An Áit Eile is delighted to present Part 2 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.
Luke Morgan is a Galway-based poet. He is the founder of The Theatre Room Galway, a monthly performance of one-act plays. Set up in 2015, more than 150 original plays have been staged in various locations around Galway, engaging hundreds of local writers, actors and directors of all ages, backgrounds and experience levels. In November 2015, The Theatre Room was awarded an Emerging Artist Residency with Druid Theatre Company. In March 2017, TTR was the recipient of an Epic Award, to recognize the impact it has made in the community as a voluntary arts group.
Luke’s publications and projects: His debut poetry collection Honest Walls received a title-to-title bursary from the Arts Council and was published byArlen House in December 2016. He is also the director/writer of two short films accepted into Short Film Corner atCannes Film Festival: 2015 and 2016 (“Pockets” and “Heads or Tails”). “Heads or Tails” was also shown in competition in thePolish International Film Festival, theCork Film Festivaland theRichard Harris International Film Festival. In January 2017, Luke established “Project Spatula“; a filmmaking collective that is committed to making one short film per month. All of the films are shot with virtually no budget. They are currently workshopping a feature-film script which they plan to shoot during July/August 2017.
Luke’s poems and short stories have been published in numerous literary journals, both in Ireland and abroad; including UK’s “Poetry Review”, “Poetry Ireland Review”, the “Irish Independent” and “Cyphers”. In June 2016, Luke represented Galway Film Centre at the Screen Talent Europe Pitching Forum in Grimstad, Norway. A forum with 15 participants across all of Europe, Luke was chosen to pitch his short film “Sparky Lives” to an audience of international financiers.
In addition, An Áit Eile is delighted to present Luke’s poem Key below:
On the corner of Van Woustraat
street, there is a shop
that sells keys to all of the houses
The keepers, fresh-faced and polite
as secret holders, stand in front
of a wall that has every variation
of teeth-raggedness you’ll need;
they require only the address.
Co-ordinates will do,
but not paint colour, street descriptions
or the sound a door makes
when it closes on all you hold dear.
Mrs. Wurst’s are there, hanging
near the top left in a section marked
“vintage”, and the Lord Mayer’s
are in the “restricted” area
as well as, it’s rumoured,
Van Gogh’s and Robert De Niro’s.
Once you’ve selected, the keys
are put onto a scales.
Hotel cards typically weigh less,
the old rustics for the canal homes,
more. It’s like the M&Ms store in
Times Square. You tottle off
down the street with your paper bag
full of sugar-glazed colour.
You hold them close to your chest,
grow dizzy with all the lives
they open into.
Teresa is a poet from Co. Galway. She read at Over The Edge in September 2014 as a featured writer. Her website is www.teresasweeney.com, where she has shared some short fiction, poetry and articles that have been published in online and print journals and magazines.
(Teresa) ‘I was lined up with fantastic writers of fiction and poetry. It was so exciting! There is a buzz from storytelling that is addictive. People are generous in their attention and praise. The reason I love writing fiction is because it can take you anywhere. I have pen control over loves and lives! When I write, it always starts with a sentence prompt, and I let it take me where it wants!’
Benefits Teresa experiences from doing these live events: Teresa has read at a couple of open mic events. She remembers the first reading with Over The Edge in 2014, and how empowered she felt in her writing, when ‘people laughed out loud where I had hoped they would. I was so nervous that time, I don’t think I looked up from the pages in front of me even once! My confidence has grown since. Writing is a solitary experience, and for me, it is too easy to get lost in that confinement. Reading to an audience releases that pressure; it brings a story to life. It is an honour to share it with people, to gauge first-hand their reactions to what I’ve written.’
She adds: ‘Going to plays and seeing other writers perform is so inspiring. Plays are literature performed, a future road I hope to go down! There is a real sense of camaraderie among writers in Galway. It is alive with talent, and there is a hunger for more. I feel that interest in events like Over The Edge and the Cúirt Festival are growing.’
