Patrick Stack started writing at 12 after hearing a piece of verse on the black and white TV. Now he has written a full collection of poetry with Selfpublishbooks.ie - this week we asked him to share his experience.
A poet has to take direction from other authors — we asked Patrick who he named as his idols.
“That’s a difficult one! My favourite poets during my formative period at Trinity were William Blake, Arthur Rimbaud, Gerard de Nerval, Guillaume Appolinaire, and Paul Eluard.
“Later on I developed a love for the Argentinian writer and poet, Jorge Luís Borges – I especially liked his short poems, but didn’t much like his longer more descriptive stuff.
“The minimalist poetry of Thomas McGreevey inspires me, as does Michael Hartnett’s Irish language poetry.”
How long was The Parting in the works? How did it begin?
“The Parting has been in the works for a long time. I have wanted to publish my own collection since I was an undergraduate in Trinity in the late 1970s, but back then there was no such thing as self-publishing (unless you count vanity publishing which was costly) and getting a poem published – never mind a collection – was a daunting prospect.
“Over the years I’ve produced several collections which, thankfully, never saw the light of day. The Parting is a compilation of the best poems that have survived from these, as well as my most recent work. The early surviving poems have undergone varying degrees of paring, pruning and gutting. One, ‘Tricolour’, has grown from a fragment (6 lines) written in 1989 shortly after I emigrated to Spain, to its final 57-line version completed in 2008 well after I had returned to Ireland.
“Coming up with an appropriate title for the collection proved a major stumbling block. With help from my daughter I eventually settled upon The Parting, given that the collection deals with many types of parting.”
Patrick is on the committee for the Three-Legged Stool Poets – we asked him how he got involved.
“The committee that runs the the Three-Legged Stool Poets has just decided to rename it 3-Legged Stool Poets, so I’ll refer to it as that from now on. It was started back in the early 2000s and came out of another group called ‘The Poetry Collective’ which was the brainchild of Arthur Watson. Arthur is still actively involved.
“Soon after I emigrated to Spain I stopped writing, and did not start again until early 2007 – a period of 16 years in the wilderness as it were! As I had not been writing or even reading poetry in all that time, I was unaware of the existence of any poetry groups in the Munster area. In 2007, I gave my first reading in 20 years in the Georgian House, Limerick as part of the Mozart and Wine fundraising night run by Summer Music on the Shannon. Although I was terrified, the reading proved to be a huge success. Barney Sheehan of the Whitehouse Poetry Revival was in the audience, and asked me to come and read at the Whitehouse, which I subsequently did. During that reading I happened to mention that I had been trying unsuccessfully to make contact with the 3-Legged Stool Poets, which I had been told about by somebody in Ennis. Unbeknownst to me, Brian Mooney happened to be there that night and came up and introduced himself. That’s how I came to join the group.
“Through my contacts in Summer Music on the Shannon, the group secured a regular monthly reading in Glór, Ennis in 2008 and that initiative is still going.”
Every poet has a favourite poem. We asked Patrick which poem he enjoyed writing most in The Parting and why?
“The first one that comes to mind is ‘Dog Burial’, followed closely by ‘Epithalamion.’ ‘Dog Burial’ has been around a long time, the first version dating back to 1979. It was written in memory of a greyhound, Millie, who was my mother’s favourite of all the greyhounds we kept, hence the dedication. Many re-writings later, it has achieved that terseness and minimalism which best expresses the grief of losing Millie and having to bury her in the orchard.
“In contrast, Epithalamion took only a few months to write, and has none of the terseness or minimalism of ‘Dog Burial.’ Instead it luxuriates in its richness of language. Writing it proved a major challenge. I was still frantically working on it in the car on the way to the wedding, and only completed it half an hour before the wedding reception at which I read it!”
Once a book is finished, the next step is to get it between two covers. But what caught Patrick’s interest in self-publishing?
“Getting a collection published by a ‘reputable’ publisher in Ireland is very difficult. And even if your work is accepted by one, the waiting time can be counted in years. An added complication for me is that my poetry is not mainstream and, I suspect, does not tick the necessary boxes to satisfy the status quo’s ideas of what constitutes acceptable poetry.
“Having acquired the skills necessary to do page layout through my years as a Desktop Publishing tutor for Clare VEC, I decided I would do just that. Some research on the web lead me to Lettertec’s website. I liked what I saw and made contact.”
We asked Patrick how he found the self-publishing process:
“The process of putting the book together was daunting, and proved to be a lot of work once I started,” Patrick says, “I used my web developer skills to help select from the 113 poems I have in an online database I set up for the purpose, and to put them in order. I adapted a jQuery re-order plugin which I attached to the database to help in getting them into the right order. This took about three weeks to do. I then used an open source Page layout program – Scribus – to put the collection together. This took about 2 months.
“The least daunting, most efficient part was the production of the finished book. All I had to do was deliver the pdfs to selfpublishbooks.ie and they did the rest. I was amazed to get delivery of the book a week ahead of schedule. That is great service!
“The finished product is excellent in every way. It is as I had imagined, only better. There is nothing to compare with the feeling of reading from your own book – it gives a feeling of confidence, of completion. It beats the hell out of reading from notebooks, loose sheets and the backs of envelopes!”
So what’s next for Patrick?
“As an active member of 3-Legged Stool Poets, I’m excited at our upcoming initiative to plunge into performance poetry for our Winter season which kicks off in October 2013.
“Besides promoting The Parting through readings and Social Media, and my website, my next project is to finish the long poem entitled ‘The Day the Revolution Came,’ which I’ve been working on for the last four years. Currently I’m about half-way through at 215 lines in 4 cantos. Once finished I will publish it as a standalone work, though the title may well change!”