This week’s guest feature goes to, Anne McMaster, a fellow cult member of the awesome The Hedgehog Poetry Press. Anne’s debut full poetry collection will be published by Hedgehog in February 2021. Today Anne has come to chat about her writing so without further ado, it’s over to Anne.
When I realised that the casual notes I ‘d been scribbling for a couple of years were focused on memories of life on my family’s farm, the history of the land and the people who’d worked it, I instinctively knew the shape my first full collection would take. In my late teens, I’d worked on the land as a full-time farmer after my father had his hip shattered; I reared animals, drove tractors, cropped the land and maintained machinery – working to keep our family business going. When studying English Literature at university, I fell headlong for theatre. I lectured in Performing Arts for 22 years while working happily as a professional playwright – writing for the stage and designing interactive theatre projects for schools and businesses while directing and touring productions. By the time I left lecturing in 2016 to write full-time, I had 80 stage productions and over 30 original plays under my belt – and my love affair with poetry was about to begin.
Since then, I’ve had work published in journals and anthologies all over the world. I was very grateful to receive a SIAP (Support for the Individual Artist) Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 2018/19 to undertake much of the necessary research for this collection and I recently benefitted from receiving an Individual Emergency Resilience Programme (IERP) Award from ACNI in autumn 2020. I can’t begin to express how grateful I am for this acknowledgement of my work and for the financial support to continue it – particularly at this challenging time.
Walking Off the Land – my first full collection – will be published by the wonderful The Hedgehog Poetry Press in February 2021. This is the phrase given to a powerfully moving rural tradition which takes place when a farmer (or one of his family) dies. On the day of the funeral, the coffin is taken from the main house and carried by friends and family (in a series of ‘lifts’) to the very edge of the land owned by that family. It’s then placed into the hearse and driven to church for the funeral service. Walking someone ‘off the land’ is a respectful and loving way for friends, neighbours and family to pay respect to the deceased and to the land they dedicated their lives to.
As to the future? I seem to be speeding up. Covid lockdown in a rural area has been a bonus; I’m incredibly lucky to have space and peace in which to write. I’m currently teaching classes online, reading at events in the UK, USA and Canada and I’m about to launch a mentoring programme. I’m collaborating with an astonishingly talented composer as we bring my words and his music together and I’ll soon begin work on two more collections: The Letting Go explores the complex process of bereavement and loss while Gods and the Land takes a rural approach to Greek mythology. I’m profoundly grateful to be so busy.
A very informative blog from Anne McMaster. How exciting about her upcoming projects. Anne will be back to Patricia’s Pen, in February 2021, around the time of her publication Walking off the Land so watch this space in the meantime let’s find out a little more about her.
About Anne McMaster
Anne McMaster lives on an old farm in rural mid-Ulster. After a lengthy career as a lecturer, playwright and theatre director, she now works as a professional voice actor, editor, poet and mentor. Her work has been published extensively in the USA, Canada, the UK and Ireland.