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Vona Groarke and Conor O'Callaghan

Vona Groarke and Conor O'Callaghan share the magic and melody of poetry.

The Poets

Vona Groarke and Conor O'Callaghan give life to words.


Conor O'Callaghan and Vona Groarke are poets-in-residence and husband and wife. "We look a bit like the Sonny and Cher of Irish poetry," he quips. She laughs, and the moment captures the easy humor that comes with sharing friendship, family and a commitment to making poetry an everyday pursuit.

"We want to make poetry a part of students' lives," says Groarke. "Otherwise it's just something to do when you're sitting down and looking at a book in the library. The difference between poetry and prose is like the difference between abstract and narrative painting. In the museums, people tend to gravitate towards paintings with a story. There are things to recognize and relate to, such as the light on a girl's face or the way she's reading a letter, and suddenly the whole thing comes alive. Abstract art is more like poetry because it is about itself."

The poem itself is a private little room that you can go away to — even if only in your head — without having to explain it to anybody else and, at times, without even admitting anyone else into that room.

—Conor O'Callaghan

The couple know the challenge of crafting words into verse. "There isn't a formula for writing poetry," Groarke says. "I tell students that if you're a dentist then you're bringing the accumulated knowledge of every tooth you've ever worked on to bear on this tooth that you're doing now, but with poetry, it's not like that. Everything you've done up to this point matters nothing at all. It's a clean slate. You have to allow yourself to do it fresh every single time, which is difficult."

"You keep imposing some craft on your material until you get to the best form of completion that you can manage. We try to get away from the conventional idea that a poem is somehow inspired," says O'Callaghan.


Part 5: The Music of Poetry »


Adapted from "Art and Craft" by Kim McGrath
(Wake Forest Magazine 9/06)
Photos by Ken Bennett
Web content by Kim McGrath

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Wake Forest Magazine

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Wake Forest University Press

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Go to part:

1. The Press
2. The Origins of the Press
3. The Winds of Change
4. The Poets
5. The Music of Poetry

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More WFU Press Poets
Ciaran Carson
Thomas Kinsella
Michael Longley
Derek Mahon
Medbh McGuckian
John Montague
Paul Muldoon
Richard Murphy
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill

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Listen to Vona Groarke's essay "My Writing Day" on NPR. (2 min:30 sec)

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Vona Groarke has published Juniper Street and Flight and Earlier Poems

Conor O'Callaghan's works include Fiction and Seatown and Earlier Poems

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pdfDownload "Well Versed," by David Fyten.

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