TWO flatmates in Cork city, a strange friendship, and a dead body in a bed...
Those are the ingredients for the second of The Echo’s popular Summer Soap serials, which starts in the paper on Monday.
Each soap runs over 12 episodes, across two weeks, and the two winning stories for this summer were selected from the MA in creative writing class at UCC, which is run by Mary Morrissey.
American student, Beau Williams, is the author of the latest soap, following the serialisation of fellow American student, Christine Kannapel’s soap, One Summer In Cork, earlier this month.
Beau’s story is called Bleach and is a dark horror story about two Americans sharing a flat in Cork city.
Matthew is puzzled by a locked room. When he breaks into it, he finds his friend Jordan’s flatmate in the bed... dead. In a deliciously dark twist, Matthew then falls in love with the corpse.
“It doesn’t get vulgar,” says 31-year-old Beau of his unusual storyline, which does have some adult themes.
As the story progresses, Matthew later cannot get into the room where the object of his affection lies. “It becomes a matter of the tension behind things being revealed,” adds Beau.
Writing a soap is a new departure for Beau, who has mostly written poetry. He was the 2108 All-Ireland Poetry Grand Slam Champion and has published two collections of poetry, Rumham in 2016 and Nail Gun and a Love Letter last year.
Beau, whose parents chose his unusual name because they liked the sound of it, was born in Florida but grew up In New Hampshire and Maine.
Before coming to Ireland, the last place he lived in was Portland, Maine.
For as long as he can remember, Beau has been writing songs and poems.
“I had never really done anything with them but then one day, I discovered that there was such a thing as a poetry open mic session. I went to one in New Hampshire and discovered a community.
“When I went back the next week, the people there inspired me to write another poem and another.
“Before I knew it, I was writing every week, meeting new people, shaking hands and falling in love with poems. It was great.”
Beau is used to going around to schools performing poetry, teaching it and holding workshops, all over Ireland and America. “I’ve worked in high schools and colleges,” he adds.
“My favourite part of this work is going into schools where the kids hate poetry and think it’s stupid. They have never written or read a poem.
“I’ll do some poems for them that kind of relates to them. They seem to find something they can enjoy.”
Beau likes to write “from a raw place” and explains: “I like to treat the kids like they’re grown-ups. In school settings, they’re treated like kids and told to pay attention. I like to chat with them and make sure we’re all at the same level.
“Then I express myself, working a lot with vulnerability. I tell them how much I cry and how much I love things. I show them my emotions. They’re like ‘It’s cool for me to show emotion’.”
The themes that Beau writes about include recognising privilege, addressing masculinity and drinking culture. “I find bar culture fascinating,” he says. “It’s full of contradictions and grey areas.
“You can have your highest highs and your lowest lows in a bar. You can have community or be all by yourself, sad and lonely. Really, you can be anyone in a bar in the right circumstances.”
Beau sees a difference between Irish and American drinking culture. “In Ireland, it’s a lot less about seeing how drunk we can get as fast as we can. It’s more about enjoying company.
“It can be that way in the States too. It’s just a matter of which bar you go into and what kind of person you are and the kind of people you surround yourself with.”
During his studies here, Beau divided his time between Cork and Galway — the latter city being a place he always wanted to live.
Originally, he applied to NUI Galway as well as to UCC. He didn’t get a place in the western seaboard city and says he is now glad. There isn’t a creative writing degree at Galway university.
Beau applied for the English literature degree there but now says that would have been “too broad” for his needs. He’s glad he got to spend time in Cork.
“I applied for UCC because I heard amazing things about the lecturers (in creative writing.) I had heard about Mary Morrissy, Eibhear Walshe and Leanne O’Sullivan before I went to UCC.”
In the U.S, Beau studied graphic design at McIntosh College, Dover, New Hampshire.
“I realised that I didn’t want to work at graphic design for a living. But I got an associate degree in it and it allowed me to learn about page layout and cover art. I do all my own posters and self-promotion now. I was able to design my two books.”
While Beau has been working hard at his poetry for the last ten years, the professional aspect of it is something he learned on the streets. “I never had any backing or collegiate support. I just wrote on my own and toured across the US with my poetry.
“When I got to UCC, it was driven into our brains to make sure we made time for writing and that we should take our careers seriously. I learned a lot from the business of writing course. We got to talk to publishers and agents.”
The Masters degree “opened up a whole new world for me. I got into short stories and novels. I’m actually working on a short story collection as well as a kind of memoir. Hopefully, these projects will be complete in a year or two.”
Now based in Dublin, UCC and Cork have been good to Beau, broadening his horizons.