‘Across the Line’ – launch of Jane Clarke’s and Maura Dooley’s new poetry collections

Thank you to all who attended in person and virtually on June 15, and a very big and special thank you to poet Wendy French, who managed the Zoom session splendidly, poet Sarah Westcott who stood by to liaise between Wendy and us at the Library, and as always to Debra and the Library staff, Katherine and David in particular, who are helpful and generous way beyond the call of duty.

A few members of the audience , both in person and on Zoom, asked me about a brief quotation I read at the end of this engaging, moving, lively and thoroughly enjoyable event, so here it is. It comes, appropriately, from a book called This is Happiness, by, also appropriately, the Irish author Niall Williams:

It seems to me the quality that makes any book, music, painting worthwhile is life, just that. Books, music, painting are not life, can never be as full, rich, complex, surprising or beautiful, but the best of them can catch an echo of that, can turn you back to look out the window, go out the door aware that you’ve been enriched, that you have been in the company of something alive that has caused you to realise once again how astonishing life is […]

Rarely more true than our experience of listening to these two beautiful, different and complementary voices. Nostalgia, loss and love – for Nature, family, the changing world. Never sentimental, often witty, even sharp and always word-perfect. The moment of anticipation before something changes, or starts (or doesn’t) was a common theme in both collections, A Change in the Air (Jane’s) and Five Fifty-Five (Maura’s) – both with Bloodaxe Books, 2023.

Too many times I have felt that poets rush a little while reading in front of an audience. It did not happen with Maura and Jane. We, the 50 or so in the audience at the Library and the 17 on Zoom, knew and appreciated that moment of anticipation, that short intake of breath before the next poem, and were richly rewarded.

It is hard to ‘review’ an evening of such profound, musical and thought provoking works, with perfect sense of place and time and so beautifully read.

A member of the audience sent me these lovely comments:

Jane Clarke and Maura Dooley shared their unique poetry in beautifully lyrical and musical tones that captured images and characters so well in one’s mind and imagination. The opportunity for Q&As was much appreciated and the poets’ reply over the best conditions for writing poetry … ‘carry a notebook to write down ideas and be aware of those snagging moments that prick the mind and can germinate into seeds for later poetic inspiration…’

If anyone would like to add their thoughts on the poems and the poets, do send them to irena@in-words.co.uk. I would love to add your words to mine… Thank you.

If you want to buy a signed copy of A Change in the Air or of Jane’s earlier collections please contact Jane Clarke directly, details on www.janeclarkepoetry.ie

For Maura’s Five Fifty-Five and many other collections you can contact her via M.Dooley@gold.ac.uk .

Jane Clarke is the author of two poetry collections, The River and When the Tree Falls (Bloodaxe Books 2015 & 2019), as well as an illustrated chapbook, All the Way Home (Smith|Doorstop 2019), which she launched at West Greenwich Library in 2019, introduced by Blake Morrison. This book was her response to a collection of family letters and photographs held at the Mary Evans Picture Library in Blackheath. Her third collection, A Change in the Air is published by Bloodaxe Books in May 2023. Her Greenwich reading is the only in-person launch, and she is travelling from Ireland to be with us. Jane’s awards include the 2016 Hennessy Literary Award for Poetry and the 2022 Ireland Chair of Poetry Travel Award. The River was the first poetry book to be shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize in 2016 and When the Tree Falls was shortlisted for three Irish poetry prizes and longlisted for the Ondaatje Prize in 2020. She grew up on a farm in the west of Ireland and now lives with her wife in the uplands of Co. Wicklow.

Maura Dooley is a Professor of Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London and has directed the MA in Creative and Life Writing there since its inception. Maura’s family background in Ireland and Wales has long been central to her work. Kissing a Bone and her later collection Life Under Water, a Poetry Book Society Recommendation in 2008, were both shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Her poem ‘Cleaning Jim Dine’s Heart’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem in 2015, and was included in her collection, The Silvering (2016), also a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Maura’s most recent collection, published in April 2023, is Five Fifty-Five (Bloodaxe). Anthologies she has edited include The Honey Gatherers: Love Poems and How Novelists Work. Her translation (with Elhum Shakerifar) of the exiled Iranian poet Azita Ghahreman’s Negative of a Group Photograph (Farsi title: نگاتیو یک عکس دسته جمعی)  was published by Bloodaxe Books with the Poetry Translation Centre in 2018. It received an English PEN Award and was shortlisted for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2019. Maura is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Jane reading from A Change in the Air
Maura reading from Five Fifty-Five
Answering questions…


Dear poetry friends,

As summer approaches, unpredictable and full of surprises as the best verses, I will continue to plan future events – but don’t expect any to happen before September.

I wish you a happy, healthy time, the right amount of sunshine and better world news…

Don’t forget in-words, you’ll hear from me again before too long.