Virtual Poetry Workshop

A few ideas from a workshop I was going to be giving on writing and rewriting poetry for M2S at dlr LexIcon this weekend you might enjoy/ find of use.

“No one knows how to write a poem. Congratulations!” Dean Young

‘Poetry is a real DIY art – you learn it by doing it.’ Marvin Bell

Three Poetry Prompts

  • A Poem sparked by a Painting.

    Read Ciaran Carson’s extraordinary last collection Still Life.  Find a painting you love and use it as a starting point for a poem. You could write about it from the point of view of a person/ object in it OR from the pov of the artist. Browse poems by other famous poets based on or sparked by paintings. Go to the cover image of Sunlight on the River at this link and you can access the first few pages.

  • Write a poem about the current situation from the point of view of – a bird, the Corona Virus, your hands…Consider tone of voice, things they might see/ feel that we can’t.
  • Have a read of this poem by ‘What Is Worth Knowing’ by Sujat Bhatt and write your own list poem with the same title ( or ‘What I Know’)

Some Ideas to Help you Revise your Poems
To re-vise = to see again

W.S. Merwin “Sometimes going over something is a way of entering into a whole new process of writing, finding new layers in a piece of writing. I think of it that way. Again, one of the people I learned a great deal from was Robert Graves, who felt that going over a piece—the revisions—was almost more valuable than producing an original draft.”

One immediate way to make a poem stronger, leaner and to make every word earn its keep, is to go through the poem and strike out all the adjectives and adverbs – then go through it deciding whether or not to insert each one again. For each word ask yourself – is it essential? Does it add to or weaken the line? (Think about it this way, which is stronger – the statement ‘I love you’ or ‘I really love you’?) Matthew Sweeny called this the ‘frisk draft’.

You could also experiment with quickly cutting a third of your poem and rereading it. How does it look now?  There are editing extremes – American poet Marianne Moore published a 29 line version of her poem ‘Poetry’ in the 1920’s which began, ‘I too dislike it..’ and by 1967 she had cut it to 4 lines;


I, too, dislike it.
              Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers

              it, after all, a place for the genuine.

Marianne Moore

If a poem hasn’t even got to the ‘frisk draft’ stage and just isn’t taking flight you could try writing it from another perspective (first person instead of second and vica versa)  

You could also:

  • Try writing your first draft out by hand if you wrote it on a screen and vica versa – you’ll spot things that are unclear this way.
  • Stick it in a drawer for a few days/ weeks/ months (some poems take years to finish!)
  • Experiment with taking off the first 2 or 3 lines – sometimes these are necessary scaffolding for a poem but …scaffolding comes down once construction is done.
  • Likewise look at your last two lines –have you tied it all up to neatly or ‘poetically’. The best poems end on a line that sends us back up to read the poem again. Robert Frost said ‘No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.’
  • Read it aloud yourself and then get someone else to read it back to you, exactly as you have written it. The things you thought you wrote may not be what the reader has on the page!
  • Read, read and read poetry – that way you’ll hone your instinct for what works, what’s fresh and what’s not.  

You might decide in the end that the poem that doesn’t work, is in fact a prelude or preparation for the next one.

Finally – don’t forget to keep saving your drafts (rather than always revising the original document) as you go – often we can revise one or two versions too far and need to go back.

Happy Writing and Revising! Nell Regan Mar 2020

Mountains to Sea 2020, Poet-in-Residence

Poet-in-Residence, Mountains to Sea, Dun Laoghaire Friday 27th March – Sunday 29th March

As poet-in residence at this year’s Mountains to Sea Festival in Dun Laoghaire, I’ll be doing various events as well as soaking up the atmosphere, ideas and words in order to write a piece about and for the Festival.


Poetry Workshop Friday March 27th 2pm dlr LexIcon . Come along to a workshop packed with exercises to get you writing new poems and ideas for redrafting ones that aren’t quite working. Book here

Saturday March 28th Thomas Mc Carthy’s Poetry Hour  dlr LexIcon.  I’m delighted to be hosting a reading by the incomparable Thomas McCarthy with Rachel Mann,  Ned Denny. More info and booking

Sunday March 29th 2.30pm dlr LexIcon  Join myself and  Philip Marsden for  a conversation about his new book The Summer Isles: A Voyage of the Imagination. More info and booking

Cork International Poetry Festival

Thursday 26th March @10pm Cork Arts Theatre

I’ll be reading in along with James Harpur and Noel Duffy as part of the Kavanagh Fellowship Reading. Tickets are available here along with more information about this year’s Cork International Poetry Festival, choc a bloc as ever with great poets and poetry events. Thanks to the Kavanagh Trust for a Fellowship in 2016.

