Meet The Artist: Gaynor Kane

Meet Gaynor Kane, a writer from Belfast. At 40 years old instead of buying a sports car, Gaynor started a degree with the Open University. At age 46 she finished her degree with a creative writing module and has carried on poeting ever since. Gaynor never imagined herself as a poet, she grew up in a working class family, with her parents both doing very manual jobs. There weren’t a lot of books or magazines in her house but her Dad had the Belfast Telegraph delivered every night. Gaynor became a school librarian and her love for books and poetry developed from there.

What genre / style do you create in?

Mainly poetry but I have written some short stories, flash fiction and the odd piece of creative non-fiction. A lot of my work is semi-autobiographical and often about place too. Much of my poetry is set in Belfast and surrounding areas.

What would you be best known for?

Being a big eejit! But seriously, probably my pamphlet of poems on burial rituals and last wishes, titled ‘Memory Forest’. It includes a poem set in Dundondald cemetery, in which the grown-up children exhume their father’s body and have a party with him. That’s another countries culture but I decided to place the ritual in a local setting. The concept for the book began with a conversation I had with my Dad in the run up to his 80th birthday. I asked him if he wanted a party and he said he’d like to have his wake and be there to hear his friends telling stories about him. There are some illustrations in the book by local artist Tommy McMahon.

What would you consider your biggest achievement?

From a writing perspective, my debut full collection ‘Venus in Pink Marble’ is being released on 8th September, which just happens to coincide with my fiftieth birthday. It is published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press. From a personal perspective, my daughter is my greatest achievement – she is an incredible human being!

What would you consider to be the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your industry?

I’ve learnt that you are not just a writer – you have to become a salesperson, a PR manager, a secretary and have lots of other roles as well. It’s hard work and not at all glamorous!

What has been your biggest challenge to date?

I’m very good at self-sabotage! Without the motivation of a deadline or timed challenge I end up constantly deleting so the biggest challenge is to trust myself, write and look at refining afterwards. It’s hard to edit if you haven’t written anything!

Tell us a little about your personal life, are you married, kids, hobbies etc?

I’ve been married for 19 years to a really patient man, which is why we are still married. As mentioned earlier, I have one child, who will be twenty soon, and an aging dog called Bella. In my spare time I like to take photographs and do a little painting.

Tell us about your most recent work?

My latest book ‘Venus in Pink Marble’ was published by the Hedgehog Poetry Press and released this month. This is what the, very well established, poet Maria McManus said about the collection:

“Kane’s poems are Ulster poems; authentic, lived, and as intimate as Super 8 films. Close reading gives us glimpses of the domestic and the near-past, reel on reel, frame by frame. As readers we are inside the poems, part of a narrative distinctly of place, of community, and of the familial. Days out, work, ancestry, landscape; these things are peopled with the weight of history and happenstance. The context she exposes is affectionate, but it is always also navigating rules, code and the complexities of a place and people riven with its distinct, hardwired contradictions; the past and the contemporary, cheek by jowl.”

I was fortunate to receive some funding from The Arts Council of Northern Ireland which allowed me the experience of being mentored by Maria. I also booked time off to write at the lovely surroundings of The River Mill writers retreat near Downpatrick.

The book is separated into three sections and will take the reader on a narrative journey from heritage and place, through family and relationships, to poems about art and culture. There are several autobiographical poems and readers will hopefully resonate with my memories and experiences. There should be something in it for everyone.

What would you like us to tell people about?

As mentioned my debut full collection has just been released and I have two previous publications – ‘Memory Forest’, a pamphlet on burial rituals and ‘Circling the Sun’ a micro-collection about the early aviatrixes.

You can read more about all these on my website and you can purchase them here:

If you had to describe your work to someone who has never heard of you what would you say?

I would say it’s poetry for the people. I’m not an academic and I write about my working class family background. I think my writing style is accessible.

What’s the funniest experience you’ve had in your business?

I am a member of Women Aloud NI, a community group founded by Jane Talbot to raise the profile of women writer from, or living in, Northern Ireland. About a dozen of us were taking part in a collaborative event with the EastSide Choir during the EastSide Arts Festival. The compere was a good laugh and started implying that we were a group of secret assassins and much banter followed. It was hilarious but you probably had to be there!

What would your advice be to young people hoping to pursue the same industry?

Writing can be very solitary so I would advise them to build a good community around them for support and encouragement. To find a writing group that suits your needs and to develop a thick skin in order to accept critique and learn from it.

Anything else you want to tell people about yourself or your work?

Throughout the month of September I’ll be doing a little online book promotion, so if readers are interested, please follow me on Twitter (@gaynorkane) or Facebook (gaynorkanepoet) for details.

Who do you look up to and why?

I really admire local playwright Martin Lynch. He has had a very successful career and written extremely good plays. His adaptation of the Sam Thompson play ‘Over the Bridge’ has stayed with me since seeing it. I have never been more moved at the theatre than I was that night.

Gaynor is  part of the showcase line up for this years Culture Night Belfast Online 2020. For more information visit The Culture Night Belfast website here>>

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