Anyone who knows me will know that I couldn´t possibly host a series of interviews on my blog and not include Stephen Murray. His influence on me as a poet and me as a person have been massive. His two books of poetry, House of Bees (2011) and On Corkscrew Hill (2013) were published by Salmon Poetry, and he is also the brains, charm, charisma behind Inspireland - a series of creative writing workshops for secondary schools in Ireland.
NM: What are you working on at the moment?
SM: Firstly, being a parent to two very young agents of chaos, who refuse to cooperate with anything else that I am suppose to be working on. Then, there's my digital learning platform: an online creative writing project aimed at encouraging young people to engage with language, by teaching them to write about the things they love. I have recently finished my third collection of poetry - 'The Sleep Thief'. It's about becoming a parent. Due for publication in 3D holographic imaging for download direct in the cerebral microchips, which is where we will be at once all this shite is over and my publishers backlog is cleared.
NM: Emmm. Yeah. How has it been for you in terms of integrating technology into work/creativity?
SM: See above answer. I think it is very exciting. So many people are telling each other you cannot teach online. In-person is much better. Are you serious? Have you smelled me? I think the problem is not a failure of technology, but a failure of the imagination. We can do anything with technology. Up your game. Make shit happen. Creatively produce each lesson like a pro. Entertain and teach at the same time. I am producing my live online lessons using open broadcast software. I can seamlessly mix in media, text, memes, music, video clips. What is more, I can do it to as many classrooms as I want. It is magic. Sensational. Everybody gets to fart. Nobody minds. I can teach in my underpants. Hell, I can teach in my wife's if I want, and I do.
NM: There’s been a lot said about how the post-COVID world might be different in how we do business and how we travel - how do you think the landscape of the arts will differ?
SM: Well, much depends on how the entertainment bounces back. It's at a real crossroads. People need the arts more than ever. We are going to be socialising less and suffering because of it. Art validates our suffering. It is the existential looking glass that normalises and indeed glorifies the madness. The truth is, I do not know. Poets will still be broke, but so will everyone else. Covid has been a real leveller.
NM: Yep. Thanks for reminding me. So, what would you like to see happen in 2021?
SM: I would like to see the wearing of face-masks when sick becomes the expected norm for all of us. Love not having a cold this winter. I would like to my business take off. My underpants taken off. Brexiteers pissed off. Space rockets lift off and people to start forgiving each other and stop fearing each other and start believing that almost every single person in the whole world is innately kind. People need to stop believing that people who are different to them are evil. We need a new human narrative. Nuanced and balanced. Less fire and brimstone. More cake with fresh cream and juicy strawberries. Amnesty for kiss chase. Oh and can someone please bring the word freedom back into the light. Freedom to hate is like weaponising a butterfly.
NM: I just saw an advertisement where David Beckham had been digitally aged to make it look like he was speaking from the future about malaria… If you could speak to the young artists of this generation from the future, what advice would you give them?
SM: Be honest. Be yourself and believe in magic. Everything is just as you imagine. You are conjurors skilled in evocation. You have the ability to summon and possess. You make the darkness beautiful. Make art for the sheer love of it. Harmonise with everything inside and around you. Listen your conflict, there be dark angels in there, full of blazing light. Everything is gonna be okay. Walk the blessed path you were born to. It ain't easy, but it is beautiful.
You can learn more about Inspireland and the courses and summer camps that Stephen and his team offer by clicking the image below: