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I have three landscapes. The first is almost illegible. It's the cellar-damp chill of a Georgian basement sudden on my face; it's darkness as animal, waiting to pounce. It's being afraid of being left on my own. It's an old photo fading to oblivion, colours washed beyond sepia, its contours ghostlike. It's as if it no longer belonged to me. I hold it at arm's length.

Do I know that person still, born into protestant Dublin to doctor parents, to be seen and not heard...I slipped out from under the low skies of my childhood like a thief from an overcoat and took to my heels. I sloughed off the wet granite greys of Presbyterian Dublin, the tight-lipped teacups, parental expectations, the curse of being obedient and good. Closed a door, hid the key under a stone. Only I know where it is.

In my next landscape, sun has burnt off the mists, dried out my clothes, transported me to colours made primary by light. A string of cities and towns appears, beginning with Marseille, the place I first escaped to. Then Aix-en-Provence, Algiers, Biskra, Madrid, Granada, Barcelona, Perpignan…

After twenty-three years, and the best and worst times of my life, I returned to Ireland. I do not use the phrase ‘came home’. At some level, however, I had begun to miss the broken cloud, the familiarity of grey stone and rain. The ease of a mother tongue.

I chose Co. Mayo – or it chose me. Both Mayo and the exploration of poetry offered me the freedom I craved after years of earning my living through the grammatical precision of English language teaching, the accuracy of journalism.

Mayo opened my ears to more than the music of words. There is music in nature, constantly. The sounds of the wind, the motorway thrum of surf pounding long after the storm is over and  the wind has dropped. There is the echoing shout of a neighbour on the hill as he rounds up sheep with his dogs; there are the starlings who have learnt to imitate his hollers. There is the croaking hoot of the lone male pheasant in my garden, still dreaming of a mate. There is a quiet that is as close to silence as you will probably ever get.

My latest collection, Mute/Unmute, grew out of this silence.