How still the air between the hills,
how crisp in Winter's icy grip, rent
by whore's whine of Twamley's bitch,
the flutter of a robin's wing
and underfoot, creep crunch of frost;
the caustic rasp of smoked-out breath,
haunted thought of breathless death.
TSTmpj: Who are some of the exponents of the eclogue that you admire, and why?
Mike Gallagher: If you take the classic definition of an eclogue as being a short pastoral poem, I would say that it has all but disappeared. Of today's poets, I would most admire my fellow countrymen, Heaney and, to a lesser extent, Muldoon. I would consider a lot of Heaney's early output could be regarded as eclogues. Patrick Kavanagh was also a very good pastoral poet. The reason that I admire these poets pastoral writing is because I empathise with them and am a fan of their poetry, whatever the form.
I did study Virgil at college but I was probably too young to really appreciate his poetry.
TSTmpj: The planet now has a tad over seven billion people on it. Even the population of Ireland grows. Will, far into the future, the eclogue morph into something else, or will it quietly die?
Mike Gallagher: I think that, like anything else, poetry is continually evolving. Some would say that eclogues have already changed and that many poets are already writing urban eclogues.
TSTmpj: Would you care to share an insight or two on being the editor of an on-line journal?
Mike Gallagher: Our online journal (http://issuu.com/thefirstcut# )started, like your own, as the organ of a local writers group. The original idea was to produce an annual magazine of the group's output. We did ask some friends and ex-members to contribute but from the start the thing just exploded and now we get submissions from all over the world.
Because our ethos is that of a typical writer's group, we try to accommodate writers of all abilities so that those less experienced can learn from established poets. We are delighted to find that many very good poets have bought in to our ethic.
We use Facebook to spread the word and this has worked very well to date. A number of our fellow journals use this medium and, largely because we have quite different niches, we tend to cross-promote each other. We are all in the business of giving voice to those who find it difficult to get published in the more established organs, often not because of any lack of quality in their work but rather because of the incestuous relationship that exists between arts administrators, certain publishers and a small clique of writers.
Mike Gallagher lives in Ireland and edits thefirstcut, an online literary journal.