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Meet the people making poetry cool again in Ireland

Lingo Festival takes place in Dublin this weekend.

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People can be dismissive about poetry’s role in society, it has a lot of baggage as being an uncool thing but everybody has a poem that hits them at one point in their lives. – Colm Keegan

IF YOUR LAST brush with poetry was thumbing through Soundings in secondary school, a festival on this weekend aims to bring you bang up to date.

Lingo Festival is all about breaking down barriers when it comes to the spoken and written word, and this weekend its events in Dublin will see a range of wordsmiths performing their own work or chatting about their favourite poems.

One of the organisers behind Lingo is poet and writer-in-residence at DLR Lexicon in Dun Laoghaire, Colm Keegan.

About a year ago a bunch of poets got together and decided we wanted to do the festival. The scene was amazing and a little bit underground. There was so much going on, it was time to shine a light on it.

The aim of the festival is to put a spotlight on Irish poetry and spoken word, and to bring a bit of professionalism to it. It’s also about creating links between performers here and abroad.

Keegan has seen more and more spoken word events pop up around Ireland, and more young people get involved.

“It seems to be getting momentum, and we wanted to catch that and focus that,” he said.


The non-profit festival will also help raise money for Childline through one of its events, Hero Hour, which will take place in Smock Alley Theatre on 18 October.

That will see well-known people like Temper-Mental MissElayneous, Aengus Mac Grianna and Senator David Norris reading their favourite poems and chatting to presenter Sean Rocks about why they chose them.

Keegan said that he is a product of Ireland’s spoken word scene, who started off attending free nights before becoming a performer himself.

In Ireland, poetry is an ancient tradition, said Keegan. “We have poetry in our blood.”

He believes that poetry is “just waiting there to grab people when they’re ready” – he said you don’t have to popularise poetry, as “people find the poetry when they need it”.

Why so popular?

Why is spoken word so popular these days?

“I think it’s just part of another wave of something that hadn’t been going on for a while. Around the time of the recession, when that happened a lot of these nights popped up, like Ireland was looking to find something in itself again. It’s an inclusive, accepting forum.”

Though there is an element of slam poetry to some of the Irish spoken word, the country has taken this and made it its own, he added.

Events such as Nighthawks and the Brown Bread Sessions have brought poetry and spoken word performances to a new audience, helping to popularise them.

Keegan points to people as diverse as Robert Emmet, Martin Luther King and Barack Obama as examples of how the “ancient art of oratory and rhetoric” is powerful and appeals to people, how “a man or woman can stand there and energise people”.

LINGO Festival will be spread across four Dublin venues, Smock Alley Theatre, The Workman’s Club, Roasted Brown Cafe and the Liquor Rooms, from 17 – 19 October.

Festival headliners include UK slam sensation Polarbear, inaugural LINGO Poet Laureate John Cummins, Derry poet Abby Oliveira, Liberties based Karl Parkinson and current Chair of Irish Poetry Paula Meehan.

Find out more about ticket prices and events at

Read: Here are Irish people’s 10 most fondly-remembered school books>

Read: Clive James wrote a beautiful poem about dying and it’s going viral>

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