The Poetry Bus is one of Irelands most loved indie literary magazines supplying readers with some of the best poetry from Irish and international Writers. I had a chance to interview the very intriguing Peadar O’Donoghue, founder of the magazine and get to ask what exactly is a Grimoire, the latest project from Irelands most hard working couple, along with wife Collette and ‘a herd of highly trained imaginary goats working away in the non-existent shed of my dreams’ and all about Fíona Bolger, the poet chosen to be the first publication.
The Poetry Bus is one of Irelands most popular Literary Magazines, how long have you been publishing poetry and where did the idea and enthusiasm come from?
Hello Stephen, thanks for asking me over to your blog!
Yes, PB is proving to be popular at home and abroad, we are delighted! PB4 is running out ,Issues 1 and 3 are completely sold out, there’s only a handful of issue 2 left. It has sold via the internet all across Ireland, Britain, Europe, America, Canada, Australia and even to South Korea!
It has been going about 4 years now and has grown from a small stapled amateurish looking gem into a pukka perfect bound professional beauty with an audio CD of the poets plus some music tracks. The whole sheboodle started as a weekly poetry task set on my blog Totalfeckineejit, the response was so good from poets who had never been published before that we thought it about time that they were published, no one else was bothering, so we did it! We took the best of these blog poems and mixed them in with better known poets to give the blend of new and established voices that continues to this day in the mag. Now we have open submissions and the blend occurs naturally, which is such a joy.
The enthusiasm remains undiminished because the need is as strong as ever to provide a quality platform for new voices, all voices, to ensure an alternative to the mainstream and establishment mags and outfits. The way that PB is not part of the poetry establishments, being completely ignored by the old guard, and lately patronized and scoffed at by the new order, is enough to keep the fires in our bellies raging. Combine this with the constant excitement of finding new great poets and producing the mag becomes intoxicating, utterly addictive.
And who is behind the scenes?
Up til earlier this year, it was just me, myself, and I ,plus a herd of highly trained imaginary goats working away in the non-existent shed of my dreams. But it is too much work for one person now, so Collette, my wife, is on board as assistant editor/art editor to help with everything generally and specifically with the art side which is so important to the mag.
You have some crazy amazing art for your covers, who are the artists and how did you find them?
We have been so lucky with the artwork, most of which has been amazing. I’d come across fantastic images on the internet and 9 times out of 10, the artists when asked, kindly let us use their work. Some were students, some were yet to be known, others were quite famous.
The cover artists so far (including upcoming PB5) are Susan Sanford, Adam Neate, Abby Diamond, Wendy Oliva and Steve Simpson. Other artists include ADW, The Project Twins, Jessica Brilli, Alexandra Eldridge, Una Gildea, Kevin McSherry, Padhraig Nolan, Akira Kusaka, Bett Norris, Calef Browne, Tim Bradford, Cróna Gallagher, Mike Absalom, Vivienne Baille, Bobby Parker, Mike Haskett,Unur Epmakob,Dale Houstman, Elena Duff, Doug Robertson and Mark Jenkins.
You don’t seem to have a publication date for the magazine, just publish whenever, why is this?
We are largely limited by money. Having no funding from The Arts Council or Poetry Ireland makes it difficult to plan in advance. We raise money via fundit.ie which is a fantastic crowd funding organization and a lifeline to any fledgling arts project. So rather than have an annual budget for say three mags ,we wait til we have a mag more or less full and then go to fundit to try to raise the printing costs etc. It has worked every time so far, but it limits how much we can realistically hope to raise and how often we can raise it. We daren’t go back to the well too often in the same year!
Being forced down the hard route is a real test of commitment but we are now tempered in the fire of survival and are all the stronger for it. We take nothing for granted and are so appreciative of every single euro of support pledged and every poem or illustration offered.
And now you are branching out, Grimoires. What is a Grimoire and where does the word come from?
The Grimoires are an exciting new route for Poetry Bus, in essence a Grimoire (meaning a book of magic) is a fancy chapbook. A small book of poems. Most chapbooks are very poorly made, literally a cheap book, we just wanted to do something more special for poets. I also have a strange aversion to the word ‘Chapbook’ always have, I’m weird like that!
Where do you want to go with this, as in, would you like to become a bigger publishing house?
We never really think beyond the next idea that falls into our heads. We are really happy with the magazine and have a few Grimoires lined up (subject to finding funding). I guess it would be nice if we progressed to publishing a few full collections. I think we will always be a cottage (or should I say Shed?) industry.
Poet Fíona Bolger is your first Grimoire, ‘The Geometry of Love between the Elements’ which is a beautiful name, why was Fiona’s poetry chosen to be the first and what does the book consist off?
It is a great title isn’t it?! Like most good things it just kind of ‘happened’ I’d been wanting PB to publish a chapbook (Ugh!) for quite a little while, I had two good poets that I felt had been overlooked and they were both lined up for a Grimoire but both for various reasons fell through, I was really disappointed but still keen to find a suitable poet. I met Fiona in an extremely rare (for me) visit to Dublin, I didn’t know her at all beyond a couple of poems in The Poetry Bus, she mentioned in passing that she was trying to get a chapbook published, I said I might be interested, could I take a look and the rest is history!
In some ways it couldn’t have worked out better because the other two poets published very successfully elsewhere and Fiona turned out to be a really great person to work with, she made it easy!
She must be delighted, I have read some of her work and thoroughly enjoyed it, will there be a book launch and where can it be purchased?
I think Fióna was very delighted to be published, it is her first book and ours too, so it’s a really big deal all round!
The Grimoire will be launched on Friday 23rd August 6.30pm at The Workman’s Club in Dublin. There will be signed copies available and an introduction by Anamaria Crowe Serrano, plus music, wine and readings, everyone is welcome! It is also available to buy online at http://thepoetrybusmag.wix.com/change
For future poets looking to get published as a Grimoire with this new project, what will you be looking for and are you open to international submissions?
Due to funding restrictions we have more than enough Grimoires lined up for the foreseeable future, which is a shame. If we got even a small grant from The Arts Council, we could do so much. There has been huge interest in getting Grimoires published, and we haven’t even put a call out! This is why the Grimoires, just like the magazine, must keep going and provide much needed opportunities for poets.
When (if!) we are in a position to actively seek ‘Grimoirists’ we will be looking for the unusual, things that are a little different, and definitely including International poets. For example one Grimoire project that we really hope will come to fruition has a working title of ‘Twin Cities’ featuring Urban poetry from a white Dublin male (Séamas Carraher) and a Washington black female (Korliss Sewer) in a two-way double -fronted book. Another uniquely mixes flash fiction and poetry. PoetryBusPress will innovate not stagnate.
Thank you for your time Peadar, any final thoughts or news?
Thanks to you Stephen for inviting us over , my final thoughts are these…
Be sure to check out The Poetry Bus website for previous editions of the magazine and add your support. Also check out submission dates as Peader and Collette are always looking for quality writing and go out of their way to support writers, novice or published.
Fíona Bolger’s Grimoire will be launched on Friday 23rd August 6.30pm at The Workman’s Club in Dublin, if you are near by, be sure to pop in, it will be a great night