Poet Jane Clarke lives in Ireland. Her debut collection, The River, is published by Bloodaxe Books. She won the 2016 Hennessy Literary Award for Poetry and The River was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature 2016 Ondaatje Prize. Recently her work was published in The Guardian, The Irish Times, New Hibernia Review and Poetry Ireland Review. As a former participant on many creative writing courses here at Tŷ Newydd over the years, we were honoured to finally have her company as the guest reader for our autumn Masterclass. We are so happy to have played a small part in her development as a writer, and wish her all the best with her career.
In July 2008 I took a train from Wicklow to Dun Laoghaire, the ferry to Holyhead and another train to Bangor on my way to Tŷ Newydd for a Poetry Masterclass given by Gillian Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy. I had been writing poetry for three years and was both excited and overawed at the thought of a “masterclass” with these two groundbreaking poets. It turned out to be a pivotal week in the development of my work and my identity as a poet. I came home with new poems on the boil but more importantly I felt my work was valued which encouraged me to commit myself more fully to writing.
Since then I have attended four other courses in Tŷ Newydd with Gillian Clarke, Carol Ann Duffy, Maura Dooley, Mark Cocker and Fiona Sampson. What took me back again and again was the excellence of the tutors, the time and space to concentrate on all aspects of writing for a week, the comraderie and support of the other poets I met there as well as the opportunity to hear the tutors and guests give their readings. The friendly, relaxed atmosphere in this beautiful old house, set between the shingle beach along Cardigan Bay and the woods by the river Dwyfor, is totally conducive to the playful and serious work of writing, editing and dreaming.
I had the honour and pleasure of returning as a guest reader to a Poetry Masterclass with Gillian Clarke and Imtiaz Dharker in October 2016. As I read from my first collection, The River, published by Bloodaxe Books in June 2015, I was delighted to highlight the poems that had begun or been edited while sitting in the Tŷ Newydd library, at the long dining room table or at a bench in the garden.