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K-State Today

March 30, 2011

Poetry in motion: Ireland's Moya Cannon to read, discuss work

By Julie Fosberg

Moya Cannon, an Irish poet whose work has been inspired by music and who has inspired musical compositions, will read and discuss her poetry at 3:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, at Kansas State University.

Cannon's presentation, in the Little Theater at the K-State Student Union, is free and open to the public. A short question-and-answer period and a book signing will follow. The reading is sponsored by the K-State department of English.

Cannon, who was born in Donegal and lives in Galway, has published three poetry collections: "Oar," "The Parchment Boat" and "Carrying the Songs," as well as the limited edition art book "Winter Birds."

Her subject matter ranges from archaeology to music to the concept of migration. Composers have set her poems to music, and she has also collaborated with traditional Irish musicians.

"Music is essential to Moya's poetry and indeed to her own sensibility. Her collection 'Carrying the Songs' refers to the songs carried by immigrants from their homelands, to the poems that capture these strong emotions in writing, and to the human capacity for language," said Donna Potts, associate professor of English at K-State.

Potts, a poet and an expert on contemporary Irish literature, received a Fulbright Senior Lecturing Award to the National University of Ireland in Galway in 1997. She returned to Galway for a research sabbatical in 2004-2005, where she met Cannon and sat in on her poetry class.

"For me, what sets her poetry apart is her great compassion, her empathy, for her subjects -- and she applies this just as well to nature as to people," Potts said. "It's by no means naivete; it's a talent for finding beauty in and interconnections between the seemingly disparate elements in any interaction."

Potts said she appreciates the layers of meaning embedded in Cannon's word choice and, as an example, points to Cannon's use of the word kindness in her poem "Milk."

"She reminds us that the word kindness originated not from some perfunctory rules of etiquette, but from our kinship with the rest of the human race," Potts said.