My Ireland: ‘Getting the ride in Copper Face Jacks and women sailing to Holyhead’

In a new piece commissioned for the St Patrick’s Festival, spoken-word artist Stephen James Smith encapsulates the best (and worst) of Ireland

Spanning Zig & Zag and Savita, Reeling In The Years and the Magdalene laundries, this new poem by Dublin poet and playwright Stephen James Smith was commissioned as a "celebratory narrative" of Ireland for the 2017 St Patrick's Festival. The poem is accompanied by a short film by director Myles O'Reilly, arranged and mixed by Conor O'Brien (Villagers), with music by Colm Mac Con Iomaire and Loah, Saint Sister, Eithne Ní Chatháin aka Inni-K and Ye Vagabonds.

My Ireland by Stephen James Smith

My Ireland you are
the river rush,
always fluid in flux
in need of a little hush...

My Ireland is talking to itself
but so busy listening to Joe
it's not hearing anything!
My Ireland is saying,
"gra go deo" agus "slainte Diageo".

My Ireland is reeling in the years
and not watching what's happening now.
While so many are reining in the tears
and trying to cope somehow...
My Ireland is terrified of leaving the immersion on
and lamenting not having won the Eurovision
in God only knows how long!
My Ireland loves laughing at Ó Briain and Norton.
My Ireland is sending gifs and emojis
while waiting for absolution.
My Ireland needs
a vision, an Aisling,
to move on from:
bacon & cabbage,
potatoes, leprechauns,
and jaysis Mrs Brown's Boys!
My Ireland is checking itself
after a Queen's Noble Call
and in Dublin Castle heard
"A Úachtaráin, agus a chairde"
from auld Lizzy.
My Ireland is dizzy from misinformation
and celebrations arising from The Proclamation.
My Ireland wonders if it's a sovereign people
still under the shadow of a steeple?
My Ireland constantly asks:
"was it for this?"
"an bhfuil cead agam dul go dtí an leithreas?"
My Ireland is Zig & Zag
and top shelf mags,
Pearse lonely as an old woman
defiant in defeat.
My Ireland is a white flag
and Elizabeth O'Farrell's feet.
My Ireland is Savita needing agency,
The Magdalene Laundries.
My Ireland is hysterical
and in denial of being patriarchal.
My Ireland didn't Wake The Feminists,
Queen Méabh was an early riser.
My Ireland you are:
Cumann na mBan
praying to St. Brigid,
Ireland playing frigid
Naysayers and Peig Sayers.
My Ireland is still Hailing Mary Mother of Grace,
And here's to you Mrs Robinson thanks for the embrace.
My Ireland wishes Grace O'Malley our Pirate Queen
could've been out at Shell to Sea.
My Ireland is cherishing anything
from an Instagram snap of a
ham & cheese toasty
to finding the right filter
for taking that selfie.
My Ireland is rich land
dressed by Penney's.
My Ireland is The Quiet Man
and Waterford Whispers,
shouting for us all.
My Ireland isn't sure what to do about
the water charges
and needs someone to take the fall.


My Ireland you are
The river rush of the
Corrib, Nore,
Foyle, Suir, Shannon,
Lagan, Lifey, Lee
And every tributary
Wash over me,
Wash over me,
Wash over me...

My Ireland should learn from its rivers
and burst its banks
My Ireland needs to go back to the source,
the initial trickle, a spring
and tickle out its flow.
My Ireland needs to let go.
My Ireland saw Sinead rip up the Pope
and isn't able to cope.
So we've:
Pieta House, Apollo House, Pelican House
for our new age Blood Sacrifice
and Ghost Estates.
My Ireland doesn't know what a tracker mortgage is
and is hoping it's not too late.
My Ireland sees goodness,
in the kindness
of its people everyday.
Which bonds us
just enough to get by,
My Ireland's sense of community
isn't ready to die!
My Ireland celebrates the underdog
who "Pull Like a Dog".
"We're not here to take part, we're here to take over!"
My Ireland you are:
The Guildford Four,
Rossport Five,
Birmingham Six,
Travelling people,
and forgotten demographics...
My Ireland is a terrible beauty,
Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí.
My Ireland knows,
When All the Others were Away at Mass
there was The Meeting on the Turret Stairs.
My Ireland can let go of all its cares,
it has the arts.
We've The Salmon of Knowledge
and blistered hearts.
My Ireland has warriors like;
Damien Dempsey singing Colony
Katie Taylor knocking out misogyny!
My Ireland doesn't forget to pour a sup for the fairies
and our women's fairy tales sail to Holyhead.

