorms

and running through straight lines

flooding cobbled streets,

laughter carries louder under brollies-

rises and falls back onto heads, onto faces,

onto mouths like that rain, like lips,

like tongues that taste of sweat and surrender

and something indescribable-

that tiny space we save for later

when we admit to knowing, while running,

that something was always missing.

I remember rainstorms

and running through all those shut Sundays 

of grey roofs and terracotta pots

on steps that collected rain drops 

as if it knew already

how much memory meant after, later,

when the sun came out

and there were no brollies to keep us together.

I remember rainstorms 

and running along all those boulevards

like they were battlefields 

and the droplets were bullets

and I couldn’t remember 

how to say that’s enough in French. 

(this poem will be a part of the upcoming Paris poetry collection and you can find it

here )

https://eatthestorms.com

https://www.instagram.com/eatthestorms/?hl=en

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