Breda Wall Ryan is an award-winning poet and writer. Her stories have been broadcast on RTE and published in journals and anthologies, including Sunday Tribune/New Irish Writing, The Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories and The New Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction. They have been shortlisted for a William Trevor/ Elizabeth Bowen Short Story Award, UCD Anthology Contest (Fiction) Prize, Francis McManus Short Story Award, The Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award and Hennessy Literary Award for Fiction. Breda was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2014 and was awarded 2nd in the Patrick Kavanagh Award, Third Prize in The Rialto/RSPB Nature Poetry Competition. In 2013 she won Over the Edge New Writer of the Year, Dromineer Literary Festival Poetry Contest, the iYeats Poetry Contest, and Poets Meet Painters Competition, as well as several other awards.
But this information tells us very little about the person behind the poet, nor about the imagination, mind and heart that pours into making her poetry so appreciated. I met with Breda, on a windy and rain-swept mid-morning in Dublin to share stories, ideas and a well received cup of tea. [pullquote] Far from other encounters with poets I have had, Breda does not wish to wow you with a poetic type of intellectualism, rather she wants to sit with you, be with you, share with you some of her life and ideas and just as in her poetry, every word speaks with bold sincerity. [/pullquote]Humility surrounds Breda and comes out in each of her well-placed words and movements. Originally from a farm in Co. Waterford, she lived in Cork before moving to Bray, Co Wicklow with her family. What struck me most about her was not so much her eloquence and her intellectualism but rather her gentle grace which seeps out ever-so-slowly in her words and stories, as she spoke about her mother and her children, her husband, her visit to hospital and her work as a teacher. I could have been by the range in the kitchen with my own mother, or talking to a neighbour at the local shop. She imbues a grace that seems to me to be uniquely Irish and which we all cherish so dearly.
Having encountered the poetic form, almost by accident, after a heart operation and in a ‘drug induced stupor’ in hospital, Breda began jotting down notes and questions and half-poems in a jotter, some of which would go on to form her debut collection “In a Hare’s Eye” which is due to be released next Thursday 26th in The Teachers Club at 18:30.
Breda spoke of her own personal relationship with poetry.
I think poems are like that, as you experience them more and more they become part of you, and they expand.
As we spoke of her work and poetry it became clear that poetry truly was part of her, in her thoughts and beliefs and hopes there is poetry along with a natural sense of curiosity and strength. Working as an English teacher, Breda found a great sense of meaning exploring language and developing an awareness of personal idiom and the wonder of language.
Breda’s strong sense of the importance of family shone through stories of her children and grandchildren and most especially in the memories of her mother she shared with me. Not surprisingly then, Breda effortlessly compared the poet’s relationship with the world to a parent-child relationship.
It’s like a parent with a new child, the child could look like an alien or a cardboard box or a pig but the parent will still think that child is just the most wonderful thing and will be stunned, and I think that’s the way we have to feel with this less than perfect world…never ceasing to be stunned.
This sense of wonder she feels towards the world and indeed her family speaks in every word. Perhaps one of the reasons poetry is so woven into the fabric of her being is because, in her own words she was raised with poetry thanks to her mother who had a great store of poems off by heart. It is testament to her mother’s character that this cosy and domestic influence went on to mould Breda’s poetry.
When I asked Breda what she felt the value of poetry was in modern society, she replied with confidence,
Poetry is what makes life understandable, it makes it acceptable and shows you you will always have a future. Poetry is a way of seeing things differently, it’s a signpost and even though you might not know which way you’re going, you trust the signpost.
Although it was only an hour or two, the time I spent with Breda sauntering through her life, ideas and poetry made me, too trust the signpost.