John Corless

John Corless




Hi, I’m John Corless. I live on a small farm in the west of Ireland in County Mayo, where unfortunately, it rains a lot. I share the house with my family of one wife and one remaining daughter (aged 10) – the rest having fled for college and work and travel – any excuse really.

I was always a writer but didn’t realise it for many years. I started in earnest about ten years ago and did an online MA with Lancaster University, graduating with a distinction in 2008. It was a fantastic experience – one I’ll never forget. I'm a year into a PhD with the University - a project based around a novel featuring an enclosed order of nuns set in a monastery in Dublin.

I work with a local rural development company, managing projects mainly in areas of social care and care of the elderly. Previously I worked as a project manager in the construction industry for many years. In between I worked as a journalist specialising in construction, infrastructure and agricultural matters.

I stared part-time teaching as a natural progression to workshops which I presented when I worked in construction and I have taught night classes for about six years at a local college. Initially I taught construction management adding creative writing after commencing my MA.

I’m looking forward to this project enormously.


Creative Work

Are You Ready?

When the row with the wife has gone
on for over a week and your neck
and lower back hurt from sleeping
on the dirty green sofa –
and when the chips you got in McDonalds
Drive Thru fall in to the space
around the handbrake and you’re sorry
now that your toenail clippings
are still there, and you made the mistake
of putting  your only white shirt
into the washing machine
along with the lawnmower,
are you ready?

Are you ready to admit that it was you
who ran over Bozo in 1997 and broke
his front legs, that the hundred pounds
she saved for Santa went on the fourth
placed certainty in the three ten at Newmarket,
that it was you who ran up the phone bill
on the sex lines,
that you do sometimes drink and drive,
that you occasionally wear
your wife’s lingerie,
that the job interview really was golf,
that you do secretly fancy Susan Kelly,
that you once voted for the PDs?

Are you ready?
Are you ready to admit?
Are you ready to admit
that maybe it was you that was in the wrong
all along?



“Poetry is for poets,” a friend once told me. When I explored this, I discovered that many people are frightened away from poetry because they are unable to understand much of it.  This triggers a feeling of inadequacy; that it’s their fault that they don’t understand a particular (often ambiguous) poem.  This was a feeling I had experienced myself and often avoided poetry as a result. 

One of my main aims, when I set about writing a poem, is to make it accessible to as wide an audience as possible.  I use clear, crisp language and imagery (usually) and often juxtapose humour with unfunny themes to help the reader or listener fasten his or her seatbelt, as we take the journey together, towards making poetry for everyone.

Are you ready? is the title poem of my debut collection published by Salmon in the summer of 2009. The collection contains some poems workshopped on the Lancaster MA as well as earlier ones.  Much of my poetry is written with performance in mind and this one goes down well at readings and has been broadcast on national radio here in Ireland.

All my writing is people centred. I like to explore what’s going on in the mind of my characters. They are usually ordinary people with ordinary expectations, hopes, dreams, highs and lows.   I write about how people interact with each other and the situations in which they find themselves. Many of my characters are frustrated – often unable to improve their lot through poor communication skills, pride or honour. Much of my writing is set in rural Ireland.

I’m not sure if the communication problem is uniquely Irish. We speak a different version of the English language from any other part of the world. Much of what we speak is our native Irish language translated into English. And of course, the translation between the languages is not seamless. What we end up with is a word order unique to the language.

As for ‘Are you ready?’ (the poem), I was in McDonalds fast food outlet one evening after a creative writing class. I’d had little food that day a wanted a quick snack. As I waited for a without-cheese version of one of their specials, I was looking at the people in the restaurant and I started imagining their lives.  I picked up a serviette and made notes and when the food arrived I took it to the car so that I could write the poem while I grazed. The creative force wouldn’t allow me to sit and eat the food in the restaurant. Of course I spilled the chips in the process, as you do, when you rush the fine art of eating in the car. And I immediately included this in the poem.

Other poems in the collection came from imagining how people deal with loneliness, retirement, being single and generally being disappointed with their lot.

I’m working on a second collection due out 2011, as well as working on a novel - my PhD project.



Are You Ready? Salmon Poetry, June 2009

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