Red Line Book Festival Poetry Night 9th October Announcement of 2019 Poetry Competition

The Red Line Book Festival kicks off today – check out the terrific line up starting off with the wonderful Children’s Laureate Sarah Crossan #WeAreThePoets and ending with Fiction Laureate Sebastian Barry and We Are Internet Famous (two separate events!) full programme here.

Really looking forward to reading and announcing the results of the Red Line poetry competition on Poetry Night, 9th October Wed 6pm Civic Theatre – it’s free and the evening also has  ‘How to get Ahead in Poetry’  with Jessie Lendennie of Salmon Poetry, Lisa Frank and John Walsh of Doire Press and Peter Fallon of Gallery Press), in conversation with poet Angela T. Carr.

New poem ‘You Are To Me’ in The North, The Irish Issue and on Lyric FM, The Poetry File

New poem ‘You Are To Me’ in The North, The Irish Issue and on Lyric FM, the Poetry File

Hot off the presses and just launched in London is a cracking edition of North (Eds Jane Clarke & Nessa O’Mahony) from Poetry Business including an intriguing conversation between two of my favourite poets, Sinead Morrissey and Paula Cunningham. Some of the great, late Matthew Sweeny’s last poems are there as well as a clatter of other new poems and reviews. There & in great company is ‘You Are To Me’ written for Ronan, my then boyfriend and now husband (!) and read at our wedding. and buy at Books Upstairs and other bookshops.

I also just recorded ‘You Are To Me’ the poem for Poetry File on Lyric FM with producer Eithne Hand. Recording that day too were David Butler, Amanda Bell and Stephen Sexton Smith – all coming to a radio near you soon on

Thanks Eithne – a great use of an otherwise empty studio slot.

Poetry Ireland Review 126 ‘ Bláth agus Taibshe: Flower and Ghost’ The Poetry of Micheál MacLíammóir in Translation

Poetry Ireland Review 126 Bláth agus Taibshe: Flower and Ghost The Poetry of Micheál MacLíammóir in Translation

Over the past 2 years or so I’ve been chipping away at translating the Irish language poetry of Micheál Mac Liammóir. He published one collection in 1964, Bláth agus Taibhse, (Flower and Ghost ) Sáirseal & Dill which is full of beautiful, intriguing and confounding poems. My essay Bláth agus Taibshe: Flower and Ghost: The Poetry of Micheál MacLíammóir in Translation along with several of the translations has found a great home in Poetry Ireland Review 126, with thanks to editor Eavan Boland and Paul Lenehan who heads the publication team. The edition is full of other treasures.

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 126 :

Edited by Eavan Boland

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 126 includes Nell Regan’s essay on the Irish-language poetry of the legendary impresario Micheál Mac Líammóir (1899-1978), who co-founded Dublin’s Gate Theatre and numbered Orson Welles among his friends and collaborators. Lottie Limb re-evaluates Blanaid Salkeld, a woman poet whose work remains unjustly neglected, in an essay that makes a compelling case for Salkeld to be regarded as a leading Irish modernist poet of the last century. There are new poems from over sixty poets in this issue, including work from Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Greg Delanty, Medbh McGuckian, Colette Bryce, Simon Ó Faoláin, Anne Tannam, and featured poet Roisin Kelly. The books reviewed in this issue include titles from Derek Mahon, Martina Evans, John F Deane, Colm Keegan, Alice Kinsella, and Elaine Feeney, while Bernard O’Donoghue reviews 100 Poems, a special selection of Seamus Heaney’s work, chosen by his family.





Herbert Simms – Simms120 commissioned poem made into a film by Paddy Cahill with piece broadcast on Sunday Miscellany 2/12/18

My poem ‘Owning The Sky’ or ‘The Flats That Simms Built’ has just been turned into a beautiful short film by Paddy Cahill with original music by Irene Clancy and is available to view here

Last October I was commissioned by the organisers of Simms120 to write a poem about Herbert Simms, the amazing Dublin City Architect of the 1930’s. His buildings are a roll call of social housing in the city – he designed and oversaw all of the Cabra and Crumlin estates as well as Chancery House,  Dolphin House, Pease House, Oliver Bond Fatima Mansions. The conference took place and among the other speakers were Eoin O’Mahony (Organiser), architectural historian Ellen Rowley, geographer and former resident of Pearse House,  Mary Broe who brought me around the flats. Meanwhile my essay about Simms, (also read at the conference) was broadcast on

Sunday Miscellany Sunday 2 December 2018

Sunday Miscellany. New Writing: Ebenezer Howard and Dublin’s Garden Suburb, by Gail Seekamp; Lapis Lazuli, by Frank Kavanagh; Home and Herbert Simms, by Nell Regan;

Nell Regan reading commissioned poem ‘Owning the Sky’ or The Flats Simms Built’ at Simms120 Oct 2018