An Áit Eile is delighted to present Part 3 of the Poet Performers’ series on emerging talent in the west of Ireland. These poets and spoken word performers are interested in doing performances in Galway City in the future, and we look forward to collaborating with them on future projects. We linked up with the performers and poets to ask them about their motivations, aspirations, influences, favourite orators and poets from history, recent changes in poetry and spoken word performances, favourite aspects of audience participation, improvisation, and plans for the future.

Laura Caffrey

Hi Laura. When did you start doing spoken word performances/poetry readings?

The first poetry reading I did was about 8 years ago at a Crannóg Launch upstairs in the Crane. It was the first time I had been published. Everyone else’s bios were full of previous success and all mine said was that I was a student in NUIG. I was shaking like crazy and I don’t think I took my eyes off the page the whole time. Thankfully I don’t find it quite so terrifying now. I still get nervous, but I think a bit of that is good.

What benefits do you experience from doing these live events?

You get to connect with people, see an immediate reaction to your work. I sometimes think I learn more about my own work from readings because different audiences can react in different ways to the same line or poem. That gives you insight. It’s also exciting to have the words live off the page. It’s an oral tradition – rhythm and rhyme helped people to remember narratives before reading was widespread. It’s kind of special to be part of such a long tradition. It’s also a great opportunity to meet people – to reach new readers, to meet other writers.

Can you give us examples of favourite orators from history that have influenced you?

Dylan Thomas is one of my favourite people to listen to reading his own work. He had a great command of tone, pace and cadence. Every word sounds rich and full of significance. I like Denice Frohman, she gives very energetic and entertaining readings. Hollie McNish, for how down-to-earth, heartfelt and funny her readings are. Some homegrown favourites to hear live – Louis de Paor, Séamus Barra Ó Súilleabháin and Elaine Feeney – the first time I heard a reading of Mass I was blown away.

Any changes in the way spoken word performances/poetry readings have been executed in recent times?

I think they have become more accessible, more playful. The Over the Edge open mic has been great for encouraging more people to get involved. The Far From Literature We Were Reared night at Cúirt has been a great break from constraint and convention, mixing poetry, music and storytelling.

What are your favourite aspects of audience participation?

Audience participation isn’t something I have personally experimented with, but I’ve been to readings where it’s worked really well. Whether it was a Q&A with the poet, or the audience learning and repeating parts of the poem like a chorus. When executed well it can really engage an audience.

Do you like to perform a piece as it has been scripted, or do you prefer doing ad lib pieces, improv etc?

I have a recurring dream where I am on stage to do a reading and all the pages in my hand are blank, so I am definitely more comfortable with sticking to the script. I need that security.

Do you like to do any warm-up exercises before you go on stage?

I go through what I want to say in my head over and over while I’m waiting to read. I don’t do any vocal warm-ups or anything, but I drink plenty of water.

What are you most passionate about – what motivates you when doing these spoken word performances/poetry readings? What outcomes do you aim to achieve, both for yourself and the audience?

Readings are the culmination of the all the hard work that goes into each poem. Writing can sometimes be a solitary endeavour, which I enjoy, but readings are exciting and social and I think a balance between those two modes is what keeps it interesting. When I’m on the audience side of things I always enjoy readings where I get a glimpse of a life experience or world that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise, or poems that feel comforting or affirming because they have an element of shared experience. If I can achieve anything close to that in my own readings that would be ideal.

Have you attended/performed at any poetry or spoken word festivals in Ireland?

I’ve both attended and read at Cúirt, JuneFest in Kildare and Culture Night.

Would you like to perform at events in Galway City in the near future?

I would love to read at events in Galway City.

Would you like to tell our readers anything else about any upcoming projects, gigs, competitions, etc?

I am working on a collection, we’ll see how it goes!

Do you have any videos/images of performances/URL links of your work in text or audio form that you’d like to include?

https://soundcloud.com/lauraannpoetry

Cathal Holden

Hi Cathal. What trends have you noticed in the way spoken word performances/poetry readings have been executed in recent times?

Spoken word in Ireland really has gone from strength to strength in the past few years. Massive international poets like Saul Williams and Shane Koyczan have been drawn over here by events like Lingo festival, and there are communities of seriously talented writers based around poetry nights all over the country. I think people are drawn to it because storytelling is built-in to people everywhere, and spoken word as we see it now is just a more modern expression of that innate need to tell stories. Sitting around the bar in O’Bhéal down in Cork with a pint and a notebook is as good as it gets anywhere.

What do you enjoy about these live events?

There is something special about spoken word for me. You get goosebumps when a beautiful line spills out its meaning for you and lets you see into the little world inside it. They say that poetry is the art of ‘expressing the inexpressible’ and I very much feel the truth of that. It’s a constructed image on top of image, and when done properly it’s revelatory. Built to speak to the heart, and to reward close listening. There are some poems I could listen to a thousand times.

