President’s poetry recording highlights work of Irish Poetry Reading Archive

President Higgins becomes 150th poet to contribute to major UCD Library resource

President Michael D Higgins records some of his poetry at UCD Library yesterday

President Michael D Higgins records some of his poetry at UCD Library yesterday

 

President Michael D Higgins has become the latest Irish poet to record a selection of his poems for the Irish Poetry Reading Archive in UCD Library.

While principally known as a statesman and politician, the Clare man is also a poet and a dedicated supporter of the arts. He has published four collections, New and Selected Poems (Liberties Press, 2011); An Arid Season (New Island, 2004); The Season of Fire ( Brandon,1993); The Betrayal (Salmon, 1990).

Adding nine poems to the archive, President Higgins reflected on the importance of this national repository in preserving the voices of Ireland’s poets for future generations and in making poems, in Irish and English, available to a global audience.

The poems he selected for inclusion in the archive reflect the importance of relationships with family and friends as well as the legacy of Ireland’s turbulent past. The Betrayal, dedicated to the poet’s father, explores the challenges of life in the Irish Free State for those who made sacrifices during the revolutionary years. Other poems look to the next generation to carry forward values of empathy and solidarity.

The transformative possibilities of language – especially in performance – is an enduring preoccupation, making this work especially fitting for inclusion in the archive.

The Irish Poetry Reading Archive is a digital repository of contemporary poetic voices. This free audiovisual archive records and preserves Irish poets reading their own work and makes their poetry accessible to a worldwide audience. Built up over the last seven years, this archive now holds the work of over 150 poets, including writers born in Ireland but resident elsewhere and those newly arrived here.

The archive, which also holds signed printed works, ephemera and a range of poets’ papers, offers an insight into the diverse landscape of poetry in Ireland. Hearing a poet reading their own words, and speaking about the context in which their poems were written, offers a unique experience to the listener, and helps to bring poetry to new audiences. Like many of the other poets who have read for the archive, President Higgins also provided handwritten transcriptions of his recorded poems. This complementary collection of manuscripts allows the audience to interact with the poem and poet in a unique way.

The poetry community has long recognised the importance of the Irish Poetry Reading Archive, and many have already contributed their work, including Paula Meehan, Michael Longley, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Anthony Cronin, Bernard O’Donoghue, Medbh McGuckian Harry Clifton, Felicia Olusanya, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe, Elaine Feeney, Moya Cannon, Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Stephen James Smith, Frank McGuinness, Rody Gorman and Máighréad Medbh.

In the words of Paula Meehan, poet and former Ireland Chair of Poetry, the archive has become “an indispensable tool for both poetry makers and poetry readers, on and off the island… it is just and marvellous that the Archive holds the various and diverse voices of the community, and presents a rounded picture of the exciting and eclectic nature of Irish poetry today, in Irish, in English, and in translation”.

Preserving digital recordings

Preserving recordings and making them accessible for future researchers is a huge challenge as digital materials can rapidly decay and formats quickly become obsolete. A highly skilled team in UCD Library, works to ensure the preservation of this archive within the UCD Digital Library.

The Irish Poetry Reading Archive is a valuable educational resource, which brings poetry into homes and classrooms, protects and preserves uniquely valuable voices which might otherwise be lost, and which are an important part of our social and cultural history.

As part of the effort to capture for posterity the poetry landscape in Ireland, the Irish Poetry Reading Archive is engaged in a pilot project archiving the websites of Irish poets, publishers of Irish poetry, Irish poetry organisation and Irish poetry journals. These websites are ephemeral in nature and contain a wealth of material that, we believe, that will be a rich resource for poetry enthusiasts and scholars of the future.

The Irish Poetry Reading Archive is also developing a project for the Decade of Centenaries programme. This work on poetry and commemoration will commission a selection of poems, in English and in Irish, on themes and events inspired by primary source materials from the revolutionary period held in archives around the country. A public and community engagement programme, which will include creative writing workshops for adults and children, will also be developed for across the island of Ireland. This work, together with a number of poetry installations in public spaces, will allow communities to engage with challenging period in our shared history in a spirit of openness and inclusivity.

The Irish Poetry Reading Archive, hosted by UCD Library within the UCD Digital Library, is co-ordinated by Ursula Byrne and Evelyn Flanagan, in collaboration with Dr Lucy Collins of the UCD School of English, Drama and Film.

More information at lib guide

YouTube via UCD Special Collections Channel

UCD Digital Library

Breakdown of figures

Number of poets: 150

Number of poems: 1,100

Number of manuscripts: 600

Languages: Irish and English

Viewing around the world: 65 countries

Hours watched : 8,327

Number of views: 230,461

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