Victoria Kennefick

Ireland

Victoria Kennefick is a poet, writer and teacher from Shanagarry, Co. Cork now based in Co. Kerry, Ireland She holds a doctorate in English from University College Cork and studied at Emory University and Georgia College and State University as part of a Fulbright Scholarship. 

 

Her pamphlet, White Whale (Southword Editions, 2015), won the Munster Literature Centre Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition and the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Poetry Review, PN Review, Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly, Poetry News, Prelude, Copper Nickel, The Irish Times, Ambit, bath magg, Banshee and elsewhere. She won the 2013 Red Line Book Festival Poetry Prize and many of her poems have also been anthologised and broadcast on national radio stations. 

 

A recipient of a Next Generation Artist Award from the Arts Council of Ireland, she has also received bursaries from Kerry County Council and Words Ireland. She was a co-host of the Unlaunched Books Podcast and is on the committee of Listowel Writers’ Week, Ireland’s longest-running literary festival.


Her collection Eat or We Both Starve was published by Carcanet, UK in 2021.


Victoria Kennefick is already well established in Southern poetry circles. She has already been short-listed or commended in a variety of poetry competitions, has been a Fulbright Scholar and holds a Doctorate in Literature. A woman of high scholarly quality, her poems already register an annoyance at excessive attention:

 

 

                                                "Your devotion

 flattened me. Old friends thought we were lovers.

I could not pick you off, like a plaster I had to rip."

 

A poet, then: here is a scholar-poet, like all the others before her, like Daniel Corkery or Frank O’Connor, endlessly walking in a search for creative silence on our Southern shore. "Are you hungry or drunk on dresses?" she asks of the dusty corpses; but not the dead of history, rather, the dead of half-remembered parties, of aeonian coffee dates, rooms where 

"Everything sounds like Carver or Bukowski, you kill me.

I walk home too late in weird-warm rain."

Her poetry has that atmosphere, young as it should be, 1920s, Jazz-age, where the self is arbitrarily negotiated in public atmospheres; where one’s silence as well as one’s integrity is constantly under threat. A registered annoyance will become part of the early signature of her work—whether it is the 'Marie Céleste' that is "too young for this body" or "I sit in your chair, aware that it doesn’t fit" or, in ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ where the protagonists "bitch about the red-haired girl, the fetish model,/ a preacher’s daughter with a thing for unreasonable shoes." This sense of annoyance, a kind of preliminary organising aesthetic, rarely fails her, allowing her to select and arrange a great deal of material, from romance to elegy. In later poems such as ‘(I don’t know how to spell) Meningioma’ her method becomes clear; her intention is brilliant:

 "Sun gropes my body back to skin
in the hospital garden.
You are not here but you are warm.

 My hands are yours, palms up.
The bulbs, the bulbs are polyps too,
they have split open in the soil,

 and there are daffodils."

This is superb writing, the closing image that confirms all the ambiguous, multi-layered descriptions of hospital corridors, the GA Ward, the anti-bacterial soap that melts in her hands. The last line might seem thrown-away: it is anything but; it confirms the catalogue of ambiguity, bringing fear into bloom for the reader and allowing the fear to flower, or fester, in the reader’s mind. The same finely sharpened presentation of metaphor is evident in the final poem, a heart-rending elegy: "You pull your weeds,/ in your element. Heaviness tugs at me, you do too./ A corset I wear made of your ribs, my rib that made you." It is very fine work indeed, emotion held in check, annoyance abated, the poem clearly achieved.

 

Thomas McCarthy