Ita O’Donovan was born in Cork and now lives Clifden. Her work has been published in Poetry Ireland Review, The Shop, Southword, Skylight 47, and in anthologies. In 2017 her poetry was shortlisted for two editions of The Irish Times, Hennessy New Irish Writing. Ita reads regularly with Connemara Community Radio and at Clifden Arts Festival.
Ita came late to poetry and entered Jane Hirshfield’s Nine Gates (Entering the Mind of Poetry) through a variety of ways. She is one of those few people who pursue poetry for its intrinsic essence and she does this through writing, through observation and through studying and reading. She reads poetry. This becomes rarer. She studies poetry.
She embarked on ongoing reading of poetry criticisms and essays by Helen Vendler, Jane Hirshfield and Seamus Heaney. Also, she took courses with the late Dorothy Molloy and attended workshops with Medbh McGuckian, Paul Muldoon, Robyn Rowland and in Carcasonne, France, with Pascale Petit. Online courses with Faber and Faber and Fish Publishing contributed to her honing skills.
She continually reads from the work of Irish, American, English, Australian and Russian poets.
Clifden Writers Group has been regularly sustained and often led by Ita for almost 25 years.
Ita was invited to read in 2018 at the prestigious Ơ Bhéal’s weekly poetry event in Cork.
In 2017 her first collection, In Deep Time – Connemara was published by Knocknarone Press in December 2017.
From Launch Speech, Dr Robyn Rowland AO.
In Deep Time – Connemara is a book of place, emerging from that landscape here and now, and in time past.
Ita’s poetry is delicate and incisive, with powerful love and understanding of that place, often linking with Irish myth. Most importantly, she has found her own voice and has for many years been extending and imprinting it upon our own listening senses.
‘Voice’ is not something able to be taught. It grows out of the poet, hopefully almost unnoticed by them. It’s in the urgent searching for a way to say what the poet wants to express.
Seamus Heaney writes about the ‘voice’ of the poet as being a poem written in such a way that no other person could have written it. This is an ethereal definition; but a true one. Something about the finished poem aligns itself with and within the poet in an almost physical sense. The rhythms, movement, breath moments, images, colour, shape of the poem, speak of the poet’s inner voice. Here is unconscious invention – the beginning in experience, the allowing of the poetic moment to open, the capturing of some placement of words, some rhythm interior and familiar to the poet themselves.
Then of course comes the real work – the shaping, the self-editing. The first set of experiences can’t be learned; the second, the editing, takes decades to develop. And often the result is a poem that seems as if no process has occurred at all. Much like the comment of Fred Astaire about dancing: if it doesn’t look easy you haven’t worked hard enough!
Ita’s poetry is distinct, lyrical, often idiomatic yet grammatically correct, and tellingly sensual.
Her perceptions of people and place are intuitive and deep. Here in this place, she has found her soulscape. Music and painting are often reference points. Myth is renewed, especially sea-based story.
Time is a metronome through out the book, but in an easy and accepting way: ancient time, daily time, lifetime. The Decades of Summer encapsulates the movement in a life; the joy and worry of family; the belief in promise of the future.
Ita’s politics merge into the poems. Never polemic, it captures us unawares as in On This Day; Echoing Silence.
Love is a powerful and constant theme. From her enviable marriage with John Curran and their companionship; comes a continuity that renews anew through the years. e.g. in Birth Days, Love Comes in Edgeways.
But like many creative people Ita has had her visits to the Dark of depression and she writes with understanding of the going in and the coming out: ‘darkness seeps in like mist / finding all the vulnerable depressions’ and yet ‘Comes morning…light / creeping serenely into the day / and into the crevices of my mind’.
Inside the life we live, we have it all—with its flaws and failures, its sadness and triumph—that’s where we survive and struggle: intimately, ignorantly, courageously. Where better to find our muse, our personal voice, than in the lived lives we have?
Australian poet Judith Wright said: “Poetry is concerned with what drives deepest into the soul. However much we may learn academically about night and dampness, unless we have experienced them, we do not know the truth about them. This kind of truth, this personal truth, is the business of poetry.”