Yeats International Literary Residency: Maria McManus

Populär Poesi är med och arrangerar Yeats International Literary Residency mellan den 18 september och 11 oktober, varunder sex internationella författare kommer att bo och verka tillsammans i Tranås. Den tredje författaren är Maria McManus från Irland.


Maria McManus från Irland
Maria McManus från Irland

Name: Maria McManus
Age: 51
Hometown: Belfast, Northern Ireland, though I was born in Enniskillen, a town 100 miles from Belfast
Favourite food: Dark chocolate
Best book ever written: There are so many really brilliant books and writers, I find it difficult to choose but the following are books that have affected me a great deal – and they have stayed with me:
The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Beloved – Toni Morrison
Cry the Beloved Country – Alan Paton
The Grass is Singing – Doris Lessing
The Poetics of Space Gaston Bachelard
Air & Dreams – Gaston Bachelard
I loved all of the Narnia books which CS Lewis ( a Belfast man) wrote. I read them as a child but it’s time to read them again, I think.

What do you know about Sweden and Tranås?

I have had many good experiences of Sweden and the Swedish people.

My first real experience of Sweden and Swedish people was in Belfast. The dramaturg Hanna Slattne, who is originally from Skane has been a good friend and mentor to me. She has been at the hub of supporting the development of writing for theatre across all of the north of Ireland for more than 10 years now, and she has had a really significant impact on the development of new writers, new writing and the theatre as a whole.

I have come to Sweden many times now. I have a very good friend in Stockholm whom I met in 2011. She is called Malin Danielson and we met when we did an international course together some years ago. It was an intensive course. Developing a good friendship was so important in terms of broadening my personal learning experience as well as a wider understanding and world view. I love it that this is a friendship that endures beyond the training course – I think we are friends for life now. She introduced me to the work of Tomas Transtromer – a poet whose work I admire very much. I have had the chance also to go to Trosa with her and earlier this year we visited the Asko marine biology research centre in the archipelago. The landscape is so beautiful. I also got to see Sea Eagles in the archipelago, which is really thrilling – just to be able to observe them in their natural environment. There is an ongoing programme of re-introduction of these birds in Ireland and I follow that work as best I can.

In 2013, in Dublin, I met my husband Martin, who is also Swedish. We live in Belfast and he works in Dublin. I have come to Sweden a lot since we met, but mostly we go to Halsingland, where we have a summer house. It is such a beautiful place. I am even surprised by how much I love the winter there. I had never experienced the deep coldness and sense of deep rest that is a part of such very snowy weather conditions. It was so new to me, but I was really affected by it in a way, that surprised me and delighted me. We love to go there very much. The forests, the lakes and the natural landscape is really pristine and so beautiful.

My younger daughter spent a year of her university course at Uppsala, so she also loves Sweden very much – she also speaks some of the Swedish language and wants to come back to Sweden as she also has friends here now. That year at University in Uppsala seemed to suit her really well and she thrived academically as well as having a lot of fun with new friends.

I haven’t learned very much of the Swedish language yet and I need to improve that. I am delighted to have found English translations of Vilhelm Moberg in the local library and I am grateful to have been able to borrow the books to read, while I am here. When Martin and I were in Sweden last winter, we watched the films based on the books, so I am grateful to be able to read the books now. The Irish also went to America in great waves of emigration, because of famine. There are many resonances between those stories and the farming lives of the characters, with the experiences of Irish people.

This is my first time in Tranas. It is great to be welcomed to another part of Sweden and to get a sense of a new place. I find the interest in the arts as a whole and in literature, refreshing. I think Kultivera is a really dynamic organisation and I feel very lucky to be having this experience – I appreciate the chance to be here, to be given protected time and space to write. It means a lot to have the chance to work internationally and to build a body of work and a profile in another country. I had a former career in health care. I used to work in adult mental health services and in the care of people with dementia. For many years I did both, but now I only write and don’t try to keep two careers going. Writing is at the hub of my life now and I have to honour that by giving it all the time and energy I can. While I am here, I will also link, through the internet, to the DUCIS project at Dalarna University, where they have a centre for Irish Studies. It is great to have that link and I will input to a programme on contemporary Irish Poetry.

What do you expect of the Yeats International Literary residency?

I am curious to learn more about the talent of local writers. I am looking forward to the workshops and readings. Literature tells us so much about the lived experience of people – its often the closest to the truth and reality. It is a brilliant way to learn about peoples lives, about their cultures and the challenges of life – through fiction, poetry and theatre. Stories really matter. The arts help us to understand things. We need to know the stories to really be able to understand and empathise with the lives of others and to also know and understand ourselves. It matters more than ever.

How do you think poetry and drama is different from other forms of art? 

Europe as a whole is going through rapid and profound change. I really want to know the stories in order to understand what the lives of the the people new to Europe are experiencing. I think all art and creative activities contribute to an enriched life. I think the arts as a whole contribute enormously to the development of people, and communities. Writing in every form, whether it is prose, poetry or drama, fiction or non-fiction appeals to me and my own life has been transformed and made richer because of it: it is what I do best and it is the way I express my art, but I love the work of other artists, like musicians and composers, visual artists, film makers and photography. It feels that life is just too short to read all the books I want to read, to listen to all the music, watch all the films, see all the art, the gardens and beautiful buildings, to watch all the dancing and theatre. Art tells us everything we need to know about humanity. Artistic practice helps us to work out solutions to many of life challenges. We need the arts and humanities.
What do you think is making a good writer?

To make good writing… the job is to trap the most everyday things and make them visible and noticeable for the reader. Writing is really a reflective practice. So, anything we can do to be really sensitive to what is happening around us is important. Writers need to practice observation and noticing things. I have a couple of anchor practices which help me: writing a daily journal, going for a walk each day, and doing meditation. Writers also need to read and read and read. Apart from that, I would say to people, to just do it. Don’t cut your work off too soon by censoring what you write or by thinking it isn’t good enough – there is plenty of time to be critical later when you edit your work and polish it to present it. First, just write. Show up for your own writing and just do it anyway.