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“It’s not what you had in mind, but what you find!” - getting to know the poet Ciaran Carson

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Poet Ciaran Carson
The above quote was spoken to me by celebrated Northern Irish poet, Ciaran Carson, after his poetry reading (Friday, 24th February) at my beloved school, the University of Limerick (UL).

Carson’s reading, organized by the School of Languages, Literature, Culture and Communication UL, as part of the Millstream Common Room Writers Series, was nothing short of inspiring. Between his stirring poetic readings and his equally moving musical interludes (Carson is an accomplished flutist as well as poet), to merely say that Ciaran Carson held his audience in a state of transfixion would be doing his performances an injustice.

However, it wasn’t just Ciaran Carson’s evident poetic and musical talent that motivated me that night.
For all his renown as a writer and his aptitude as a musician, Ciaran Carson never “put on airs” or insisted on special treatment by those who came to hear him speak. Instead, Carson made an effort to talk to everyone in the room, not only answering their questions but also asking some of his own in an attempt to get to know everybody. It was during his “post reading” conversation with me that he spoke the words of this piece’s title to me after I asked him, as an aspiring poet, how he was able to maintain such vigor and originality in his writing. He told me, simply, that if I wanted to write poignant poetry all I need remember is “It’s [poetry] not what you had in mind, but what you find!” For someone like me, who has always craved plans and structure, his advice may prove to be difficult to follow, but I gave my solemn oath to the poet that I would try my best to apply his words of guidance to my writing.

But Ciaran Carson didn’t stop surprising me there either…Carson decided to join a group of us, his audience, at the home of my poetry instructor, Professor Margaret Mills Harper, for food, music, and dancing after the reading. That’s right everyone, I got to listen to, sing songs for, and dance with Ciaran Carson. Close to the end of the gathering, Professor Harper told me that there are some moments, whether they be minutes, hours, or days, that you remember for the rest of your life as being truly unforgettable…For me, my night with “Ciaran Carson” was undoubtedly one such moment.

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