Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Darren Donohue, a poet/playwright from Newbridge, is launching his debut poetry collection, titled Secret Poets, at the Riverbank Theatre on Saturday 23 April.

Secret Poets is published by Turas Press and supported by Poetry Ireland. The event will be hosted by Kildare poet and academic Dr Derek Coyle.

“The collection was written over a period of 20 years with the majority of the poems published in various newspapers and journals, including Poetry Ireland Review, the Irish Times, Banshee Press. So, it was lovely to have all the work collected in one location,” he explained. “The themes and the subject matter of the collection include my journey through chronic illness. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2010.”

There are portrait poems of some of his heroes, including Emily Dickinson, and Darren added that the collection also follows his determination to find the sublime hidden within the everyday.

“Those mini epiphany moments of insight we encounter that light up our lives,” he said. “And I hope people will also find Secret Poets rich in humour, as it seeks to chronicle the absurdities of modern life.”

Darren, who was awarded the Dennis O’Driscoll Award 2020 from Kildare Co Council, is also a playwright. He said that alongside his plays, he would have always penned poetry.

“So, at a certain point, I decided to take the poetry a little bit more seriously, and to start submitting the poems to various publications, and just kind of put the feelers out there and I was lucky enough to see my poetry publicized, and got some great feedback, which is very encouraging. And it kind of took off from there.”

There’s a difference, of course, between writing a play and a poem – Darren said when you’re writing a play it’s a long-term affair and you can be writing for up to three years between rewrites, going through the drafting process and working with actors and the theatre company.

“You really need an idea that will sustain you through that process… those ideas come along, every now and then, it’s quite rare,” he told me. “But the world of poetry is always open to me, I can always sit down and write a poem. And even if the poem you know, is not great, there’ll be… a line or a two-word combination there that I can take with me and use again.”

Darren explained that most productions of his plays happen abroad, with recent productions in London and Milan. His latest play, Mushroom, will be performed at The Keegan Theatre in Washington DC as part of their 25th anniversary and will be streamed worldwide. The date hasn’t been confirmed yet, but will be sometime in May.

Mushroom, he said, “explores identity, politics, and cancel culture or consequence culture, depending which side of the argument you’re on… it looks at a controversial statue being unveiled in a university and the students are protesting and the university president calls together a trusted group of people to try and defuse the situation. So, the play takes off from there.”

I asked Darren if his work reflects current topics of discourse in society – “it does and it doesn’t” was his response.

“If you’re writing about something that’s extremely topical, by the time it goes on the stage it’s old news and can seem very dated,” he noted. “You really need to tackle the eternal themes within your work, just to make sure by the time they reach the play, they’re still relevant… you need that thread running through them, just to make sure that your work remains relevant.”

The launch of Secret Poets at the Riverbank looms large on the horizon – Darren noted that the event is free but it’s essential that you book a seat. Originally from Newbridge but living in Kilkenny at the moment, the poet and playwright thanked Kildare and Kilkenny Co Councils, as well as Poetry Ireland, for their support in developing the collection.

And he’s by no means taking a break – he’s developing a new work looking at how technology fails or supports people living with chronic illness. “I’m looking to work at the moment with a choreographer to explore developing a hybrid theatre piece,” he revealed.

For more information or to keep up with Darren’s work, follow him on Twitter (@DarrenDonohue1) or visit

By Conor Forrest
Contact Newsdesk: 045 432147

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