February 16th, 2008 at 10:30 am
Posted by pc in Poetry Events and News

The Over the Edge Poetry Book Showcase

8 February 2008

A lively crowd of Galwegian (and beyond) poetry enthusiasts ventured out last Friday to Sheridan’s Wine Bar, to enjoy readings by eight of Galway’s most active contemporary poets. They represented over ten from the area who brought out collections in 2007.

Kevin Higgins, who organises the ongoing Over the Edge reading series compèred a cheerful, refreshing event and at the halfway mark Mayor Tom Costello came out in full regalia to declare well-deserved words of praise for the ongoing success in the Galway poetry scene. The audience were in great spirits (partially thanks to the world of cheesy odours wafting up the stairs), and filled this very elegant venue comfortably.

With fine poetry from Elaine Feeney, Jarlath Fahy, Moya Cannon, Mags Treanor, Knute Skinner, Sheila Phelan, John Walsh and Neil McCarthy, no-one was left athirst, and as Kevin says, ‘a little from a lot’ is far more delectable than the contrary.

This is an annual event well worth the journey. Long may it last.

For videos of the readings, click here.

January 14th, 2008 at 12:12 am
Posted by pc in Poetry Events and News

Visiting poets slam six venues in one week

13-19 December 2007

The first successful All Island Touring Circuit for Poetry and Spoken Word took place in December, showcasing the I am a Lagan collective of Buddy Wakefield, Katie Wirsing and Andrea Gibson. These world class performers who almost hold more slam championships between them than there are slam poets in Ireland, thrilled audiences in Derry, Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick before jetting off the next day to continue in Frankfurt. Aside from the performances, they also held four workshops and hosted two slams during their high-energy tour, and they managed it all in a single week.

This is mainly thanks to all the supporting venues of the newly formed circuit, which now promises to open the way for top class performers from across the globe to bring their poetry to the entire island with rhythmic ease.

Videos from Dublin Slam Poetry‘s MC Gerry McNamara, who hosted the Dublin leg at the Bankers pub are here, including the slam which was judged by the guest poets.

Videos from the main performances at Ó Bhéal are here.

September 23rd, 2007 at 7:19 pm
Posted by pc in Poetry Events and News

Poets celebrate Patrick Kavanagh at the Palace Bar

8 September 2007

The Patrick Kavanagh Celebration at the Palace Bar just gets better every year. Organiser PJ Brady from the Phoenix Dawn began the evening with his life-long learned stories about (and poems by) Kavanagh before giving the floor over to eMCee Desmond Swords. The best of Dublin’s performance poets and open-mic enthusiasts turned up and gave their all, to a packed house.

The night pushed on as late as it could possibly go, and with tight emceeing almost 50 poems by over 15 poets were recited in Kavanagh’s own, old haunt. Sleepy Rise and Sean Óg filled the breaks with cheerful trad music and this annual event is turning out to be one of Irish poetry’s not to be missed.

For videos of the Performances, come this way.

August 1st, 2007 at 1:38 pm
Posted by pc in Poetry Events and News

Inaugural Derry Féile Slam

21st of July 2007

The Derry Féile Poetry Slam attracted poets from all corners of the island. With the Belfast Poets Touring Group hosting this inaugural event, a typically Irish-style laid-back slam ensued, being enjoyed thoroughly by all. Dave Lordan, The Belfast Poets and myself gave additional performances and ended up judging the slam which was won jointly by Rosemary Cutliffe-Quinn and James King.

The atmosphere was fantastic and all were made at home and comfortable by our talented hosts. I hope it’s the first of many.

Some videos from the night are here.

July 10th, 2007 at 3:04 am
Posted by pc in Poetry Events and News

Cork International Poetry Festival

4 – 8 July 2007

SoundEye brings top poets to Cork

Now in its eleventh year, the Cork International Poetry Festival was held mostly at the Firkin Crane, the old seat of Tudor power in Ireland, where over thirty scribe-performers including Cai Tianxin, Maggie O’Sullivan, Keith Tuma, Anamaría Crowe Serrano, Gerry Loose and Mairead Byrne carried their audiences into universes of widely unexplored adventures.

Thanks to the dedication of Trevor Joyce and Fergal Gaynor, this phenomenon is one of the country’s best expositions, crafted from a fine eclectic balance of the world’s best avant-garde poets. Though well-attended, gross underfunding caused a lack of advertising for a major event which should have drawn massive crowds. I hope the funding bodies pay more attention to this project in the future – it’s a true benchmark of the highest quality in art and in my opinion should be regarded as one of the top poetry festivals in the world.

