Ireland Now: The best spoken word in Ireland

No room for misty-eyed accounts of society in ‘The Creative Quarter’

Sarah Maria Griffin: her poem ‘We Face This Land’ inspired a video by Dave Tynan

Sarah Maria Griffin: her poem ‘We Face This Land’ inspired a video by Dave Tynan


We Face This LandSarah Maria Griffin

Sarah Maria Griffin’s poem inspired a video by Dave Tynan in support of the #repealtheeighth pro-choice campaign.

Cabra - Lewis Kenny

Kenny came to broader attention when he was appointed Bohemians FC first ever poet-in-residence, but that unlikely position belies the universal nature of his poetry, which is often very much based in place, and the beauty of community. There is a splendid simplicity and minimalism to Kenny’s work, which dispenses with hyperbole and is often strangely comforting. 

HeartbreakEmmet Kirwan

Kirwan’s feminist flow about autonomy developed as part of RIOT is a soaring piece of work. What could feel vaguely problematic – a guy talking about a young woman’s experience – perhaps even gains added power in its message, largely thanks to the empathy that is at the centre of much of Kirwan’s work.

Untitled – Felispeaks

Felicia Olusanyo from Longford’s searingly honest piece about gender identity and figuring out one’s femininity is raw and devoid of cynicism.

Electric PicnicJohn Cummins

Cummins is the real deal; a curious, musical, staccato flow, and brilliantly nostalgic and visceral tales of festival, childhood, football and chippers.

The Separation Women - Sian Ní Mhuirí

The Separation Women has been flooring audiences whenever it's performed. Beginning life as part of a bigger piece, it is now a standalone poem, and certainly holds its own. Mhuirí is a writer, producer and theatre director, and her show Aunty Ben, Ireland's first LGBT play for children, won the Allianz Community Arts Prize in 2015. As a spoken word performer, Ní Mhuirí is hugely charismatic and funny, drawing out punch-in-the-gut lines with fierce intelligence. Here’s an extract

On Easter Week, they knee-capped sites of centre-right control

They left the GPO, they didn’t want to fuck with Tuesday’s dole,

The first, behind the Four Courts,

Was a long abandoned site,

Second, they took Diageo,

Third, Barrow Street and Europe’s megabytes.

Fourth, they took God and choral music,

Though they were fought back to the crypts.

Fifth, but not least!

Someone finally took the Shelbourne,

From the diaspora nouveaux rich,

Sixth, they took the Blackpitts

The market place for bougie meals

And, to round off the Irish canon,

They took the peddlers of Friel.

They took the Abbey Theatre

Lately so down at heel.

And when they left they burnt it

Because, as the aftermath would show,

They felt free to burn the places

Where poor people rarely go.

The Sisterhoods demands were simple - they wanted it all.

They issued a challenge of dual-power to the thirty-second Dail.

Monday was the takeover,

They read the Proclamation,

They took their seven sites with minimal aggression,

But the place that always gave the Irish revolutionaries strife

Was, again, the fucking Blackpitts, The Fumbally,

And the ferocity of a Separation Wife.

For the Separation Wives

Have gained social status in their lives

From under-valued labour of the poor, female, and foreign,

That great benchmark of unrequited graft

On which we’ve built billion euro industries

Where richer men are staffed.

They filled the corridors of power,

The banks and Garda stations,

They were the free markets success stories

And they saw the rebels agitation

As a challenge to their livelihoods,

To order and to decency

To the natural selection of our income meritocracy.

The Separation women didn’t see that class division

As a great divide and conquer

And that - through internalised misogyny -

Poor women lose but rich women get stronger.

Because if the working classes care more,

And the working classes do,

Then a woman’s capacity to care

Is a class oppression, too.

If female is a lower class,

And it obviously is,

Then women are subject to

The standard second class crisis.

That if the wall of social status Is too hard to navigate

You can stem your rising panic

By insisting you, alone, are the mistress of your fate.

By amputating empathy for other mothers and young women

You can protect yourself from the harrowing truth

That without paycheques

And planned pregnancies

The world would hate you too.

They could distance themselves from these dissenting female voices

By making all bad girls the other, and therefore avoiding the bother,

Of gendered degradation

By making good life choices.

‘‘I’m sorry, but I will not apologise for my position.

We’ve got a mortgage that we went to university, and got jobs to pay for -

We’re the squeezed middle! The working poor!

Am I meant to apologise that I stayed at home to mind my two fantastic, well adjusted kids?

And some religious schools are better -

Am I expected to Educate Together

To get my children to Blackrock or Castleknock College?

And I know that rape and incest are problems,

But you don’t see me asking for abortion on demand.

I would have put Blathnaid up for adoption

after optional C-section

If the glove was on the other hand!

And I choose to wash the dishes, cook the meals and clean the clothes –

It’s a decision that I came to with my husband Richard – Richard? – Richard! – he’s in the other room …

We actually share a lot of chores!

