“Most English Literature students tend to be enamoured with the written word!” jokes Finuala Deazy, after I asked when it was that she realised she wanted to write. Speaking to the recent winner of the Alison Morland poetry competition was a genuine pleasure, as she revealed her methods and inspirations for her poem ‘America, 1840.’ The Alison Morland prize was established in the memory of a student from the School of English by her parents. It’s an annual competition open to English undergraduates and awards the winner £150 and the chance to be published in Poetry & Audience.
The newly-graduated English Literature student laughed as she explained how she had first thought of the poem as she strolled to the library to write her dissertation, it just popped into her head. “I wrote the first line on my phone and wrote the rest up later.” Deazy explained that the poem was supposed to have “an unpleasant viewpoint in an attempt to convey the incongruity of colonial expansion. It’s almost a nationalistic poem, didn’t Einstein say that ‘Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.’? There’s no real moral to it,” she continued. “It’s just from the perspective of someone living in 1840 having gone to America to dig during the Gold Rush, and I imagined it to be uncomfortable.”
When I asked Finuala about her inspirations as a writer, she immediately mentioned one of her favourite writers, Sebastian Barry, who is also Irish. “Of course I’ve read incredible poetry throughout my course, but Sebastian Barry writes his characters with such powerful imagery and so he was of course an inspiration.” She joked that the famous writer lived near her dad in Ireland and that she had once spotted him buying cheese in a farm shop, but didn’t dare approach him. Dylan Thomas was another writer that she mentioned due to his “interesting style and incredible imagery.” Some of Matsuo Basho’s haiku poems was another minor influence through his skill with nature imagery.
I can feel the pulse of that green veined country across the sea
I can see the soft hills melting into the morning light
And I can hear the sweet songs that thrum through the trees
Whispering of kings and queens and creatures that have
While I dig.
This land is red and raw and angry in the flickering distance.
It spits snakes at us
The dark people have dead stars for eyes
Their sand skin glows under this cruel sun
While we blister and burn like bacon.
I have seen gold in a handful of dust
And now I am cursed, chained to these tools.
I asked Finuala if she had any advice to prospective writers and poets after her success. She replied that the best anyone could do was to “Just write. Just go for it. Everyone is a different person and so has a different perspective.” She was surprised to discover that she had won the competition, “really surprised and really amazed, really humbled.” After submitting it just minutes before the deadline while in Barcelona, it was on a whim but dreams really do come true. She explained that she didn’t really change the poem that much from the first draft and didn’t let anyone else read it before she submitted. “I think that loads of people who do English want to write, enamoured with the written word. Since I can remember I’ve wanted to write, and in such a creative environment there’s so much you can do.” Finuala has managed to achieve the dream and will soon be a published poet.
When asked what she would say to any of her friends to convince them to read the poem, Finuala laughed once more and admitted that she probably wouldn’t let them read it at all, she’s self-critical enough. About to start a publishing internship, she mentioned that she wished she had more time to write but that actually sitting down to write was a weird thing. She expressed an ardent love for writing poetry over any other writing medium.
What perhaps struck me the most about my conversation with Finuala was her generosity. She mentioned that the £150 prize money had been given to her friend Jess, who is currently working with refugees in Greece. She explained that giving the money away was nothing in comparison to the hard work currently going on to help in refugee camps, mentioning the gofundmepage for the ritsona camp where there are currently eight hundred refugees. “It was a generous prize, but I don’t need it and it’s Jess and the others who are really doing the hard work.”
It seems that while Finuala wrote on a whim both her writing and her altruism will continue to make a profound impact on any who hear about it. For someone so incredibly humble, it appears that Finuala Deazy has a promising literary career ahead.
(Image courtesy of Finuala Deazy)