Anne-Marie Fyfe and 'The Ghost Twin'

'The landscape of Cushendall is always with me...'

In her dual role as poet and freelance teacher Anne-Marie Fyfe has taken creative writing to some very unusual places.
In her latest collection, The Ghost Twin, she considers the relationship between the real world and how it is defined in art. ‘There is a slightly dream-like quality to some of the poems though they deal with the reality of life. They observe the facts that we can’t pin down exactly.’
Fyfe explained how her poems express this disparity using different themes. ‘The topics throughout the book concern what’s real and what isn’t real. The book explores alter-egos, ghosts, the past, the person you might have been…’
Her experience as a freelance teacher of literature and creative writing was no doubt useful, as in this work she has brought poetry to the unlikeliest of places.
The inmates of high security prisons and the patients of mental health hospitals have benefited from her tutelage. Fyfe is confident that self expression is an important and valuable experience for everyone, including those whose liberty is otherwise curtailed.
The experience is not only cathartic for the individual but can also produce interesting work. Poems written by patients during a project at the Bethlem Royal Hospital were later published in The Dog Bark.
Fyfe is clear that ‘everyone has something to say’, and considers that there are many benefits for the participants of such classes.
‘Anne Sexton said that something everyone can get from creative writing is courage and I agree. This courage can also be translated into other aspects of people’s lives.’
‘In the prison, prisoners agree to join the classes to get out of their wing so they are not always the most enthusiastic students. Any resistance to me, however, was quickly broken down and I found working with the woman prisoners particularly satisfying.’
Fyfe also takes classes at many more typical venues. She leads creative writing elements of the John Hewitt Summer School, the Armagh Summer School, and the Carnlough Spring Festival, of which she is a co-founder and organiser.
She regularly visits secondary schools in England and Northern Ireland. Hailing from Cushendall as she does, she has found the children there to be the most responsive. She puts this down to the environment in the heart of the glens of Antrim.
‘Children in Cushendall were less afraid of poetry than those in other schools. Children up to the age of fourteen are uninhibited but they become more self conscious as they reach 16/17.’
Though now based in London, Fyfe maintains a strong affection for her home town in Antrim.
‘A 14 year old child in one of my classes once asked me what landscape you carry with you as a writer, she had been born in Melbourne but now lived in London. I think it is the landscape of your younger years and the landscape of Cushendall is always with me.
‘I miss the sea when I’m in London. I love to stay in Cushendall during the winter. I enjoy the isolation and as I’ve got older I feel that I’m beginning to rediscover the place. There are many things to bring me back.’
London, however, is where most of her commitments keep her and her husband CL Dallat, a fellow poet, musician and critic. Fyfe runs regular poetry nights in the Troubadour in Earls Court. The venue has an illustrious past attracting such musical acts as Fairport, Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell.
Since taking over the organisation of the poetry nights nearly ten years ago, Fyfe can now expect a regular crowd of around 90 people. Poets from all over the world have given readings and there are also regular workshops and seminars.
Fyfe herself will be touring Ireland this year giving readings of her work. Organised by Poetry Ireland, it will involve her visiting venues in the Republic of Ireland for the first time.
‘I’m looking forward to giving readings in different places though the crowds can be very similar. It would be good to open poetry to a wider audience.’
In her many roles it is clear that Anne-Marie Fyfe is doing just that.
Frazer Orr

The following poem appears in the The Ghost Twin, published by Peterloo Poets.
Fiction Writer
It's when she overhears him explain
to an earnest New-Year's partygoer
how he comes from a long line
of morticians and cellists – cue for
another of those unbelieving silences -
she realises he'll never quite learn
when to rein in. Not that it's lies
as such, always a dash of the factual
bowled with a light spin. On a good day
he's been a Rhode Island Trappist,
a teamster, a worn-out sportswriter
at his peak. On not-so-good days
he's shiftless, complains of tedium
on the night-flights, the slump in envelope
sales, tension of the wrecking-ball cab.
Finetooth comber of charge-accounts
he still regales with the night he drew
a fourth ace, their house-deeds on the line
leaving her to wonder if the tale
of an earlier wife who vanished
unreported, untraced, might just be
worth keeping at the back of her mind.