Calling poetry his “first love,” writer and broadcaster John Kelly has only returned publicly to his favoured form of writing over the last few years.

At the beginning of next month, the Enniskillen native will return to his hometown to read from his latest book ‘Notions’, an anthology of poems, as part of the Fermanagh Live Arts Festival (FLive) - a public appearance he admits he is quite nervous about.

“I’ve done quite a lot on the back of this book, you get invited to literary festivals and that’s fine because you are standing up in front of a bunch of strangers and I don’t mind that at all, that does not make me nervous. It’s standing up in front of people you know that is tricky, so reading in Enniskillen is a whole different kettle of fish really,” shared John.

Having written a lot of poetry during his university days at Queen’s, John explained that he stopped doing poetry publicly for a period, with other forms of writing taking its place.

“I kind of backed away from it and started doing other things then I came back to it when I hit 50, I thought I’d give it another go. I hadn’t stopped doing it, I’d just stopped publicly doing it. I wasn’t published or anything. I did other stuff in the meantime, I’d written a few works of fiction and quite a lot of journalism,” said John, who has written for publications including The Irish Times.

“Before I knew it, many, many decades had gone by and for whatever reason I’d started to find that poetry was coming back so I gathered them up and sent them to a publisher in Dublin and he said, ‘we’ll put these out’, so I kind of made my debut about 30 years after I was supposed to,” he said.

Commenting that he believes poetry comes from a “purer place” than his other forms of writing, John added: “There is no other reason to do it other than for its own sake. I think it’s an honest pursuit.”

He continued: “With poetry, I feel it’s what I should have been doing all along but I was only ready to do it recently.”

“My second book is being delivered and I’m into a third one. I’m going at it hammer and tong and the other thing is when you get to 50 you start to feel like you’re running out of time, so you start going a lot faster,” said John, laughing.

Talking about his time growing up in Enniskillen, where he lived at Sedan Terrace before moving to a house in Hillview, John described his childhood as “really good”.

“Hillview, it was a delight to live there overlooking Lough Erne. It was mixed, religion wise it was mixed, it was a very, very fine place to grow up. You are on the edge of the countryside as well. You have the urban and the rural side by side, I had a really good childhood and for the most part, the teenage years were okay as well, until you start to get very frustrated and you feel that there’s nothing happening,” said John.

“When you’re a teenager you feel everything is happening somewhere else and certainly there didn’t seem to be any glamour. People talk about the punk years but it didn’t seem to be happening anywhere near me,” he laughed.

Although as a teenager John felt like everything was “happening somewhere else”, he noted that his first proper concert was in Enniskillen, when a well-known rock band came to town.

“It was in 1980 and that was Thin Lizzy in the Forum, that was a big one. That was extraordinary and a real life-changer of an event,” said John.

He continued: “Funnily enough I recently did a public interview with Scott Gorham from the band and even though it was 1980, he told me all about that show because they had an incident with the authorities, lets put it that way. He told me the full story but it was good stuff.”

“Then he told me bizarrely that his people came from outside Enniskillen and he was the American in the band which was very strange,” John added.

When asked about his upcoming appearance at FLive and the importance of the arts, John explained that aside from the immediate pleasure that people get from attending arts events, often the effect of such events are not realised until many years down the line.

“There could be somebody in the audience who as a result of hearing somebody sing or hearing somebody on the stage or hearing somebody read from a book, they might go off and do it themselves,” said John.

He continued: “It is an opportunity to be exposed to things and that’s more important in a place like Enniskillen because if you live in a big city they have more theatres and more venues and more things.

“You never know who is in the audience and there might be one person there and it could turn out to be significant for them.”

“It’s important to be exposed to things and I’m happy to be doing my bit, it’s nice to be asked to do anything at home because there’s always that strange dynamic with your hometown, not just for me but for anybody.

“There’s always been a healthy atmosphere around Enniskillen and I’ve always thought, healthier than a lot of places I’ve been all over the world. Good stuff comes out of that,” John concluded.