Alvy’s debut as a spoken word performer: ‘It wasn’t really a conscious decision. When I first moved to Dublin I joined the Dublin Writers’ Forum. This was mostly a workshop, and through it I met a lot of writers/poets from all over the place. A lot of them seemed to go along to readings and open mics etc, so I tagged along. Eventually I started getting up and stuttering, sometimes I would flee from the stage, and often I went entirely blank. It became a kind of challenge; I noticed that performance poets kept the crowd’s attention longer; often someone reading from the page doesn’t emote as much, and it can be hard to focus. So, at some point, I started learning the poems by heart, and that was it really. They were definitely all born on the page though, and performing was more my way of reading it, than an attempt at slam poetry.’
Benefits Alvy experiences from doing these live events: ‘I think it’s seeing the reaction. Figuring out which poems work in a setting and don’t. Finding that one person in the audience that has been sucked in by the words. I honestly never thought it would be the sort of thing to happen, but people are so grateful and passionate about words and stories. You stand there and tell them yours, then afterwards – maybe straight away, or perhaps in an email days later – they tell you theirs.’
Influences: ‘There are so many great ones on this island alone. Stephen James Smith, Sarah Clancy, Elaine Feeney, John Cummins, Anne Tannam, Erin Fornoff, Sarah Griff, Cormac Fitz, Ciara é, Stephen Clare, Paul Timoney, Lewis Kenny, all come to mind immediately, but it’s hard to recall everyone. You see these poets get up and reach out, and it’s hard not to respond to that. I guess like everyone else I’ve watched a lot of the YouTube stuff too; there’s some channels like Button Poetry or Def Poetry that have interesting poetry. I also love to listen to the poems read aloud on the New Yorker podcast (wow!); and on this island there are events outside of poetry, like Moth & Butterfly, which provide a platform for storytellers. Catherine Brophy and Dave Rudden are two people I discovered through storytelling nights, but one thing I love about those events is that anyone can get up. Some eight-year-old kid will hijack the whole thing with an impromptu story about his teacher. That’s what I love: the connection. Suddenly you’re sitting there listening to someone tell you things they might never normally tell a stranger.’
Alvy’s observations on changes in Spoken Word trends: ‘I think they’re more inclusive now. There’s more young people, bigger demographics, different kinds of voices and that’s important. There’s music, comedy and stories mixed in. There’s a real sense of community and acceptance behind it all. You can wander into Slam Sunday in Dublin or First Fortnight, or Over the Edge in Galway and there are these kids standing up and talking about mental health issues, about sexuality, about repealing the eighth. There’s angry kids and sad kids and funny ones, and they are all being listened to. When I was eighteen that’s not something that was possible, and now it’s there, and I hope that it’s growing.’
Favourite aspects of audience participation: ‘Hearing their stories and knowing that the words worked, because some part of my memory triggered something in theirs. I’m not really a natural performer, so for me the aim was always to get the poems heard. It seemed like getting in front of a room of people was the best way to do that. You can get it in print, but how many people (who are not writers of some sort) actively go about buying poetry journals?’
Spoken Word and Poetry Events Attended: ‘I think I’ve been featured at most of them… there’s big opportunities for emerging poets. So, Electric Picnic, Body & Soul, Cúirt, Doolin, Lingo, most of them. I did a few years of gigging a lot, there were suddenly loads of us and tons of events all over the country. I’ve even performed in New York (on broadway! but in the library!) and at Edinburgh Fringe. I used to get frightened by the big names of those kinds of events, but you find that if you work hard, people get to know you, and then doors open up all over the place. You won’t just get asked, you’ve got to apply, and get rejected, and introduce yourself to people, and post poems online, and enter competitions and slams and get yourself out there. But if you do all that, then I think any poet wanting to feature at those festivals will get there.’
Projects: ‘Well, can I direct people to my book on the Salmon website, it’s called Falling in love with broken things. I’ve also written a novel-length epic poem called The Men I keep under my bed (and the first chapter of it will be featured in the Poetry Ireland Review), and I need to look into getting the full thing published. I’m working on a YA novel as well, which needs a lot of TLC, so that will keep me occupied; and I’ve a little stash of work building up that I need to start submitting. I also plan to try my hand at travel writing in South Korea…but whether or not that’s something I can do remains to be seen.’
