Dublin poet and journalist, Rob Buchanan is a regular columnist on The Outmost. His debut poetry collection charts his experiences growing up in Blanchardstown, coming out in a macho world, the loss of his father, and fantasy dates with legendary bisexual Irish writers, among other things.
One of the winners of 2015 Poetry Ireland Introductions series, Rob Buchanan has also been published in a number of poetry journals and magazines including The Stinging Fly. He performs his work at poetry nights across the country.
A lot of the poems in my first collection are about growing up bent in Blanchardstown. I was in complete terror about coming out because I hang around with some lads who have fairly heavy Blanchardstown connections, and I was worried that it might compromise them. But I had nothing but beautiful responses. I had lads who I’d never seen upset crying in my arms, saying ‘We didn’t realise’. It opened the floodgates about a lot of things. I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been.
Blanchardstown village would be perceived as a dodgy place, but I can walk down the street holding hands with a guy. I’ve never had a single homophobic remark.
My father wrote poetry. He was a trade union leader, a staunch patriot and a very liberal and progressive man. He was my best friend, a great confidant, and we did everything together. When he got sick with cancer, I was the one who looked after him. There are a lot of poems in my book about him.
I won a couple of awards in secondary school for writing, and when I went to college one of the things I did, apart from ridiculous amounts of sex and drugs, was to write a play called Beds. It was based on the concept that most of the important things in our lives are done in beds. We are born in a bed, we fuck in a bed, and if we’re lucky we die in a bed. I won an award in Draiocht in Blanchardstown and I got to have one of the acts put on. It felt like I wasn’t messing around, that I was writing.
Poetry is my real love; I’m obsessed with it. I started going the open mic. nights in town and one night I was totally pissed in the International Bar, and my mate, Lambo dared me to get up and ‘do a poem’. I got up and did it, and the world didn’t end, and I got a free drink out of it.
Keep reading to find out about the kind of poetry Rob believes we need, fantasy dates, hate mail he receives, and poetry about riding married men in carparks.
One of the poems in my collection is about being on a fantasy date with Brendan Behan. He was one of my idols growing up, because his bisexuality was completely unapologetic. It was joked about on The Late Late Show, when it was in black and white. I’ve heard stories of him been thrown out of the Aras for telling an ambassador that his son was gorgeous and that he’d love to shag him. I loved that a hard man like him was not hiding his sexuality like a lot of Irish writers did.
Poetry should be about riding married men in carparks or getting beaten up in a nightclub, or feeling suicidal, or being elated that you’re after finding the person of your dreams – the human things. If you don’t write about things you have actually experienced, you’re writing fiction, not poetry, and you’ll be found out.
I’m trying to promote more poets, more prose, more socially conscious writing. I’ve set up a network called The Fifth Estate, which is a means of promoting new writing. I’m hoping it will get new poets out there, sharing their work. People can contact me via twitter or Facebook, or through GCN. I want to get open mike nights running and anthologies published.
I want to change the impression about poetry that it’s some kind of elitist thing, that it’s a mark of status or something. Poetry has always been the voice of the outsider, good poetry at least.
I occasionally get hate mail or texts when one of my opinion columns is published on GCN’s website, gcn.ie. What’s great about GCN is that people genuinely read it; they get passionate about it. They may be frustrated sometimes, but it means they’re reading it and caring.
Rob Buchanan’s debut collection of poetry, ‘The Cost of Living’, is published by Five Foot Nothing Press, €10. His tumblr blog is theloosecannonbuchanan, follow him on twitter @RobLooseCannon
© 2016 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.