This week sees the launch of Double Shot - a series of poetry readings at the new Books Upstairs premises on D'Olier Street, which pairs an emerging poet with a more established peer, to provide reading opportunities for poets who don't often get to read in Dublin. The first of the series takes place this Wednesday, 25 February from 7pm and features Kate Quigley, Graham Allen and Jessica Traynor, who is also the event organiser.
Poet, writer and dramaturg, Jessica is on a bit of a roll at the moment with a new position as Literary Manager at The Abbey Theatre and her debut collection, Liffey Swim, nominated for the Shine / Strong Award 2015.
I had a quick chat with Jessica to find out more about Double Shot and her latest role at the Abbey.
Congrats on the new role at The Abbey - can you tell us a little about what it involves?
I've worked in The Abbey Theatre on and off since 2007 in a number of different roles, most of them within the Literary Department. Aideen Howard, our Literary Director, is now moving on to become Artistic Director of The Ark and I'm taking on the role of Literary Manager. I'll be managing the staff of the Literary and Archive Departments, and working with our commissioned writers on plays in development. I'll also be scouting for talent by attending new writing shows around Ireland and abroad, and formulating new ways to engage with talented playwrights who come to us through the unsolicited script process and also those who've completed our New Playwrights Programme.
Any aspiring playwrights out there should know that we always welcome submissions of new work! Our guidelines are here:http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/literary/submitting_a_playscript/
Where did the idea for Double Shot come from?
From a conversation about how there aren't many opportunities for poets from around Ireland to read in Dublin, apart from at book launches or seasonal festivals. Cork has Ó Bheal and Galway has Over the Edge, and so we - Dave Lordan, Philip Coleman and myself - thought it might be a good time to try to establish something similar. Of course, Dublin has an open mic and spoken word scene to be proud of, but we spotted a gap in the market for an event where Dublin audiences could see both an emerging and an established poet read together, with a focus on poets based outside Dublin, to offer audiences something a bit different.
The choice of venue in the new Books Upstairs space on D'Olier Street, with its new cafe and performance space, has also shaped our thinking about the event. I can see it fast becoming a real hub of literary activity in Dublin. They're the number one stockists of poetry books in Dublin and we feel it's the perfect home for these readings. Louisa, Maurice and the rest of the staff have given us excellent support from the outset and I'm excited to see how their literary programme shapes up.
Who are the featured poets in the series?
For our pilot series, we have myself and Graham Allen on the 25th February, Cal Doyle and Eleanor Hooker on the 18th March and Breda Wall Ryan and Martin Dyar on the 15th April. We've aimed for a good mix in terms of geography and experience. Obviously these are all poets whose work we admire, but we also hope that the pairings will make for some interesting poetic conversations.
And after the 3 events lined up - any plans for more?
We have a list as long as your arm of poets we would love to feature in future! When we planned the event, we thought the idea of three readings each Spring and three readings each Autumn might work well. We've no funding as of yet and some small overheads to cover in terms of staffing and writer travel costs, so are charging a small entry fee this time round. We hope that if we can make this series work we might be in a position to approach a few organisations for funding, but it would be good to develop a tried and tested model first.
Who would be your dream Double Shot duo - any poet, anywhere in the world, living or dead?
This is a tough one. It's one of my big regrets that I never saw Denis O'Driscoll read, although I met him a number of times. In terms of living poets, it's almost impossible to narrow down. If I had a massive budget I'd love to focus an evening on contemporary Australian poets like Dan Disney, Simon West and Bonny Cassidy, whose work I've been reading recently. The Australian poetic sensibility is varied, but so different to most of the contemporary work in the Irish or English tradition that I think it could provide Irish audiences with some real inspiration.
Many thanks and best of luck to Jessica with the new ventures!
Tickets are now available for all 3 Double Shot readings:
Jessica Traynor and Graham Allen
25th February @ Books Upstairs, 7pm
Cal Doyle and Eleanor Hooker
18th March @ Books Upstairs, 7pm
Breda Wall Ryan and Martin Dyar
15th April @ Books Upstairs, 7pm