My Ireland you are
The river rush of the
Corrib, Nore,
Foyle, Suir, Shannon,
Lagan, Lifey, Lee
And every tributary
Wash over me,
Wash over me,
Wash over me...

My Ireland can be hard to take,
asks, "Did St. Patrick banish all the snakes?"
My Ireland is the Children of Lirr, Tír na nÓg
a herd of deer and a Connacht brogue.
My Ireland is singing,
"Óró sé do bheatha abhaile", while
the Eastern Europeans are coming,
the Africans are coming,
the Muslims are coming.
Can we all just come together?
My Ireland you are the National Stud.
My Ireland you are:
Four Green Fields
and a clover,
non defined,
yet to emerge,
fluid queers.
My Ireland may be drunk on 800 years!
My Ireland is the undocumented
and 40 million worldwide.
Failte them abhaile.
Open your arms.
Do you care about your diaspora?
My Ireland you are:
West Brits, Expats, immigrants,
Shane McGowan Tipp via London Town.
Ireland you are:
the Kilburn Road, Ellis Island,
Boston, To Hell or Connacht,
Dubai, Oz and Canada.
Skyping to your Da & Ma
My Ireland's calling...
"Tiocfaidh ár lá!"
My Ireland is pulling the Aran wool over the Yankee eyes,
while thanking its bus drivers since 1916.
My Ireland is worried that,
Dustin the Turkey and The Rubberbandits
deserve more plaudits for speaking the truth.
My Ireland is fearful of the litigious.
My Ireland is a religious delirious crowd and Synging Playboys,
in a post-truth Western-World…
My Ireland is full of notions, revelations framed in song
and the constellations of a plough under which we all belong.
My Ireland is Gerard Donnelly resting in the Phoenix Park
as Wellington's obelisk loom in the dark.
My Ireland is Glendalough, Lough Derg,
skirmishes, Skellig Islands and Star Wars.

My Ireland you are
The river rush of the
Corrib, Nore,
Foyle, Suir, Shannon,
Lagan, Lifey, Lee
And every tributary
Wash over me,
Wash over me,
Wash over me...