 

Can you give us examples of favourite orators from history that have influenced you?

My own work varies quite broadly, but usually seems to fit in a few categories. I write stories which seem to focus mainly around the unexpected and the twist (I love Roald Dahl’s shorts for adults, and I definitely feel that influence there), I write humorous pieces and pieces about magic, love and reality; that kind of thing. I’m influenced quite a lot by the work of writers like Rumi and Kahlil Gibran, as well as more contemporary poets.

You can find some of my work online at www.facebook.com/CathalHoldenWriter and you can find a couple of my old pieces on Youtube. I’ve a couple of videos in the works so there’ll be something new up later in the year.

Paul McCarrick

 

 

Hi Paul. What do you love about doing these live events?

After doing a reading, it may sound silly, but you get a validation of your piece finally existing. I feel that a poem becomes an actual thing when it becomes public, in a similar vein to the idea “It’s not theatre until someone is watching.” There’s also a sense of sounding out the work in front of an audience. Finding different stresses or beats because of their reactions can lead to rewriting the piece to become better.

Can you give us examples of favourite orators from history that have influenced you?

Billy Collins has such a comforting tone to his readings, while equally hitting comedic and poignant beats too. George Saunders has a similar quality to his storytelling. Sara Baume is not only a wonderful writer, but a great performer. I saw her read a snippet of a piece she had in Granta 135 and was floored by the tempo, sounds and emotion that she managed in five minutes.

What are you most passionate about – what motivates you when doing these spoken word performances/poetry readings? What outcomes do you aim to achieve, both for yourself and the audience?

Once you make someone feel or react to what you have written and performed, it’s mission accomplished really. Just do justice. Ideally, you’d be aiming for a positive reaction, but if it’s negative, or if they’re energized or disengaged, it’s still an achievement.

Do you have any videos/images of performances/URL links of your work in text or audio form that you’d like to include?

I don’t have any links or videos, but if anyone was interested in reading any pieces I’ve done, they can see my stuff in the Boyne Berries, Skylight 47 and the latest edition of The Stinging Fly.

 

Melissa Eliers

 

Melissa Eliers divides her time between Ireland and Canada. She is originally from Vancouver, British Columbia.

Hi Melissa. Can you tell us about how you started out as a Spoken Word performer?

It was just a few years ago when I had my first Spoken Word performance. It wasn’t ever something I considered doing, but I was urged by a close friend who was adamant that I give a voice to my written work. So I eventually entered into the Poetry Slam at the 2015 Cúirt Literature Festival in Galway.

If I remember correctly, that performance was less than graceful and eloquent. As soon as I heard my name called and started walking towards the stage, my nerves came around. I’m sure I was stuttering though most of my poem; but I would not change it for anything.

Writing for me was always, and still is to an extent, a silent craft I hid away. After that one evening, it has become part of my identity. I have been writing seriously ever since.  

Can you tell us about any influences in your work?

I’m not sure I can say that there is any poet-storyteller-performer that I have been directly influenced by. However, every now and then, I read a collection of poems or piece of writing to which I feel an instant affinity.

Just recently, I stumbled upon some works by a Russian poet: Anna Akhmatora (1889-1966). There are few records left behind about her life so she remains a bit of a mystery to me, though her poetry and prose speaks loud enough to fill in the blanks.

 

“You will hear thunder and remember me,

And think: she wanted storms. The rim

Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson.

And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire”

 

(Excerpt from You Will Hear Thunder)

Beautiful. Can you tell us about any projects you’re currently working on/any projects in the pipeline?

At the moment, I am in the middle of a project that I have been working on for a few years now. It is a book, starting with the poem I read at that first Spoken Word performance. One poem turned into a collection. Slowly evolving over time into the storytelling of anonymous professions. Family, Friendships, Lovers, Connection.  A simple patchwork of poetry and prose. It is not quite finished yet, though I do hope to have it self-published some time in the near future.

Link: Facebook.com/melissalynn.honeybee

…Just a passage…

“You know those times when you are torn in two between this world and the next? As if a part of you is basking in the glow of honorary reincarnation. While the other remains preserved in mourning. Unable to chisel through to the other side. One wall is destroyed, to only reveal another. Forever surrounding the fortress around one’s heart.

It is a pain-filled reality of harrowing sorrow. Desperately awaiting an overdue eruption.

For this heart has seen the incarcerated secret of a future destined in an ultimate demise. It may perish under the sun light’s gaze. So it must remain hidden in dark mystery; perfectly preserved.”

Excellent – Thanks for taking the time out to speak with us, guys!

We look forward to curating future poetry readings and spoken word events in Galway for these poets, and raising awareness of their upcoming projects on our website. Happy Culture Night to one and all!

 

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