Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott
The actress Fionnula Flanagan has described one of Elaine Feeney’s poems as a “brilliant, sly window into the Irish female Catholic experience” and in the same breath compared her approach to that of Dean Swift, who, of course, was neither female nor Catholic. Flanagan called Feeney “the freshest, most engaging and certainly the most provocative poet to come out of Ireland in the last decade.” The particular poem in question, “Mass,” she added, “is both gloriously funny, bitter-sweet in the astuteness of its observations.”
Swift was invoked in the context of the “delicious” use of irony in her writing and her view of the human condition. “She rightfully takes her place alongside Eavan Boland and Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill,” Flanagan concluded in a talk in California in 2014.
Feeney, who teaches English and history and worked for some time on inclusivity legislation for the Irish Department of Education, has produced writing that is, according to Des Kenny of Galway’s Kenny Books, a “full blooded assertion of womanhood with no holds barred and definitely no apology. Here we have the growing girl, the teenager, the young woman, wife and mother debunking the male myths.”
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Date of birth: July 10, 1979
Place of birth: Galway City
Spouse: Ray Glasheen
Children: Jack, 13, and Finn, 8
Published works: “Indiscipline,” “Where’s Katie?”, “The Radio was Gospel.”
What is your latest book, “The Radio was Gospel,” about?
It’s about growing up and the Irish experience of that. How groundbreaking!
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
Sporadic and insane. I’m all or nothing, I tend to be very hyper or asleep. And when I’m hyper I write best. Life is busy though, so it’s hard to find the time for it all, and I’ve lots of friends, so I tend to find too many excuses not to write. Poems come at me. I write best when I’m very hungover, which I guess is a good excuse to drink.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Avoid other writers, except the sane ones. And take advice from very few. Your voice is your voice.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.
“The Savage Detectives,” by Roberto Bolano, “A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man,” James Joyce and “The Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck. (Any Steinbeck to be honest) “The Castle,” by Franz Kafka. Sorry that’s four, I like even numbers.
What book are you currently reading?
“Beatlebone,” by Kevin Barry, “Mercury,” by Ariana Reines, “The Handbook of the Gaelic Revival” (every home should have one) by P.J. Matthews and Declan Kiberd, “Dinosaurs on Other Planets,” by Danielle McLaughlin, “Third Reich,” by Bolano, “Tender,” by Belinda McKeon and a million more. I’m always reading too many books at the same time.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by
“The Butcher Boy,” by Pat McCabe.
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
Sylvia Plath, to tell her not to be dead.
What book changed your life?
“The Female Eunuch,” by Germaine Greer.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
Definitely Naughton’s on Quay Street, Galway. It’s magic, and it houses all my best friends in one spot. I love Galway, although they say it’s the Graveyard of Ambition. Still, it’s home and all my favorite people live there. I like swimming in the sea at Salthill, too.
You’re Irish if…
You cannot stop whining.