Climate Change and Cork: Greg Delanty on the release of his latest book

Greg Delanty moved to the U.S at 28 and his latest collection is a global warning, but he still loves ‘home’, Cork city, he tells Maeve Lee
Climate Change and Cork: Greg Delanty on the release of his latest book

Cork-born poet Greg Delanty. Picture: John Minihan

IN the 1980s, poet Greg Delanty, then 28, moved from Cork to Vermont, where he is a professor at St Michael’s College.

However, he has held onto his Cork roots, and accent.

“I’m known as a Cork poet, rather than an Irish poet, oddly enough,” says Mr Delanty, who grew up in the Turners Cross and Kinsale Road area.

“In all the books, Cork comes up in one way or another: The cities, the streets,” he says.

“All of my experiences up until I was 28, and all of my memories, as well, are from Cork, so Cork comes up continuously.”

His latest book, however, deals with a topic that is relatable anywhere.

“It addresses climate change and the need for more connection with the environment and the natural world that we’ve become more separate from,” Mr Delanty says.

”We’re in sort of a bubble, but we need the natural world and we’re destroying it, at the minute.

“I want to make people aware of our connection with the natural world and how we’re destroying it and how we need to change our ways and I do that in my life.”

No More Time is broken up, with the main sequence, ‘The Field Guide to People’, listing various plants and creatures.

The sequence ‘Breaking News’, which Mr Delanty describes as “more direct and political”, is inspired by Italian poet and philosopher Dante and his writings of the ‘underworld’.

“We are all too human-orientated and I wanted to make people aware of our connection with the natural world and how we are destroying it and we need to change our ways and I do that in my own life,” Mr Delanty says. “I gave up my car six or seven years ago and I cycle everywhere, even in snowstorms here in Vermont. I find my life much easier since I gave up the car.

“There’s a lot of things that we do that we don’t need to and it’s a waste.”

The concept for the poems came after years of contemplating climate change and deciding how to portray the impact of human life on the natural world.

That’s a global issue, whereas personal, real-life experiences are typically the themes of his work.

“It’s whatever affects me emotionally and is in my mind,” Mr Delanty says. “It could be a poem about the death of my father, it could be a poem about a friend who is ill, it could be a poem about a woman.

“There’s a whole book about the birth of my child, as he was growing in his mother and before the birth and after.

“It’s just what preoccupies me at the time and, at this time and in recent years, what preoccupies me the most is climate change and what we’re doing to the natural world.

“The inspiration comes from inside of me,” Mr Delanty says

A former pupil at Coláiste Chríost Rí, Mr Delanty moved to the US after winning the Allen Dowling Poetry Fellowship in in 1986.

He has been politically active in the US and ran for the Vermont Green Party in 2004. His passion for addressing climate change goes far beyond the lines of No More Time.

With the recent election of a certain schoolmate, he raised his concerns about climate change back home.

“I wrote to Micheál Martin, the Taoiseach, who I went to school with,” Mr Delanty says. “We know him from home like, but I was bold enough to write to the Taoiseach to tell him to change things to make a more environmentally friendly world.”

Mr Delanty maintains his connections with Cork, which he still refers to as “home”, with regular visits.

“I love when I go home. I go around the city with Gerry Murphy, another Cork poet, and we go off and we recite poems around Cork City for a laugh, after the bars close, and I love the English Market,” Mr Delanty says fondly.

“I miss the Cork humour and our way of communicating with each other, and streets and the people I grew up with.”

In No More Time, Mr Delanty has created a representative underworld for plants and creatures, correcting the centuries-old attitude that humans stand above the natural world.

His goal?

“Just to enter people’s lives and make them richer and make people more aware of the natural world and to, perhaps, change their ways, in the sense of using less fossil fuels and walking to the shop instead of getting in the car,” he says.

“It’s not a bit academic or convoluted and you don’t need to know that I’m using Dante’s form, or anything of that. Just enter the poem on the surface and you don’t need to know anything beneath.”

His parting words? “And tell them all at home that I’m still a Corker and I’ll see them in the summer.”

  • ‘No More Time’ is available now.

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