One is a CROWD – Ailbhe Darcy

Literature as a European mother tongue: In our series “One is a CROWD”, we introduce you to authors from all over Europe who will be involved in the CROWD omnibus reading tour, taking place from May to July 2016, featuring 100 authors who will be travelling through 15 European countries. We asked them questions about text production, reception and mediation. In case you were wondering what a literary activist living in Münster looks like, meet Ailbhe Darcy!

Have you ever participated in collaborative author/reader projects? If so, what do you find interesting about them? 

I’ve written both scholarship and poetry collaboratively in the last several years: the former with Romana Huk for Religion and Literature journal, the latter with Patrick Coyle, Sam Riviere and S.J. Fowler for the Irish Enemies project. S.J. Fowler and I have developed our work together into a full-length book, called Subcritical Tests, which I hope will be published within the next couple of years.

Collaboration is extraordinarily liberating for a writer, because it completely changes the stakes. You’re no longer solely responsible for every word: you can no longer pretend you have control over what is happening. I found myself much more able to mess around in collaboration than alone – especially when writing with S.J. Fowler, whose attitude to words is so brazen! – and this has fed back into my solo writing. I feel freer, now, when I sit down to write.

I strongly believe that we should celebrate writing as a pleasurable practice – that its pleasure is part of its political weaponry. And my fellow collaborators have taught me about the new and different pleasures of writing as a social activity, of building meaning with another person. I already knew about the pleasures of reading and writing alone, but to produce a text together is a new kind of friendship for me, a special pleasure, a special privilege.

What is your favorite literary spot in Münster?

My writing life in Münster, where we live at the moment, is an isolated one. I don’t frequent readings or literary bars, partly because I’m still learning basic German, but also because I’m the mother of a small child, busy reading picture books aloud and brushing teeth in the evenings. The internet is my portal outwards.

But I do walk, most days, to one of two places nearby. The first is the cemetery built by prisoners of war at Haus Spital, where soldiers of various nationalities and faiths are buried in peaceful, well-tended order. I like this place because it questions the whole business of writing poetry – the idea that putting order, beauty and clarity on things might somehow make things better.

For similar reasons, I also like to walk to the Haus Rüschhaus, an 18th-century house with a beautiful formal garden where the poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff once lived and wrote. I don’t understand much about her as a poet, but nonetheless she reminds me of myself – of how pleasant I would find it to simply live out my days writing nice things in a quiet place. And how writers might have to think about denying themselves that quietude.

Which recent literary event fascinated you the most and why? (Please give us the link to the website of the event)

I’m really enjoying Crispin Best’s “For Every Year” project, which is gradually accumulating new poems and stories to do with every single year from 1400 on. I love the simplicity and ambition of the idea – and its inclusiveness. Anyone can take part. Simply email Mr. Best with the year you’d like to write about. There’s more information at

How do you feel about readers’ comments and feedback on your texts? Does it affect / alter your subsequent writing?

When someone tells me that a poem reached them, it means the world to me. I don’t think it significantly affects the approach I take to the next poem (although I could be wrong about that). But holy moly does it make me happy.

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