Making Art By Ulster’s Sperrins: Q&A With Aine MacAodha

Aine MacAodha is Irish for Ann Keys, who was born in 1963 in the small town of Omagh, Tyrone County, in Northern Ireland. Aine is a writer, a poet, a photographer and artist, and has been published widely in Ireland, United Kingdom and the United States.

MacAodha lives at the foot of the Sperrin Mountains -- her inspiration in any season. She has two poetry books published: “Where the Three Rivers Meet” and
“Guth An Anam” (“Voice of The Soul”). 

ine started writing poetry as a child, when she also became enamored with photography. Between her mother’s collection of ballad books, which intrigued
her, and her inquisitiveness about her father’s darkroom in the family home, she was destined to become the accomplished ‘poet-ographer’ that she is today.

A mother of three grown children, MacAodha is also an artist not afraid of taking chances. She personifies the key ingredient for achieving unique beauty in her work; that is, not necessarily doing different things, just doing things differently. She is drawn to mountain ranges, old ruins, churches, castles, Celtic burial sites and rural scenery. She is a master at pairing images with her poetry.

The true genius of her work is the timeless quality of it, much like Ireland itself. MacAodha is able to capture the spirit of nature and emotion in words and through the lens of her camera. We e-mailed her some questions, which she addressed hard by the Sperrins that so inform her muse.
– WG Visual Arts Producer Maryann Tracy

The Wild Geese: Have you always had an interest in both poetry and photography?

Aine MacAodha

Aine MacAodha: I always had an interest in rhyming words and phrases together, loved reading and often upon reading old ballad books my mother collected, changed the words to suit my own, this [taught] me the ballad form but my love of photography started as soon as I realized what father was doing, he had a darkroom and developed his own photographs. I was always at his sleeve questioning everything.

The Wild Geese:  Which came first? When did you decide to combine the two?

I suppose poetry came first; growing up, songs surrounded the home and poetry and song are very alike to me. The combination was always there; when words fail me I have the camera in hand to capture some of nature’s often-overlooked wonders. Lately, I have combined Haiku with a photograph -- poetography -- if you like, they fit so beautifully together. Haiku are my
favorite poem to write, very difficult to get them right; but when I do it’s magical to see them combined on screen.

Joseph Mary Plunkett

The Wild Geese:  Are there certain poets that inspire you?
There have been many. The first poets to really inspire me were the 1916 poets, [for example, Joseph Mary] Plunkett; especially his
story, I like this poem “I See His Blood Upon a Rose,” and I really admired his wife, Grace Gifford Plunkett. [I was] greatly inspired also by Yeats, Seamus Heaney and the Celtic revivalist era of Yeats, Katharine Tynan, and Alice Milligan, who was a native of Omagh. I also love Rumi, the 13th century mystic poet. I'm very fond of the beat poets of America and read quite a bit lately of Emerson and Whitman. All fascinating.

The Wild Geese: You are obviously tremendously inspired by your
surroundings. Tell me about that creative or spiritual feeling you experience
when you find that special place, like the Sperrin Mountains.

MacAodha: The Sperrin Mountains are my inspiration in any season. Here
in Omagh surrounded by the mountains you are never very far from a mountain spring or lough or place of sacred ground, that's the good thing. As I walk out over the Pigeon Top or the lakes area of Gortin Glens, my spirit flies too, the blanket bog soft under foot and surrounding hills and mounds have a supernatural pull for me. It’s instinctual for me to go visit the ancient
Beaghmore stone circles or holy wells -- it does the soul good. I feel at home in the solitude of the views.

The Wild Geese:  “Voice of the Soul,” your second book of poetry, published in 2011, includes some haiku that I particularly enjoyed. What is "soul voice"?

“Voice of the Soul” was my second book, and I have written quite a few haiku in that collection. Haiku are a beautiful way to write short forms of poetry, I began reading Basho, the Japanese haiku poet, and it had me fascinated [as] it looked so simple yet quite the opposite to do. I was thrilled to have a few published in the Shamrock Haiku Journal and Haiku Ireland.

Holy Well, Co. Clare

So back to your question on what is “soul voice.” I think for me its the outpouring of a deep inner knowing or feeling; perhaps love for something beautiful like a poem or a landscape that you feel at home in. Your soul
soothes in it. It’s a voice that is intuition and whispers from within -- you need to be very still to hear it.

The Wild Geese: What is the essence of "Where the Three Rivers Meet"?

“Where the Three Rivers Meet' was my first collection. It took a long time to put [it] together, as I wanted most of the poems within to have been published in as many poetry publications as possible. Many of the poems touch on The Troubles, and growing up amid this, your surroundings were bleak. This collection is an 'awakening,' if you like, to the beauty that surrounds
Northern Ireland, now that peace has come it looks and feels more freer and beautiful.

The Wild Geese: Tell me about your poem “Denied.”

I … was asked to write a poem on [the Cillini – typically, unconsecrated burial grounds for unbaptized babies], and “Denied” was the result. I found this very interesting and heartbreaking, [with] so many parents having to go through this with no support from church and family at that time.

The Wild Geese: Tell me about your involvement with the Derry Playhouse.

I was involved with the Derry Playhouse back in 2000, under the guidance and facilitation of writer Margie Bernard (author of “Daughter of Derry”), a wonderful woman who I and others met at a creative writing master-class tutored by theatre director David Gothard, held at The An Creggan center here in Tyrone. From that was formed The Derry Playhouse Writers, which is still going as strong today. You can visit the site here at . For me the playhouse opened my mind and gave this country girl a voice. There were weekly meetings and various workshops and master classes, which
helped my writing go forward.

The Wild Geese: Is there anything you would like to add?

At the moment, I am sending new poetry out to magazines, with recent publications in Outburst Magazine and The firstcut [the on-line magazine of the Listowel Writers Group] and I recently interviewed with Frank Hanover of the University College Cork radio show “Words on Top.” On the back burner is a kind of semi-autobiographical book on growing up in Omagh, with the background of music not war. I hope to get to work on that in June when I take up my residency at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Monaghan. WG

Barnes Gap, Sperrins Region

Carved centuries ago
by the powerful elements
of wind and ice slicing
through the countryside.
Glazed now by a carpet of moss
and haunted by the hills of
Mullaghbane and Mullaghbolig
seem untouched by modern man;
apart from the odd sheep
that wandered under the fence
leaving clots of wool waving
Tense atmosphere only solidifies
the cheek of my intrusion.
Sun plays hide n. seek
behind rocks and crevices
cooling schists once again.


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Tags: Aine MacAodha, Arts, Meet”, Rivers, Sperrin Mountains, Three, the, “Where


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