Cocktail hour with Liz Gallagher

Liz Gallagher by Vladi Valido

Liz Gallagher was born and brought up in Donegal, Ireland. She has been living in Gran Canary Island for the past 14 years. She has an Education degree and a Computer Science degree. She is at present doing research for her doctoral studies. She began writing about five years ago and has won a variety of awards in both Ireland and the US: Inclusion in the Best New Poets 2007 Anthology (Meridian Press, Virginia University), First Prize in The Listowel Writers’ Single Poem Competition 2009 and she was selected by Poetry Ireland for their 2009 Introductions Series in recognition of her status as an emerging poet.

The Wrong Miracle (Salt Modern Poets, 2009)

Liz, welcome to Johannesburg and cocktail hour at peony moon.  It’s been a heady experience following The Maximus Miracle Tour.
I hope something on the menu tickles your taste buds.  We have Absinthe, Acapulco Sunrises, Alabama Slammers, Alchemist’s Punch, Banshees, Barry Whites, Bitches Brew, Fuzzy Navels, Beijing Mules, Blueberry Martinis, Screwdrivers, Sex on the Beach, Singapore Slings and, of course, Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters.
Hi Michelle, it is wonderful to be here in South Africa.  It’s my first time and I know it will be an experience to remember.  Thanks so much for having me and for preparing such an interesting cocktail menu.  Some of these drinks are just too irresistible, so I shan’t even try.  Thanks, Michelle, all of my cocktails I love shaken but not stirred.

A favourite 'living on the edge' house along Las Palmas promenade

I see you have your photo album tucked under your arm.  Tell me something about your life in the Canary Islands.
Well, we live in the country in a protected valley.  We have a little tumbledown farm that we are looking after and renovating very slowly!  We both work as English Teachers in the Aula de Idiomas in Las Palmas University in the afternoons which is nice as we avoid all rush hour traffic to the city.  The light and spring-like weather practically all the time make it a very pleasant place to live.  The Canarian people are very sociable and outgoing and thus there are always things happening on the island from WOMAD  to the Las Palmas International Film Festival and of course there are always local festivals of song and dance to celebrate grape picking, olive picking, almond picking, water festivals, mud festivals … literally you name it, and they have a festival for it.
It is nice having the mornings free as I either write or study for an hour or two and then go to the farm with our dogs.  The quietness and sense of calm in the country contrasts with the very energetic busy atmosphere of the villages and cities.  All in all, it is a nice place to live in and it lends itself very well to hibernating and escaping the world which suits me fine, at times. I feel very lucky to be here and remind myself not to take it for granted.

Man Imitating Nature

Would you describe your writing process, Liz.
I usually write early in the morning and quite often take part in daily writing challenges with fellow poets to help get motivated.  I normally get inspired by a line or phrase and go where that takes me.  I sometimes write in white text into the screen for a timed period of maybe anything from ten minutes to 30 minutes.  This usually takes the form of what I like to call ‘mental-rioting’ as explained in TFE’s interview:
“The idea of writing in white font is to temporarily avoid Ms. Inner Critic who is usually on 24/7 duty casting an eye on what has been written, she will have her time to do that in the next re-drafting stage but for the tentative beginnings of a poem, I like to give free reign to whatever is in my head.  The first draft usually contains the absolute bones of where the poem is going and where it has landed.  I usually leave the first draft aside for a few weeks and then return to it to view it anew.  My revision usually deals with cutting excess and such like and tweaking here and there by substituting words and phrases but the basic thought and sentiment of the poem remain the same.”

