Poet Kerrie O’Brien talks to Ellie Gehlert about Ireland’s emerging talent and finding her own literary voice

“I think Dublin is one of the best places to be an emerging writer at the moment,” says up-and-coming poet Kerrie O’Brien as she explains how the supportive atmosphere of the writing groups she joined in the beginning of her career helped her development. She attributes part of her success to having been “naïve and, as a result, fearless,” even though she has also had to handle rejections.

O’Brien’s persistence has more than paid off. She has won the 2011 iYeats Poetry Competition, the RTÉ Arena Flash Fiction Competition 2012 and has been published in the Irish Independent and in New Irish Writing.

Although O’Brien had always wanted to be a writer, she only started submitting work to journals in her final year of college. She names Sharon Olds’ poem, The Promise, as the initial spark that set off her own creative writing process, because it is “so honest and emotional.”

The majority of her work is based on her own experiences, she says, “but my main inspiration comes from powerful collections such as Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes, Love Alone by Paul Monette, On Purpose by Nick Laird.”

Despite her tremendous success, having read internationally in Los Angeles, Paris, and an upcoming event in London, O’Brien says that she is still finding her voice as a writer and that travelling has fostered both this development and her awareness.

“I spent most of 2012 reading in different cities and it really made me appreciate how talented people are in Ireland and I didn’t expect that. There’s a really high standard in the underground writing and music scenes here that I haven’t seen anywhere else.”

Her blog project Bare Hands Poetry reflects this appreciation as it “showcases contemporary poetry from around the world and aims to publish work that is beautiful and accessible at the same time.”

Alongside four other young Irish writers, O’Brien will be presenting her work in London this November, which she believes will showcase the talent among Irish writers. “I hope it will make people take notice of the brilliant writing coming out of Ireland at the moment.”

She says that how people take notice of her has changed significantly ever since her chapbook, Out of the blueness, has been published. “I found people took me much more seriously as a writer and it led to bigger opportunities like grants and residencies.”

O’Brien’s next piece of work will be released in February 2014, when her first official collection of poetry, entitled Illuminate, will be published. While O’Brien also has plenty of plans and ambitions for the New Year, traveling features prominently in her mind. “I hope to do a reading tour with that and then focus on writing a novel. I’d love to travel more and perhaps [consider] writing a residency abroad.”

Beyond her personal work, O’Brien is rising to become a prominent figurehead for cultural events in Dublin. Between curating a night of poetry and music called Baring Our Ashes with Dimitra Xidous, to organising successful events that were apart of 10 Days Dublin festival and Dublin Culture Night, whatever O’Brien tries her hand at next will no doubt bring success to this talented writer.

You can read Kerrie O’Brien’s poetry at www.kerrieobrien.com and find out more about Bare Hands Poetry at barehandspoetry.tumblr.com