Asked ‘Why Earth to Alice?’ Alice McCullough said:
“It was my twin sister and best friend at school. It was around the time that people were starting to set up e-mail accounts and they created the address “Earth to Alice”. This was about thirteen years ago.”
Alice embraces the label “space cadet”:
“Yes. My teacher at school used to ask me “Alice are you practising staring into space again?”, but my dad was really into Zen meditation so he thought that that was really cool – “My daughter’s a genius!”. I started off life as a painter and illustrator and solitude was important to me.
It was that awkward, introvert thing of finding it easier to connect with books and paintings. I have a sort of tortured artist thing – I have this poem called 'What to do with my collection of blank canvases’. I always wanted to be an artist and I thought it was going to happen through painting but I didn’t and I struggled with my health, and then, suddenly, writing just seemed to flow for me. There has been no plan with any of this – it’s just whatever I managed to splurge on the page.
It’s no exaggeration to say that poetry saved my life. It’s escapism but it actually pulls me back to reality. So most of the show isn’t the surreal stuff, it’s poems about Belfast and various things I’ve experienced, my childhood, struggles with my confidence, being that shy person and attempting to overcome that. A lot of the poems end up being about empowerment.“
She also said:
"It’s a necessity for me as well: I don’t really think about the audience in the writing process, I don’t think “I’m writing this to get approval”. But people respond to it. I do genuinely struggle with connecting to the real world and it’s not all a big joke, it has been a big problem in my life. But I’m channelling that, I’m making something positive from it.”
And on finding herself as a poet she said:
“I went along to the Seamus Heaney writer’s group and they tore my poetry to shreds but it wasn’t until I went to a workshop with a performance poet, Tony Walsh (AKA Longfella), and he just seemed to plough through and I thought, “Yes – that’s for me!” He just seemed to come along at the right time for me to break through and start writing in a different way.”
And on speaking and not reading out her poems she said:
“I had a theatre background and I knew, and Tony Walsh said this, that when you have a piece of paper in front of you it’s a barrier between you and the audience. You lose the eye contact, there’s a loss of commitment.”