‘I am fascinated by the bog’s strange beauty and its layered history…’
Welcome to Lynn Buckle – artist, writer, poet and UNESCO Cities of Literature Writer in Residence 2021. Lynn lives on the Bog of Allen with her children, large and small. She draws, paints, and teaches there, ‘recording the ever-changing landscape.’ Époque press published her debut, The Groundsmen (2018) and her novel ‘What Willow Says’ has just been released to wonderful reviews. Lynn is a founding member of the Irish Writers’ Centre’s Climate Writing Group and depends on technology to hear.
You’re an artist and writer Lynn, can you tell us a little about that, do those two practices interweave in your work?
When I first started writing six years ago, I was surprised at the similarities between being an author and an artist, and how each benefit and informs the other. Being a visual artist lends itself to writing in the observational skills, the need to edit and revise, to establish tone, style, and purpose within a piece of work. Even rhythm, structure and themes must be considered in both mediums and I find I often slip from one creative form into another only to discover that I am doing exactly the same thing in my art as I am in my writing. Having said that, What Willow Says is my first book to describe the actual process of painting, and it partners a series of artworks I made to directly reference parts of the book. The two projects are inextricably linked. The artwork is taking much longer to complete though as it is physically demanding.
What Willow Says has just published Lynn, can you tell our blog readers a little about it? How it began, the writing of it?
What Willow Says is basically a book about love and how we communicate that. It is a vehicle for my interest in the beauty of sign language, in the susurrations of wind in the trees, in how we are supported by our environment and the deep histories and traditions held within. It tells the story of a deaf child and her grandmother traversing their relationship and their landscape. I began writing it with the intention of introducing hearing worlds to deafness and it grew into a celebration of nature as the characters explored their surroundings.
That sounds just beautiful – the novel has also been described as a love song to the bog – does the bog play an important role in your own life?
Living in Rathangan, the bog is central to our community. It has brought prosperity and unemployment, decimation and sanctuary. After peat extraction, wind farms are planned, re-wetting, re-wilding, and outdoor activities based around these. Always changing, always being exploited, with homes floating upon it, always under threat of sinking back into the water. Living with such environmental concerns, I was keen to address them by establishing the Irish Climate Writers Group at the Irish Writers Centre. Above all, I am fascinated by the bog’s strange beauty and its layered history, by that underlying sense of threat so often assigned to its vast empty spaces. It has become something of an obsession to try and capture and celebrate that in my art and writing, to sing its praises in paeans to nature and to unpack its mysteries.
‘I wanted to write of strong women, of local goddesses, saints, and legends…’
Have you any favourite legends or myths that nourish your creativity?
I am often drawn to myths because of their universal truths, their ability to lend weight or meaning to a story. I especially wanted to write of strong women, of local goddesses, saints, and legends such as Brigid of Kildare or Bodhmall of the Slieve Blooms, to keep them alive and add layers of mystery to my story of strong female lines. Rather than being constrained by an exact re-telling of these myths, I sought to blend and bend their stories to fit my narratives, to bring Bóinn down from the River Boyne, to steal the tree warriors from the Welsh Mabinogion, and to invent new myths for the watery tales I wanted to tell.
Has COVID affected your writing life? You’re a writing teacher as well Lynn, do you have any tips for writers starting out?
Recuperating from Covid has given me the physical time-out I needed to come up with new material, to simply reflect creatively and to develop ideas. Although I could have done without catching the illness! I was fortunate to then be appointed a virtual writer in residence, which suits the situation we find ourselves in. Lockdown has also meant changes in the way that I will launch and promote my second book. There will be no foreign book tours this time around, as it will be conducted online from my tiny writing desk. Working virtually means that bringing another book to publication is much easier for me and more accessible for everyone else, but I really miss the informal interactions that come from meeting readers and writers at book launches and literary festivals. My teaching has also moved online and that, along with all the home-schooling, reinforced the need to be kind, not just to others, but to ourselves. Writing is hard enough so getting anything down on the page is an achievement. So, I would advise any first-time writers to celebrate the fact that you are managing to write at all and to call yourself a writer!
That’s very true! Thanks so much for sharing your process and good advice – and best of luck with What Willow Says.
For more writing tips from Lynn, have a look at her suggestions here