St Patrick’s Festival in Dublin: a parade of poets

Dublin: A Year in Words is a live poetry walking trail will snake around the city with eight poets performing across seven bookshops, explains Lingo’s Linda Devlin

Poets Sarah Maria Griffin, Stephen James Smith, Kalle Ryan, Karl Parkinson and John Cummins in the International Bar, Dublin. Amith and Cummins perform on March 18th. Photograph: Eric Luke

Poets Sarah Maria Griffin, Stephen James Smith, Kalle Ryan, Karl Parkinson and John Cummins in the International Bar, Dublin. Amith and Cummins perform on March 18th. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

If you think St Patrick’s Festival is just about the parade on the 17th then it’s worth taking another look at the festival programme. Poetry and spoken word make up just one strand of what has developed into a rich and diverse cultural offering. Young Blood: The Beats and Voices of Our Generation at the National Concert Hall on the 18th promises to meander through the genres of hip hop and spoken word in what promises to be a powerful collective performance of Ireland’s smartest, expressive young musicians, rappers and poets. Also taking place that afternoon is Dublin: A Year in Words live poetry trail. Kicking off at noon outside An Siopa Leabhar, this walking trail will snake around the city with eight poets performing across seven bookshops.

The trail is based on a poetry video series of the same name, commissioned by Dublin Unesco City of Literature and curated by poet Stephen James Smith and Linda Devlin, co-founder and manager of Lingo, Ireland’s first spoken word festival. Stephen was also commissioned by St Patrick’s Festival to produce a poem in response to this year’s theme Ireland You Are. The resulting My Ireland has been viewed more than 300,000 times.

The idea behind A Year in Words was to create a year-long series of poetry videos that would celebrate and give some insight into the breadth of our living poets and bookshops. “We didn’t want to just roll out a line up of what might be considered the twelve best poets in Dublin,” explains Devlin. “There was a specific focus on including younger and less established voices, but in a context where they could naturally co-exist with more established poets.” Seven of the 12 videos have been released to date, one per month, amassing thousands of views.

'You Think I Wear This For You?' by Raneem Saleh

'Story Buddleia' by Ophelia Mc Cabe

So what can punters expect from the trail? “An easy-going and enjoyable ramble with what I’d call ‘real-life’ poets. If you’re expecting expert talk on the canon you’ll be sorely disappointed!” says Devlin. “But what we do promise is a chance to connect with some of our living, breathing, often struggling artists, who are passionate about what they do and the city they do it in.”

The trail will be led by John Cummins and Devlin, with plenty of time built in to browse bookshops afterwards and chat to those involved. The bookshops selected are an interesting mix of old and new, traditional and contemporary. Young bilingual poet Ciara Ni É makes a fitting start in long-established Irish language outlet An Siopa Leabhar, at the Club Chonradh Na Gaeilge on Harcourt Street, before heading a short distance northwards to Hodges Figgis on Dawson St. Founded in 1768 and famously mentioned in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, Hodges Figgis is reputed to be Ireland’s oldest bookshop, and it will play host here to relative newcomer Raneem Saleh, originally from Saudi Arabia. Saleh’s video You Think I Wear This For You? explores issues of Islamophobia and clocked up more than 13,500 views, making it the most watched video from the Year in Words series to date.

Northwards from here the trail will takes in a double bill at The Secret Book and Record Store on Wicklow St, a real gem of a shop for preloved books. After performances from poet Richard Brennan and writer, musician and hip-hop MC, Ophelia McCabe, it’s another short stroll to the award-winning independent Gutter Bookshop on Cow’s Lane. Recent Ireland Chair of Poetry, Paula Meehan, will give a half-hour recital from her much celebrated works and her recent collection Geomantic. A stone’s throw from here young Dublin poet Hazel Hogan will bring her socially conscious work to Oxfam Books on Parliament St before crossing the Liffey to the charming setting of The Winding Stair on Ormond Quay where “poetician” Cummins will share the unique lyrical stylings which have seen him win both Leinster and All-Ireland Poetry Slam titles in recent years.

Rounding out the day in another stalwart independent, Books Upstairs, is rising star Kerrie O’Brien, whose debut collection Illuminate, published in 2016, was chosen as a New Statesman Book of the Year by Sebastian Barry and an Irish Times Book of the Year by Joseph O’Connor.
For more information on the event visit stpatricksfestival.ie. For videos and information on Dublin: A Year in Words see dublincityofliterature.ie

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