Here’s poet and Lingo Co-founder Colm Keegan with some thoughts on how an Irish Poetry Slam might not be what you think it is…
First things first, we need to make a few distinctions. There’s poetry slams, and then there’s Slam poetry.
Cynthia! Cyn. Tee. Aaaah! We’ve all seen the scene in 22 Jump Street where Jonah Hill brilliantly parodies slam poetry. I think it’s brilliant because it’s so familiar. The quintessential dodgy performer leaping around winging it or ‘indulging’ him or herself. It’s funny because it’s true.
True to a point – because yes, there’s a recognisable, easily mimicked slam poetry style. But it’s an American style. It’s a style that developed out of the Slam scene there. Watch Button Poetry for more than a few videos and you’ll start to see the formula. Sometimes it’s great, but sometimes it all gets a bit, well, samey. But that’s elsewhere, not here. In Ireland, something else is happening. Before I get on to what’s happening, allow me to digress.
I was talking to an older American poet before and she said she couldn’t live anywhere other than Ireland because it was ‘one of the last places on earth where people still know how to talk to each other.’ Tell that to the Irish kids who grow up never able to talk to their fathers, I thought, but I think in a global context, she was onto something.
Maybe it’s the turf or the Guinness or the fifty shades of rain but in Ireland we are Gods of conversation. People are supposed to be seventy percent water, but in Ireland because we talk so much, I think we’re more seventy percent poetry. Maybe it’s our location, hanging on for dear life on the edge of the old world. We’re only half here, as if given the right circumstances, we might just trot off to Tir Na nOg. It makes us a bit mystical, a bit lyrical.
And we can’t open our mouths without saying something beautiful.
OK maybe it might just be a beautiful put down, but let’s look at that too.
We are Gods of another thing here in Ireland – slagging. American-style straight-shooting self-righteous stuff doesn’t fly here for that reason and the new wave of poetry writers here know it.
Someone once said that to own a stage you have to be undeniable, UN-DE-FUCKING-NIABLE. That’s an american way of saying you have to give yourself a proper slagging in advance, to galvanise your work. In Ireland we are experts at that before we are out of nappies, and that self awareness manifests itself in real quality writing.
And (end digression) that’s what’s really different here. The writing. On December 30th in the Magistorium, the new venue on Dublin’s South Anne Street, the NYF Poetry Slam will take place. But the poets competing won’t be slam poets. Not in the American sense. They’ll be quality writers, brilliant poets who aren’t writing to win competitions, but who’ve simply copped on that the best way to get your poem out there is to perform it, to embody it, to deliver it in person. Writer Stephen Camden AKA Polar Bear said that spoken word is ‘writing for your own mouth,’ and that’s what you’ll see if you come along. A poetry slam in Ireland is a spotlight on the broad church of irish poetry, all of it’s diverse voices brought together in the spirit of live celebration. And being MCed by comedian Colm O’ Regan, it will be great craic too.
Here in Ireland we’ve taken the slam format and twisted it to suit ourselves. Like what we did to the english language. When asked in an interview why Ireland has so many good writers, Donal Ryan said that ‘we twisted and corrupted and broke the English language apart, to fit our being, to rest comfortably on our tongues.’ We did that to a language, and we’re doing that to slam as well.
Lingo festival is curating two events on 30th December as part of NYF Dublin 2016:
NYF POETRY SLAM – 6.30 – 8.30pm
Critically acclaimed comedian Colm O’ Regan will MC this year’s slam, an eclectic mix of everything from the comical to the contemporary, bringing some of Ireland’s best and most exceptional spoken word performers to the live stage.
TONGUE FU – 9.15 – 11.30pm
A riotous experiment in live literature, music, and improvisation featuring Karl Parkinson, Sorcha Fox, Dylan Coburn Gray and more. Tongue Fu is one of the liveliest and best attended spoken word nights in London and live in Dublin for one night only.
Both events will take place in the Magistorium. A magnificent new venue reincarnated from the old energies of McGonagles & The Crystal Ballroom. It’s nestled behind the blue door of number 22 South Anne Street.
(c) Colm Keegan
Colm Keegan is a writer and performance poet from Dublin, Ireland. Since 2005, he has been shortlisted four times for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award, for both poetry and fiction and won the All Ireland Poetry Slam in 2010.
In 2011, he was nominated for the Dublin Fringe’s ‘Little Gem’ Award for the spoken word play he co-wrote with Stephen James Smith and Kalle Ryan – Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About – which has toured Ireland and sold out in Bristol, London and Paris.
In 2015 he was awarded a residency in the LexIcon, Ireland’s largest public library.
He is a creative writing teacher and co-founder of the Inklinks Project, a creative writing initiative for young writers.
His debut collection, Don’t Go There, was released in 2012 to critical acclaim.
He is a joint director and founder of Lingo, Ireland’s first Spoken Word festival.
Find out more about Colm at:
LINGO A spoken word festival: http://www.lingofestival.com/
Colm’s book ‘Don’t Go There: http://www.salmonpoetry.com/