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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.