According to Plato, “At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet” and the reams of romantic verse that will be unleashed for Valentine’s Day is testament to his wisdom.
For Amy O’Connor, however, it was the heartbreak that often comes with love which was the catalyst for the publication of her debut poetry collection.
When a significant relationship came to an end, O’Connor found that poetry provided some solace in the emotional fall-out.
“Poetry in a way was my outlet, it was a medium through which I could express my emotions and I think I really fell in love with it then because it was my way of dealing with everything. I was putting it down on paper and getting it out. It was a stress reliever and a coping mechanism.”
The 26-year-old Tipperary native, now based in Cork, was encouraged to take the leap from just writing for herself to sharing her poetry with the world when she began to receive encouragement from friends and family, as well as her online followers on the social media platform Instagram.
“Over the years, I might read something to my dad or someone in my family but for a long time, I wasn’t showing my work to people. I was probably going through the worst of the break-up about two years ago when I was in Canada and I was writing quite a bit. I would write in the evening and the girl I was living with would ask if she could see some of my work. I had nothing to lose so I showed my stuff to her.
"She said that it really connected with her. When I understood that other people could relate to it, that is when I got a bit of confidence and thought maybe this belongs in the world and I shouldn’t be keeping all of it to myself.”
O’Connor, who works in communications, ultimately took the self-publishing route to launching her collection, A Beautiful Complexity.
O’Connor received positive feedback from publishers but no deals were forthcoming so she began the self-publishing process. O’Connor says she would recommend it to others who want to get their work out into the public domain.
“The whole process took about eight months from when I decided to self-publish to when I got my proof copy. I would recommend it to people, if you want a piece of art that you want to get out there and people are saying no, I don’t think that should stop you. The whole thing cost me about €1,500, so it is affordable.
"The likes of Amazon will do print per purchase, so you don’t have to go away and buy a thousand copies of your book and hope that they sell.”
O’Connor has also found a sizeable audience for her poems on Instagram, where a new generation of poets are now showcasing their work. “There is a whole scene online, on Instagram and Facebook. It’s shorter poetry because we are consuming things online at a quicker rate. I like the work of people like Rupi Kaur and Lang Leav.”
The work of contemporary poets such as Kaur and Leav attracts an audience of millions on social media but O’Connor acknowledges that there is still a view that it is not ‘proper’ poetry.
“There is an argument out there about whether Instagram poetry is real poetry… I know in the literary world, they often don’t think so but I think it takes a skill to be able to put so much emotion into a short space and resonate with the reader.”
However, O’Connor also acknowledges that there are drawbacks to sharing one’s work online.
“It is fantastic to be able to engage one-on-one with people who appreciate your writing because you don’t get the opportunity to do that a lot. But there will be some days when I will take a break from the account.
"You have to prioritise your head space and your mental health. I can’t be constantly be fixated on what others think of my work or the demand for it either.
"The last thing I want is to be just writing to keep the account going. If you are going to go online with your work, do it for the love of it and not for the demand.”