To see the full line-up and history of the event visit the SoundEye website here. Free admission to five days of ambrosia from some of the best ‘alternative’ poets in the world should just simply not be missed.

See you there next year.


June 30th, 2007 at 10:40 am
Posted by pc in Poetry Events and News

Tara Solstice Freefest, 20-24 June

Although the 5 days were mainly rained out, the festival brought together all the various interest groups under one big tent, and the evenings merged into a fine display of high quality music and poetry from across Europe. The scene was both relaxed and charged at the same time. A strange excitement softened by the constant sound of soft rain on tent rooves, which was the precise lullaby needed for a well-earned rest by all.

Dawn at the solstice was overcast for the first 20 minutes or so, and as I read the Dindsenchas (Place-lore / Praise poetry for Tara) to the magical harp of Laoise Kelly, the sun burst out through the clouds and let us know that it would never be closer to Tara than on that day. I’m not sure what changed inside me, but it was like my feet became the prongs of a giant electric plug. I’m surprised my hair still has any curls, it was probably the single foremost highlight of my entire life.

The hour-long performance was in the Halls of Tara, or rather within where the halls used to stand, leading up towards the Rath of the Synods, though my imagination was fully charged and I had no problem imagining poeting for a high king, millenia ago. The true beauty of Tara for me, is the sense that when I’m up on the hill, I can solve any personal mystery just by focussing on it for long enough (and that’s not long). Tara really has a magnetic draw that makes one never want to leave, in fact a friend of mine who came along with us is still there, a full five weeks later. Those ancients were onto something big alright. I’d recommend visiting Tara to anyone as a must-do at least once in your lifetime.

The Friday night saw a great mix of musicians and poets voice their praises for Tara and their response to the ongoing threat to the Gabhra Valley. All had a great time, building a well-needed sense of hope for a rerouting of the M3. Yours truly ended up not performing that night as I took the place of MC, underneath Tony’s massive Shell-to-Sea tent.

Many special thanks and appreciation go out to Heather Adams (the organiser), and to TaraWatch for making it all possible. To see a full list of the Artists and some comments on the event click here.

To catch up on what’s happening at Tara, click here or visit TaraWatch’s myspace site. Tara and the Gabhra valley need any help they can get right now. She is the very heart of our entire culture.

There will be a number of (simultaneous) countrywide benefit/awareness concerts for Tara on the 29th of September. If anyone would like to perform for these important events, please contact me here.

Click here for pictures and videos.


June 5th, 2007 at 10:22 am
Posted by pc in Poetry Events and News

The spirit of Raftery alive and well in Kiltimagh

31 May to 3 June 2007

The ‘In Sight of Raftery’ festival in Kiltimagh this weekend drew poets from all around the country, and further afield. Local poet Terry Mcdonagh presented the intimate event, now in its third year, with a fine array of readings and performances throughout three venues, Lil Fordes, Kitty McGreals and The Electric Mouse. Being there for only two nights of the five days, I managed to catch the main events and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the poetry of Louis de Paor, Collette nic Aodha, Ger Reidy, Rab Wilson and of course Terry himself, to mention but a few. The Kiltimagh crowd made everyone feel more than at home, and even treated poets to complimentary accommodation when no space was left available in the hotels or B&Bs. I’d recommend next year’s event to anyone who has a weekend free to visit Mayo in early June.

The highlight of the event was the late Saturday night slam at the Electric Mouse which drew 14 performers from every corner of the island. The five who made it through to the final round were Chelley McLear (Belfast) and Gordon Hewitt (Derry) who shared first prize, Rab Wilson (Scotland) who came third, as well as Denise Heneghan and Mags Traenor (both from Galway) who were joint fourth.

A big thanks to Terry for a really entertaining weekend and to the Kiltimagh natives for their cosy welcome. With more plans for expansion, the ‘In Sight of Raftery’ festival promises to grow into an even more popular poetry event and I’ve made plans to be back next year.

Videos of performances at the Electric Mouse are here.

May 14th, 2007 at 7:44 am
Posted by pc in Poetry Events and News

First All-Ireland Poetry Slam team announced

On Friday the 11th of May 2007, history was made as 2 regional winners from each province sized up their compositions at McHugh’s pub in Belfast, the oldest building in the city. The eight poets had only 2 minutes and 15 seconds to perform each of their pieces in rounds one and two. Then four went through to the final round; Gerard McKeown (Ulster), Colin McKeown (Ulster – unrelated), Noel Sweeney (Leinster) and Brendan Murphy (Connaught).