The Three Wise Men on Canteras Beach, Las Palmas

The royalties from The Wrong Miracle sales are going to Sands (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity).  Tell me about the support services Sands offers to those affected by the death of a baby.  How can people get involved?
Sands have a website here.  There are so many different ways to support Sands.  On their website, they outline some very practical ways, and they say the following:
“The death of a baby is a devastating experience.  The effects of grief can be overwhelming, and in the early hours and days parents can be left feeling dazed, disorientated, isolated and exhausted.  It can be hard to take in information, to make decisions or to imagine how you are going to cope.  At Sands there are people who understand what it’s like because many of us have been through this experience ourselves, and we are here to offer support and information when you need it.
Early moments of loss  There are choices you can make about what happens to your baby and to you in the early hours and days of their death.  These decisions, whether they involve keeping momentos of your baby or decisions about naming your baby, can have an impact on how you will feel about this time in years to come.  You may want to talk to someone or read about the feelings of other parents who have been through the same experience.
Important practical information   There are some things that you may have to do after your baby dies including registering your baby’s death and deciding about a post mortem and funeral. In this section we also include information about your post-natal check as well as any benefits you may be eligible for.
A bereavement journey  We understand that the death of a baby is not a one-off event but an emotional journey, that affects every aspect of your life. In this section we look at issues such as going home and back to work, thinking about a new baby, and remembering your baby in the years to come.
Family and friends  As well as supporting mothers and fathers, we are also here to help other members of your family, especially other children you may have and grandparents. Many people may be touched by your baby’s death, whether they be close friends or relations, and all are welcome to contact us for support and information.
Second trimester loss  Your baby may have died during its 2nd trimester. The death of a baby can happen to any one of us at any stage and Sands aims to provide support no matter what your situation.
Talk to someone  You may want to talk to someone who can listen to how you feel or can help you think through what you want to do.  You can do this by calling our national helpline or by exchanging experiences via our forum.  It may help to hear the stories of other bereaved parents in our personal experiences section, from our list of publications, or indeed from the various articles and media which have covered the issue of baby loss. We have a network of over 90 local groups around the UK and you may want to find out whether there is one close to you, or indeed you may prefer to find other support links – listed here in alphabetical order.”
Michelle, you asked how people can become involved. Here are a few of the ways:
Becoming a member
Getting involved with fundraising
Raising awareness
Thanks very much for asking about Sands, Michelle.  It’s great to have an opportunity to highlight what they do. 
Thanks also for being a great hostess and having me on your blog.  The cocktails added to the festive spirit.  I’ll be taking note of a few of the recipes to host a similar occasion when I get back to the Canaries.  I have enjoyed the experience.  Happy Festive Season to you and yours, Michelle, and lots of best wishes for the New Year.
Thank you for your whirlwind visit, Liz.  All the best for the rest of The Maximus Miracle Tour and I look forward to keeping in touch next year.

Cacti burst

9 thoughts on “Cocktail hour with Liz Gallagher

  1. sorlil

    Great interview, Michelle and Liz! I went to Las Palmas on my honeymoon 14 years ago so I’m loving the pics. White font sounds like an interesting idea, thanks for that!

  2. TotalFeckinEEjit

    OOOh, nice drinks! I’ll have a pint of Absinthe (makes the heart grow fonder) and then sex on the beach. Great photos , the Canaries must be a wonderful place to live.More interesting insights into the Gallagher magic writing too.
    Such a nice thing to donate the royalties to Sands which is clearly a very caring ,informed and supportive organisation.

  3. Michelle Post author

    Slàinte Mhath, Sorlil and TFE!

    Thank you so much for the interview and fabulous photographs, Liz.

  4. Liz

    Hi Sorlil,
    Thanks for reading….and yeah, really, try the white font…it can be surprising what happens : ) I came to the island about 14 years ago…didn’t think I’d be here this long! ; )

    Thanks, TFE, and enjoy those cocktail! Go easy on mixing them though, you’ve chosen the two most lethal ones… ; )

    You know, I do feel like a lucky duck being here (even if at times, I can be a duck out of water here too ; )) Light is great for photos …have a wee photographic trip to Lanzarote coming up, will make up for the fact that I can’t write just now…oh and those sand-wise-men have 24 hour security to stop folk kicking them to ground…love the sand sculptures though, they had an International competition a year ago – folk from all over came to build sand models on the beach, trucks of sand had to be carted in for them! : ) Anyway, all madness but good madness….!

    Michelle, thank YOU for having me here…love the layout of the interview….looks great!

  5. Julie

    Can I have a bitches brew? That sounds like my kind of drink! A few of the Alabama Slammers will also hit the spot. And a Beijing mule. Yes.

    Well, where to begin. I am so impressed with this poet on many different levels. I love the interview and hearing about her life and writing process. Writing in white font is brilliant, and I have to try that now.

    I can’t wait to read the book and have added it to my “PLEASE BUY ME” list for Christmas. If no one in the family responds, I’ll buy it myself come payday. What wonderful poetry. And to know that royalties are going to help people is awesome. I love poets who give back. Thank you so much for the introduction to Liz Gallagher’s work. Excellent interview!

  6. Liz

    Hi Julie,

    Thanks very much for your lovely words…it gives me a real kick to think of The Wrong Miracle being on a Christmas list…hope Santa spots it. ; )

    And ‘chin-chin’ with the cocktails, the selection has been mind-blowingly good! : )

  7. Pat Jones

    Loved this interview and want your book, Liz. Trained to be an artist, when my youngest son became disabled from an illness at six months of age, I changed careers, spent my whole working life as an advocate for children with developmental disabilities and their families…building support groups, parent training, just being there for others fighting the systems for services they needed. It was work I loved and still miss in retirement…so, Liz, your interview surely touched home big time with me.

    Thanks to you both.


  8. Liz

    Hi Pat,

    Sorry for my delay in getting back to you…so nice to find your comments here. Thanks for sharing your experience…I am delighted that you enjoyed the interview.

    best wishes

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