Not a poem: a memoir! Sectioned – a life Interrupted, by John O’Donoghue


I interrupt this poetry blog to bring you the news that John O’Donoghue is going to be reading from his book, Sectioned, at the launch of my poetry pamphlet, The Ward, tomorrow (12th July) in Tunbridge Wells.

I have no idea how it’s going to go, because he’s just emailed asking me to bring him tubes of only blue Smarties. He also sent these replies to my interview questions I sent him, in an attempt to be all highbrow and literary. Ahem. Anyway, here goes:

  1. How did you go from being a user of Mind day centres to winning the Mind Book of the Year competition?

Sheer effrontery. I was going along to Islington’s Links Club, run by Mind, back in the late Eighties. I was coming to the end of a 12 year spell on the psychiatric merry-go-round – asylums, a therapeutic community, a large hostel for homeless men, squats, the streets, Pentonville Prison, where I was remanded for reports when unwell – and knew I needed to make big changes in my life. Fortunately, I was in a halfway house where one of the workers, Martin Lunn, helped me apply to university. I got into UEA and life then took a very different turn

  1. What was it about you book, Sectioned, that made it a winner?

Luck. I think the judges went for a first-person account of someone’s experience of a world that has largely gone, the world of the old Victorian asylums, and that is why my book – in a very competitive field – was awarded the prize.

  1. Are there any books or authors that have influenced you?


  1. What projects are you involved in at the moment?

I’ve just finish drafting a novel about two poets, John Clare and Robert Lowell, both patients in the Northampton Lunatic Asylum, or St Andrew’s in Lowell’s day. I voice each poet in alternate chapters, and in Clare’s unorthodox orthography.

  1. What is it about The Ward that made you agree to support it by reading at the launch?

Its utter brilliance.


John O’Donoghue is the author of the poetry collections Brunch Poems (Waterloo Press, 2009); and Fools & Mad (Waterloo Press, 2014); and the memoir Sectioned: A Life Interrupted (John Murray, 2009). Sectioned was awarded Mind Book of The Year 2010 by judges Fay Weldon, Michele Roberts, and Blake Morrison. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, and teaches Creative Writing at West Dean College, Chichester.

Sectioned: A Life Interrupted (John Murray, 2009) is available from all good bookshops.

Details for The Ward can be found on the “About” tab of this blog.