Poet Erin Fornoff‘Growing up in the South…you know that there is some ugliness in your background’

As heard on arena

Share this Post

Poet, Erin Fornoff, debuted some poems from her first collection of poetry, Hymn to The Reckless, on Arena with Seán Rocks.

Fornoff is American-born, from the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. She has a complicated relationship with her home nation. It influences her work. She uses her writing as a way to, as she puts it, “express homesickness”.

“One thing I’ve learned about homesickness…being far away…It’s not that it goes away, it just kind of changes shape. You find new things to miss or different things to miss.”

Soon, though, she told Sean, she will be an Irish citizen too. Fornoff was due to officially become an Irish citizen this month but Storm Ophelia upset plans.

“I was supposed to become an Irish citizen on Monday…but Hurricane Ophelia came and so they cancelled it. So, 3,000 people who were due to take an oath were left at home to watch Netflix.”

Fornoff “wasn’t a writer” before coming to Ireland. It’s possible, she thinks, that taking the risk to move country and taking the risk to get on stage to read poetry she had written came together as one. Once here, she decided to look into her family history.

I was curious after I’d lived here for a few years, largely because people kept asking me about it...So, I was trying to figure out where they came from and I couldn’t, it was so long ago...But what I did find is that the first Irish ancestors that moved to America moved down to North Carolina and became slave-holders.”

Seán asked how Fornoff felt when she made this discovery.

“Growing up in the South and having Southern family for a long time, you know that there is some ugliness in your background. But it is a different thing entirely to actually see the names of the people that were owned by the people whose blood runs through my veins now.”

Responding to Seán on the question of politics in the US, Fornoff said that poetry is a positive way for her to process things that might not be positive themselves.

“I think there’s a disconnect between, like, the fundamental decency of many, many, many Americans with the people who, somehow, have stumbled into power…I’ve always used poetry as a way to work through things or to express emotion or to write. Instead of crying.”

Listen back to the full interview with Erin Fornoff on Arena here.

© The Listener 2017

Share this Post

Next Up