In the guest room: Sean Tierney

The second artist to visit this guest space is poet and solar etched mono print maker Sean Tierney. When I engage with Sean’s work, the world’s spinning slows and it helps me to find a space of both quiet reflection and crystal clarity.


My two hands beg a bird for
song but can only carry the tune
so far – to the tree line, bombing like
a waiter with a bowl of soup, knowing if
I drop it I’ve only the quiet of the house
to return to

the same old quiet

it turns
me inside out
and I don’t trust
even the floor to hold
me in that state

Three questions to Sean

What does reading/writing poetry do for you?

This is something I was thinking about recently when a friend pulled a 2011 anthology from my shelf containing a handful of old poems I wrote while living in Vermont. I was embarrassed when he read them out loud because of how simple and silly they were, but it got me talking about the poetry that was influencing me at that time. Mainly Richard Brautigan, but also a lot of Japanese writers like Santoka Taneda and Ikkyu. Poems that never took themselves too seriously, about subject matter so small it turned the volume down on everything else.

I also recalled a Thich Nhat Hanh book my mother had when I was a kid. I don’t remember the title, but I would return to that book whenever I felt anxious or overwhelmed. Stories about washing the dishes with mindfulness, preparing food, walking in the woods, etc. The small things we do every day and never ever consider to be miracles.

I realized then that this Thich Nhat Hanh book was a big influence on the types of writers and poets I would seek out later in life. I am still to this day looking for poems that turn the volume up on the little things and down on the big ones. Because poetry is a meditation for me. A grounding ritual. A deep, slow breath when my mind is gasping for air.

What should we know about you that will help us understand your work?

It’s no fun to admit, but anxiety and loneliness are a large part of my life. I’ve had more panic attacks than I care to admit and the only thing that truly calms my nerves is reading and writing poetry. Completing a poem I’m proud of gives me a sense of purpose and belonging I can’t find at work or anywhere else.

I’ve always had a lot of trouble communicating and poetry/art is where I can say what I really mean to say and you won’t hear it until it’s ready to be said. (Except for my 2011 poems… they weren’t ready haha.) Poetry has always been a form of long-distance communication. I can communicate with poets who have been dead for years, some hundreds of years, just by flipping through the pages of a book. Those conversations transform my life, right here and now.

And of course, the long-distance thing is quite literal now that most poets are sharing their work on the internet. We’re calling lots of random numbers and hoping someone answers.

What brought you joy this week?

When a fellow poet and artist living in a country I’ve never even visited showed enough interest in my poetry to want to know more about me… Also, I drank a beer on the beach yesterday. Under the shade of a palm tree. There were crows stealing people’s food and retreating to my palm tree. They didn’t work for me, but I pretended that they did.