Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Poetry Ireland Introductions : Glóry be!

Off to the Irish Writers Centre last night, for the first reading in the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series 2010. Four poets read, each a very distinct and individual voice and the overall effect was an enjoyable, rich and varied evening of new poetry, well presented and warmly received. Judging by the quality on offer, I'd recommend making the effort to get along to the other readings in the series, tonight and Thursday.

Joe Woods of Poetry Ireland gave each poet the briefest of introductions, leaving their own voices to do the talking. Andrew Caldicott kicked things off. A former Dub, now well settled in Wexford, I became familiar with his work a few years back from the mutually encouraging ambience of the Poetry Ireland forum (a resource which seems to have unfortunately lost some of its brio of late). Andrew's work is considered, crafted and concerned with the shadows of history, travel and family. He read a body of warm, poignant poems, sourced from the soul, but with their feet firmly in the physical world.

Jessica Colley came next, a US expat, exceptionally well-travelled in her guise as travel writer, but longtime resident in Dublin. I've bumped into Jessica at workshops over the last few years, but hearing her read a body of work tonight really brought her particular voice into focus. Fragmentary and atmospheric, her poems conjured shades of their subjects as if layered together from ricepaper.

Then came Martin Dyar, winner of this year's Patrick Kavanagh award (for an unpublished collection). When this poet's first collection hits the shelves it is going to make a very big impact indeed! I'd read some of his work, yet here again his overall presentation brought new levels of poetics to the mix. Sometimes a misjudged performance style can overpower a poet's work - here the poems flourished under supremely confident iteration - his subjects never allowed to overwhelm their honed colloquial voices. This was seriously crafted material, merging the structure of tradition with the workings of today's language; formal scaffolding folding into some very original organic expression.

Peter Goulding had the unenviable task of following these three distinct voices. Within a minute, he had the room in the palm of his hand. With a track record in humorous poetry, the manner and ease of this prolific writer was apparent from the off. Irreverant, and with a fair smidgin of cheekiness, his work nevertheless displayed a depth and ability which respected subject, tradition and audience. A fitting end to as enjoyable an evenings poetry as I've experienced in yonks.

Kudos too to the Poetry Ireland crew, for their lowkey organisation and upfront hospitality.

Out the door of the IWC and the night was still young, so it seemed only logical to head across the Liffey to the Glór session, hosted - as ever - by the ebulient Stephen James Smith. I've been meaning to get to this gig for a while now. Along with Nighthawks at the Cobalt, The Brownbread mixtape, Milk and Cookies and others, Glór is part of a vibrant landscape of "old school craic" as Kalle Ryan would have it.

Being on a tight (public transport) schedule meant we couldn't stay all night, but we caught SJS himself, Eddie Keegan's street-rap-rousing, Hitman Lord's (Lord Hitman's?) urbanbeatnik ballads, Lou McMahon's whirlygig, ethereal splashsongs and the ever-mighty Bernie O'Reilly (of the Valentine poets) with fistfuls of pared back scenes of peacefulness and empowerment. A packed house. A positive vibe.

Two quite different gigs, so many different voices - and all on a mild Monday evening for the price of a few pints and a bus ticket! Folks, there's a lot to be thankful for. The weathers getting better for a start. Might be time to get off that computer and out that door!