My Ireland, oh my,
you are Omagh!
Danny Boy in Loftus Road,
Good Friday, Bloody Sunday
An island in Trouble in shock
caught in the crosshairs of a Glock.
My Ireland is,
Tir gan teanga
Tir gan anam,
and hiding ammunition.
You are white in division,
all sides aiming for some Union...
My Ireland you are:
a Peace Bridge in StrokeCity,
a battle for some,
The Battle of Somme,
a Rising,
a Lily,
a Poppy,
a speech at Woodenbridge,
Others talkin' of leaching on Jobsbridge.
Ireland "is feidir linn!"
Oh yes we can, oh no you can't.
My Ireland's a Gaiety panto.
My Ireland's got the Fear.
Wondering why are we here?
Looking for a pot of gold under
The Cliffs of Moher.
My Ireland's postmodern,
self aware, more than a list poem!
Wandering like Bloom through
the Slieve Bloom and Mourne Mountains.
My Ireland is
Carrickfergus, Carrickmines
the Ring of Kerry, Boyne Valley,
Bunclody, Enniscorthy.
My Ireland you are:
waterways, wildlife, curlew.
You are:
a Seanchaí lament,
a Celtic Phoenix,
perpetual hubris.
Ireland you're not one to complain,
"Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin...."
My Ireland is,
taking the soup,
dropping the 'O',
Do you feel emancipated?
My Ireland you are:
Bosco knocking on a magic door
Zebo and the Haka in Thomond Park.
You are:
birdsong from a Lark,
Fenians, farmers, freemasons,
executions at Kilmainham Gaol,
you are UN peacekeeping
and speak of The Pale after
Kissing the Blarney Stone.
My Ireland wherever you roam,
you are always a Paddy a Biddy a Mick,
hailing from a Banana Republic.
My Ireland is getting the ride in Copper Face Jack's
and made Big Jack an honorary Irishman.
My Ireland is Anglo Irish
and playing GAA for the parish.
My Ireland is Glenroe and Joanne O'Riordan.
My Ireland you are
and aren't the Vitruvian male
and you're up for sale
at the right price.
My Ireland is
the lovely girls at the Rose of Tralee,
Mount Rose and TV3.
My Ireland will gobble you up!
It's obsessed with:
Clonakilty black pudding,
Superquinn sasuages,
bottom feeders,
Hunger Strikes,
1798 and pikes,
Black & Tans,
yips and yurts,
scapegoats, drive-bys,
fiscal crisis, Jesus, ISIS,
The Irish Elk, Ireland help!
Ireland, viral, Titanic, epidemic,
from Normans to Neither/Norism.
My Ireland is Archbishop Charles McQuaid,
enough said!

My Ireland you are
The river rush of the
Corrib, Nore,
Foyle, Suir, Shannon,
Lagan, Lifey, Lee
And every tributary
Wash over me,
Wash over me,
Wash over me...

My Ireland has erased
The Famine, The Great Hunger, The Emergency.
Let's not write our epitaph until we're all free.
My Ireland had a Centenary and got D.P..
My Ireland couldn't look its signatories in the eye.
My Ireland's:
ditties & songs,
sure we'll all sing along,
while Louis Walsh looms
and wooden spoons
cause national trauma.
My Ireland is saying RIP Billo,
and knows Dunphy's a spoofer.
My Ireland's trying to survive on the dole
and livin' off of chicken fillet rolls.
Ireland you are:
Happy Pears and Apple accounts.
Ireland you are still living in the past,
how long can this last?
Do you even understand Peadar Kearney's words?
Ireland invented by Declan Kiberd,
revived by Lady Gregory,
wants a portrait from Colin Davidson
but is scared of what it'll see…

Ireland you are:
Some woman's yellow hair,
Marty Morrissey's hair,
EU fishing quotas,
Bankers, bonuses,
Paddy Clarke HA HA, Enya,
Eircodes, uilleann pipes,
NAMA and the HSE,
a biscuit and stout industry,
Riverdance, The Walls of Limerick,
private islands, apologies,
Bog Poems, Blackberry-Picking, fermenting,
Wild Geese, Web Summits, Harps,
Jimmy X, All Kinds of Everything,
caught in a whirlpool spin.
You are part of the world,
look out
look within...

Mise Éire, Ireland, Hibernia,
you are all this
you are all this
and more!

My Ireland you are
trying to be all encompassing
and it's an impossible task.
So I ask you,
"what's your My Ireland?"
Ireland are you evolving,
Arising, an Aisling,
Ireland Arise!

Ireland from what I've heard
a great compassion
is calling you.
You have a teanga,
ao add your voice.
Ireland from what I know
a great courage
is in you.
So stand united rejoice.
Go back to the source, the flow,
forget mainstream.
Let out a roar,
I want to hear you scream:
"This Ireland is my land.
This Ireland is your land.
This island is our land."

And know I love you.
And know I love you.
I love you.
Sin é!
I'm trying to listen,
so what have you to say?

My Ireland you are
The river rush of the
Corrib, Nore,
Foyle, Suir, Shannon,
Lagan, Lifey, Lee
And every tributary
Wash over me,
Wash over me,
Wash over you,
Wash over us…


Twitter @SJSwords