And you can’t enforce ludicrous hysteria behind the closed doors

Of well-functioning families.

And I’m glad words like solidarity have been disowned in recent times,

It stops the Luas on bank holidays and reeks of picket-lines.

Oh, sugar, is that the time?

Got to collect Blathnaid from Grade three ballet.

Listen – I’ll be fucked if I see the day

That a sisterhood of socialists

Re-negotiates my pay.”

The Creative Quarter – Oisin McKenna

McKenna is one of the most promising spoken word artists in the country, who avoids misty-eyed accounts of society and instead cuts through with brilliant observational political commentary. We don’t have it online but here is the text:

The Creative Quarter

Are you an artist? Or a creative enterprise. Who’s seeking a mix of inner city poverty and high quality design.

Or are you a marketing exec that feels that by stepping over syringes you are partaking in an authentic Dublin experience?

Or are you a tech employee that feels your Snapchat, your tweets, and your Instagram feed are all slightly lacking that gritty, hard hitting urban feel?

Come to the Creative Quarter, where it’s all up for grabs. Little bits of space to be staked out and claimed. Brand new developments, still to be named.

There are no galleries now, in the Creative Quarter, but there are new restaurants opening on every corner, where the falafel is made from authentic Lebanese recipes and you can be assured that the meat is sourced ethically.

No buildings are to be squatted in the Creative Quarter. All water meters are to be installed without disorder. There will be no protest and no dissent. But there will be opportunities for artisanal, bespoke, dining experiences.

The last remaining artist studio in the Creative Quarter has now closed down. But in it’s place is a new cafe which according to Lovin Dublin provides among the top 5 brunch experiences in this part of town.

So if you have an entrepreneurial drive, take your entrepreneurial mind and bring it to the Creative Quarter, where you can sip €4 filter coffees and develop productivity apps using free wifi and your parents money.

In the Creative Quarter, you can use the word “synergy” constantly and completely unironically.

In the Creative Quarter, you can no buy longer €4 4-packs of Prazky in the Spar.

But in the Creative Quarter, you can now buy kale and beetroot based juices served in vintage style jars.

(If you bring the jar back you get 30c off your next order.)

In the Creative Quarter, you can queue around the corner when a new bakery starts selling a specially imported gluten neutral bread.

In the Creative Quarter, you can participate in a heated debate over a Totally Dublin op-ed that says Dublin’s creative flair is dead.

In the Creative Quarter, you can go on costly life coaching schemes so you can find your best self.

In the Creative Quarter, you can Instagram pictures of pulled pork and participate in events that feature panel discussions on the rise and rise of Dublin’s cafe culture.

In the Creative Quarter you can go through a new dawn for menswear.

The Creative Quarter is full of pop-up cafes, pop-gardens, pop-up microbreweries.

The Creative Quarter has no permanent place to put on your show. No permanent black box theatres, no permanent white space galleries.

The Irish Times have recently described the Creative Quarter as the Neukolln of the Northside.

When the artists moved into their studios at first they were barely just abandoned building sites.

There are now no artists left in the Creative Quarter. But there are many employees from Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

In the Creative Quarter, you can live on streets where once you would have been terrified to walk home at night alone. When you see a man in a tracksuit, you can discreetly put away your iPhone.

In the Creative Quarter, you can rant and you can moan about all the scobes they now let in to Body&Soul, and no-one will call you out for that.

In the Creative Quarter, it’s all up for grabs. You can instagram pictures of the ongoing demolition of some of the local council flats. When local kids shout at you “Hey Mister, I like your hat”, you can nervously laugh “ha ha” and check that your wallet is not missing from your bag.

In the Creative Quarter, there will be a task force established to stop the kids from the flats swimming in the canal.

In the Creative Quarter, there will be no task force established to stop the men who once were kids who swam in the canal from jumping into the Liffey and not coming back.

In the Creative Quarter, the boom is back. Sip your €6.50 IPA. The crisis never came to this part of Dublin 8.

Creative practice thrives during a recession. And the crisis, it never came to this part of Dublin 7.

In the Creative Quarter, those cranes in the sky are a sure sign of progress.

In the Creative Quarter, everyone is planning to start on a juice cleanse.

In the Creative Quarter, Fine Gael TDs pose for photo opportunities and claim the Creative Quarter is proof of the economic recovery.

The Creative Quarter will expel the last remnants of it’s creative community, which cannot exist where it cannot afford.

On this occasion the Arts Council cannot lend its support.

That community will try to stake out the last available space. On this occasion, it will not receive the support of the state.

But in the Creative Quarter, this is all absolutely ok, as long as we still appear creative in our advertising campaigns.

In the Creative Quarter, your creative needs, your cultural wants can be met with digital marketing and another fucking restaurant.

Come to the Creative Quarter, if your belief is firm, and true, and staunch, that it only counts as art if it has a product launch.

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