Aodán’s current practice is improvised performance/writing/drawing; making particular use of the body as instrument for and articulation of writing. His PhD is on ‘Physicality Doubt and Action as Articulation of the Contemporary Poem’. He opened the Performance Month at Beton7 in Athens 2015 and facilitated the launch of the Performance Philosophy Centre at the University of Surrey in September 2016. Aodán is also a member of Collaborative/Improvisational Performance group Cuislí.
His work stems from two main dynamics of practice: improvisation and collaboration.
Aodán: ‘For about six years, the poetry I made was improvised during live performances from notebooks or other found materials and research materials. My last book ‘IS ing’ was produced as a consideration of how listening to those performances might be made available on the page in graphic form. Improvisation initially allowed me, to some degree, to bypass taste and prescribed knowledge as arbiters of right and wrong within writing, and has developed to be a dynamic thinking in action such that even my own prejudices and fears while I’m writing come under scrutiny.’
Influences: ‘I decided to do a degree in English Literature to find an avenue for my critical interests, and the only college offering a complete degree at night, so that I could still work full-time, was Birkbeck. Within that field of study the Professor offering courses on contemporary poetry was William Rowe, and I also met Stephen Mooney; and if I had to choose the two most important writers in English at the moment, I think those are the two, but at that point I knew none of the writers who were to become my constellation of influences. William Rowe introduced me on that course to the writing of Barry MacSweeney, Lee Harwood, Maggie O’Sullivan, Denise Riley, and then we set up workshops lead by Ulli Freer.’
(Poets): ‘William Rowe, Stephen Mooney, Ulli Freer, Maggie O’Sullivan, Bob Cobbing, Frank O’Hara.’
(Other Influences) : ‘Charles Olson (Writer and Teacher), Cezanne, R.B.Kitaj.’
Aodán: ‘I have a postcard of a painting by Sandra Blow and a memory of an exhibition of sculptures/installation by Doris Salcedo which stick with me.’
Projects: ‘Eventually when I started a PhD I met Piers Hugill who set up LUC London Under Construction and invited Stephen Mooney and myself to become part of that improvisational (as Piers described it) ‘anti-performance’ collective. At that point I was also attending the Writers Forum series of workshops set up by Bob Cobbing. We later set up Veer Books and I’m still one of the editors of there.’
Aodán adds: ‘I’ve had the chance to do performances in America and Europe, and in the last few years have found more opportunities for my kind of work in Ireland. I performed at The Béal Festival in Dublin 2012 and at The Triskel’s Black Mariah Gallery in 2013, at Soundeye Festival Cork last year and this year at The Mountains to the Sea festival for Gorse Journal. As part of Cuislí, where I collaborate with artists Áilbhe Hines and Bernadette Hopkins, we just did a long performance, about 6 hours, at the Damer House Gallery in Roscrea, Tipperary, where we also had residue and installations from three previous shows on display for the month of June. We’ll also be doing a performance/talk/workshop there for Culture Night in September and I’m just finishing my next book.’
PhD: ‘My PhD was on ‘Physicality, Doubt and Action as Articulation of the Contemporary Poem’, and it came out of trying to write about the work of Frank O’Hara as a special project for my degree. My PhD became about by creating a language that might allow me to explore aspects of O’Hara’s work that seemed, to me at least, impossible within the academy at that point. In parallel to that it became about exploring the possibilities available to me for my own work, and just as I needed to talk about artists such as Cy Twombly, Richard Long, and composers like John Cage, in order to deal with issues the English Academy didn’t have language for. My own work drew on the visual and movement and the body as extensions of the written word on the page, and its consequent sound as oral and aural aspects of language.’
Aodán has two books, Shuddered and ISing from VEER; and online chapbook LllOoVvee, Smithereens Press.