Yesterday I was at the Dublin Book Festival in Smock Alley Theatre, Temple Bar. Being a Thursday daytime event it was not packed as it will be on Saturday, but there was a steady crowd of book lovers nonetheless and the events were excellent.
Jenni Doherty presented Rain Spill, her first solo collection of poetry, prose, fiction, observation and comment pieces. The collection illustrates an emotive, honest and lyrical view of a sense of place, belonging and experience spanning four decades. Rain Spill is published by Guildhall Press. (Festival programme notes.)
Introduced by Eileen Walsh, playwright and radio presenter on Drive 105FM, the raven haired and tartan mini-skirted Jenni took the stage. With her husky Derry accent Jenni told us that she runs the Little Acorns Bookshop and explained that the collection was based on different elements of the weather, being metaphors for different emotions, life experiences, ex-boyfriends etc.
First up was the poem "Rain Spill" a delightful poem with flowing language and plenty of alliteration. She then moved on to "Village Buttons", a prose piece, that tells how she grew up in a village with "streets stretched out like tired elastic." She told of being compared to her sister and of teenage crushes. It was also about her return many years later having been away. She had come a long way, but to the people in the village she would always be the same, "the girl who was first to wear Doc Martens". Everyone is exactly as they used to be, "time has stood still", there are "squeals of recognition", "shy again and sixteen" and they "talk about the only things we really have in common - the past".
Jenni followed this with the poem "Are We History?" about a past relationship, an old love, where they had been "terrified into tempestuous chaos". It is a politically resonant poem set maybe twenty years ago with a "no surrender" quote and a tone of anger. Relationship over, her hurt and memory lasted over the years but she says "today I couldn't care". After this came "Twin Peeks" (peek-a-boo) was a poem dedicated to her twin brother with whom she shared everything and of what he taught her but "as adults we don't see or talk much". Emotionally charged, she says she both forgives him and misses him.
The next reading was "Off My Trolley", a piece of writing about an experience in Dublin, off to the shops with cash card in hand. It's a rant about something we all know about; the frustrations of ATM machines that eat your card and the complexities of supermarkets- queues for ten or less items and bashing trolleys. After this was "Bus Stop!", a poem that was hard and tough. A rape occurs and the speaker is "disgusted with my own company".
"Breathless" was a short but none the less effective poem about the three D's; Dublin, Derry and Inishowen in Donegal. From this Jenni moved on to her last reading , the fast paced poem "Mine's a Carlsberg". It's about Derry of the 90s and meeting up with the girls for a night out, "a cocktail of belly laughs". It's about being on the road to drunkenness, "sea legs gained I follow the path of the river to the sea" and it's funny. The girls "travel in packs of three to the loo" and over a pink outfit worn by another "sure you wouldn't use that to wipe down the sink". It gallops along and is full of humour.
Jenni is obviously a talented writer. She was lovely to talk to and I wish her all the best for the future in her writing career.