2 minutes with… Jane Clarke


Spring is finally around the corner and what better way to welcome the season of renewal and growth than with a unique outdoor event. Award-winning poet Jane Clarke, the author of two collections and an illustrated chapbook, will be taking part in our booked-out poetry and music walking tour, happening later this month at the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin. We caught up with her to find out a little more about the draw of poetry in the outdoors, what inspires her, and what she has lined up next. 

You were part of one of our most popular events last year, also a walking tour at the National Botanic Gardens. What do you think works so well about bringing poetry out into the open?

There’s something wonderful in how all three elements, the music, the poetry and the beautiful surroundings, complement and enhance each other. Walking among trees, stopping to listen to poems and music, watching a robin in brambles, gives the audience a chance to take in the experience physically as well as emotionally and intellectually. There’s space and time for the music and words to resonate. There’s also a sense that as audience and artists we are co-creating a memorable experience. At the end of the walk people feel that they have reconnected with the environment, each other and themselves.

James Mahon is joining you again on music, which adds a beautiful extra dimension to the experience. Do you find music inspirational in your own creative process?

For me music is essential to poetry and I have no doubt that the music I have listened to since childhood has inspired my writing. I’m in awe of musicians and I see poetry and music as sister arts. They both express what seems inexpressible and they’re both mysterious, in the sense of where they come from and how they move the listener. While I am writing I need silence to hear the rhythm of the lines but always I’m aspiring to create a kind of word-music. 

We are also delighted to be joined this time by Cornwall poet Katrina Naomi. What do you take home most from events like this where writers and poets from different places join together?

It’s marvellous to have opportunities for writers from different countries and cultures to perform together. We learn from each other in our differences and our similarities. I like seeing how others perform their work, what themes they’re addressing and what forms they’re choosing. Audiences also enjoy the diversity and the resonances in performances across nationalities and borders. 

Your forthcoming book A Change is in the Air (Bloodaxe Books, May 2023) is a collection of poems that explore how people, landscape and culture shape us. These are poems that embody voices of courage and resilience in the face of the many difficulties we face in today’s world, ultimately celebrating this beautiful but fragile world that we live in. Can you talk to us about the experience of putting this collection together?

A Change in the Air has been in the making since 2018. When I came to draw the poems into a collection last year, I found a number of interrelated sequences. The first sequence reflects on memory loss, inspired by my mother’s experience of dementia. She and my grandmother had strong presences in my first two collections and I’m glad to say they’re here again. Two sequences are inspired by the increased openness during the Decade of Centenaries to untold stories in our history. Many of the poems reflect on the uplands of Co. Wicklow, where my partner and I have been living for almost thirty years. During lockdown I had more time to walk and learn about the bog, river and woodland habitats as well as the mining heritage of Glenmalure, Glendalough and Glenmacnass. For me the title of the collection is both ominous and promising, reflecting where we are right now in relation to the natural world. 


Thank you to Jane for her time, and for sharing such lovely insights with us.

Jane joins poet Katrina Naomi and musician James Mahon at our booked-out walk in the National Botanic Gardens later this month. 

Her third poetry collection, A Change in the Air, will be published by Bloodaxe in May 2023.