The furthest distances I've travelled/ have been those between people. Leontia Flynn
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About Leontia Flynn
Leontia Flynn was lauded by Fran Brearton as: “one of the most strikingly original and exciting poetic voices to have emerged from Northern Ireland since [Paul] Muldoon”. She was born in County Down in 1974 and has MA in English from Edinburgh University. In 2001 she was awarded an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors and in 2004 completed a Doctorate from Queen’s University Belfast, on the poetry of Medbh McGuckian. In the same year her first collection These Days won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and was also shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Prize. Colette Bryce praised Flynn’s sparkling debut, describing it as “brimming with humour and hints of mischief.” She also praises her “playful engagement with the daunting Northern Irish tradition.” In 2005, Flynn was named as one of the Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation poets.
While These Days, as Bryce notes is a landscape “of shiftless youth, rented flats, bread-and-butter jobs and millennial angst,” Flynn’s second collection Drives (2008) is a book of restless journeys, both real and imagined. In this collection a series of literary and historical figures also address ‘drives’ of more a Freudian nature, in what Flynn calls “Wikipedia poems” – “Everything you can fit into a sonnet about somebody’s life”. In these poems, Baudelaire’s mother reaches breaking point and Elizabeth Bishop’s asthma finally takes away her breath. One of the most arresting things about Flynn’s poetry is that she alludes to and borrows from a broad literary tradition from Chaucer to Wordsworth, yet she wears this learning lightly and utterly without pretension.
‘The Furthest Distances I’ve Travelled’, which can be heard on this Archive recording, begins with the lure of backpacking as the narrator declares: “Yes. This is how/to live. On the beaten track, the sherpa pass, between Krakow/and Zagreb”, as if “in restlessness, in anony/mity: /was some kind of destiny”, but ends far closer to home, where souvenirs are less exotic: (cinema stubs, notes on postits and “crushed valentines”) before settling on the conclusion which once again opens the poem out to a much wider, un-mappable landscape: “that the furthest distances I’ve travelled/ have been those between people. And what survives/ of holidaying briefly in their lives.”
On this Archive recording, Leontia Flynn’s voice is warm and chatty between poems, yet the poems themselves are much more controlled in their delivery, emphasising the silences between words.
This recording was made on March 2nd 2009 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.