The excellent organising from Mark Madden (Creative Writer’s Network) and dazzling MC work from Chloe Poems made this a truly great event, and benchmarks the beginning of many to come. The intention is for the annual event to alternate throughout the four provinces.

First and second places went to Brendan Murphy and Gerard McKeown, who now represent the Irish team. They’ll be up against the Welsh, English and Scottish at the BBC Radio Four Slam Championships in July.

Videos of the performances can be viewed here

May 7th, 2007 at 1:20 pm
Posted by pc in Ópen minds in Poetry

Last week I received a call from Gordon Hewitt, spokesperson and performance member of the Belfast Poets Tour Group. Having recently completed successful tours of Australia and Ireland, he found that organising a tour of the open mic venues here was by far the more difficult. There are less than a dozen countrywide and only a handful who run every week.

His concern has led him to initiate an open-mic tour circuit of Ireland, so that any ambling poets may visit or perform at all of the six major venues (held in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Derry and Belfast) within a week or two. Not only will this boost poetic diversity and exposure, furthering the appreciation of Irish talent locally, but will also encourage International poets visiting Ireland access to these venues with an attractive ease and immediacy. Ó Bhéal has given its complete support to the venture and will be involved in the project’s first meeting in June. Post will be updated.

April 14th, 2007 at 11:36 am
Posted by pc in Ópen minds in Poetry

Comments: A spoken word or two – Where does ‘Performance’ Poetry stand?

There was a psychic moment in a reading once, when I heard someone thinking in a condescending tone, “Well that’s poetry too”. Their expression was all too transparent for my comfort. I imagine my poet posture had appeared during a sprawling appreciation of an organised ‘Published Poet’ reading, and I was transformed into a vividly present symbol of spoken word poetry, as distinct from the written. I was actually being stereotyped from my posture by the somewhat all too common Literati Elitist of poetic classism.

As if the spoken word were resident below fighting mindlessly somewhere in a hell realm, Dante’s ninth maybe, praying to Cuchullain and Tailtiu, Macha and Amergin whilst from above the glass floor peered the epitome of poetic integrity and purpose.

The difference is in the mind. Spoken Word performance Poet in the left corner, Written Word published Poet in the right. Then as they engage they both speak at the same time, failing to make any contact, and their words fuse into a poet thrice the size of either. The Written Spoken Word Published Performance poet emerges (with a bit of filmmaking perhaps or music on the side). The spectators run for the fire exits. The referee cowers beneath the judges’ table.

As Todd Swift (see link below) points out, being more or less of one or the other are just two aspects of any poet’s journey. So are we to commercialise mp3 poetry in order to get funding for the almost exclusively Spoken word poet? To get him or her the right dose of recognition? I think not. Most of the payment is in the giving of the poetry, in the engagement, in the fire of poetry … and what fire needs no fuel? Perhaps the spoken form is too fine to be appreciated enough.

The need to be published in order to get funding is akin to having to have a degree to speak English. At least more universities are accepting life experience in lieu of certain course credits for mature students … maybe this way of thinking will catch on more. Make paper transparent? Many of our praise poets, political poets, 21st century seanchaithe, satirists work almost entirely with writing for the Spoken Word. And is it Art? Expensive in it’s creation, profound in its influence, some just do it better with their mouths than with their literature.

When nepotism climbs into any of the Arts bodies we know what happens to the foundations. Three cheers for the impartial Arts Funders. Fair funding bodies encourage a fair society. How pc of me you may think. But i am PC – Poetically Confussed. And I plan to stay that way. What I love most about MCing is the diversity in Poetry; Form, Style, Content, Passion, Truth, Finesse, Engagement. The unique vision within every voice. Discrimination is only a ‘word’ after all … Calliope, I’ll have a good medium to rare one-hour reading, followed by an epic, a drop of unplugged ceol followed by a story, a good open-mic session and a dash of Slam for dessert.

More articles on the state of the Spoken Word today:

Maureen Gallagher’s article:
Is Slam Poetry the last resort of the failed comedian? … here
(with reference to the Todd Swift interview by Kevin Higgins … here)

Todd Swift’s response to Maureen Gallagher:

Trish Casey’s article:
Slam On – Performance Poetry In Ireland … here

Desmond Swords’ response to Trish Casey … here

Kevin Higgins’ article:

James J McAuley’s response to Kevin Higgins … here

Miceál Kearney’s response to James J McAuley is in the comments section herein.

by pc