Belfast Poet Launches Debut Poetry Collection

Belfast-based poet, Miriam Gamble launched her new collection of poetry The Squirrels are Dead at No Alibis bookshop on Botanic Avenue in Belfast yesterday.

The unusually titled collection, The Squirrels are Dead, is Miriam’s first publication with publishers Bloodaxe Books.

The title is a line from one of the poems within the book, which explores the end of a relationship; although the collection itself covers many diverse themes, all centred on the many ways we communicate with one another and the difficulties faced.

Miriam was helped in the writing of the poems in the book by an award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland as part of the Support for Individual Artists Programme (SIAP).

The Support for Individual Artists programme gives financial support to artists in Northern Ireland and helps to nurture their talent as they develop their careers. Miriam’s award in April 2009 allowed her the freedom to focus on working on this collection of poems.

Damian Smyth, Head of Drama and Literature at the Arts Council, congratulated Miriam on the launch of this book, saying “Miriam Gamble is an extremely talented writer and we at the Arts Council are very proud to have been able to support her during the preparation of her first collection.

“Individual artists are the lifeblood of the arts community but very often help and support is required to enable them to develop their skills.

The Support for Individual Artists Programme demonstrates the Arts Council’s commitment to raising the status of artists in Northern Ireland, by giving them the freedom to develop their talent and produce high calibre work. In Miriam’s case, the practical support she received allowed her to work part-time at Queen’s University, giving her more time to work on the collection.”

Miriam has also recently been awarded the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary for 2010.

She is the final recipient of the award under the current Ireland Professor of Poetry, Michael Longley, and will be given the opportunity to spend four weeks at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, an artistic retreat in Co. Monaghan, working on her writing without distraction or disturbance.

Miriam said, “As a result of the SIAP award I received from the Arts Council, I was able to focus on finishing this collection of poetry.

Receiving the grant gave me a tremendous boost in confidence and that in turn has improved my writing. I am very grateful to the Arts Council for their support and am extremely excited to see the book published.”