Thursday, May 12, 2016

Director of Slam's Tenth Annual Address.

All Ireland Poetry Slam. Facebook. Dublin. 

Thanks very much for all the birthday best wishes and gestures of virtual support for the AIPS on Facebook.

It was nine years ago today, six organisers brought first an all island slam music to happen and play in the mouth of the sandbanks, at the inaugural Ulster final in McHugh's boozer, Belfast.

A hastily arranged and supremely successful, minimal-fuss organisational effort, won for Connacht by Liverpool poet Brendan Murphy.

Who'd only begun writing and competing in the live poetry Slam form months before, and so had a whirlwind journey from the beginning to an early summit of the creative and emotionally dizzying all-island champion-ness all seventy-two provincial and nine on our All Ireland winners' roster have experienced over the decade of this now very well established seasonal Samhain fixture and annual series of competitive live poetry events.

One that has gifted context, cash, and a potentially lucrative All Ireland live poetry title to many of our contemporary slam stalwarts, who began getting invited to join in at the top-table of literary Ireland after the post-economic Crash and shift in cultural mood from a whatever you say say nothing poetic, and quiet school of ersatz certitude, where every narrator of a pre-2008 Irish poem was a native Trinity speaker, situated in a Tuscany villa stiltedly musing on arcane and abstruse topics in a uniformly timorous literary tone of the minor personal epiphany popular at that time of incredibly delusional ostentation and excess - to a wider and more socially inclusive, less culturally crass, formal, mundane or corporately manufactured bardic band of less quiet and more vocally insistent bravely outspoken linguistically innovative working-class voices representing the come all ye and let it hang out wave and wing of autodidactic Ireland.

That gained entry to the citadel of mythic literary Tuatha De Danann dream-music on their own merit and distinction, but were unified and drawing a primary context - during the early (2007-12) formative years - from the slam form and poetic that established itself organisationally as a fully democratic and successfully operating minimally costed culturally ennobling fixture that has been a faithfully nurturing supportive, and transparently fair vehicle free for all the practitioners of this oral re-connection, with which many now superlative poets have been blessed, served by and journeyed in to the upper floors and delivered gift-wrapped and gratis, ennobled as our all island live bardic slam champions, to the doors, desks and reception nodes of official Ireland poetry.

Now firmly elevated, emerged and fully embraced in the arc of reality that began as an idea in the mind of one man, a democrat republican from Dublin Palmerstown, Gerry MacNamara, founder of the seminal penultimate pre-Facebook, Glór, Monday Echo and Circle Sessions weekly underground Dublin poetry open-mic, Write and Recite (2004-8), advertised solely by handbill flyer and word of mouth, and at which there were no featured poet slots, and all those who put their name on a first come first on list, got the same amount of minutes at the mic.

The Slam birth in Belfast nine years ago today was wholly against the then very exclusive insular ultra-conservative self-serious cultural grain, and was reliant on little more than no money whatsoever, and a brilliantly creative idea implemented to perfection by the intellectual genius of the first final's lead organiser, Belfast poet Mark Madden.

Who retired from this voluntary role some years ago, and nominated as his replacement the very able, and now very experienced Tyrone poet, Colin Dardis.

Though condescendingly considered by more snooty, subsidised latte-sipping cluelessly simpering and timidly huddled non-speculative silently disengaged posers on the official Ireland arts bodies' circuit at the time as a debased and meaningless mongrel form of AIPS competition and slanguage that contained no literary merit, a cashless oafic assembly of professionally depressed nerdowells and outcasts; this lazy, visionless phantasmagorical projection and deliberately mis-characterised perspective was poetically swept swiftly aside by a 2008/9 Cleena wave knocking culturally off their perch and displacing a suddenly irrelevant school of state-sponsored crony-poet lovers gorging uninterrupted in quietude for decades at the official literary arts trough.

By unleashing to public prominence a wholly new and Rising tide of linguistically innovative slam radicals, and lifting to their stations a next generation of live poetry voices in what is now a well established and ongoing social-media driven vehicle for re-connection with the oral bardic culture.

Speaking in a style of metrically rendered folk voice presenting on its own merit this hitherto unfashionable free-form of multi-various rhythm and oral poetry, in a form of spoken song with which -- as an English outsider and mature post-graduate fourth year student barely at bardic grade one (of seven) and a focloc beginner arriving in the deepest depths of Ireland's most recent collective cultural delusion at the height of the economic boom, with nothing but a newly acquired Edge Hill BA in Writing Studies and Drama, and eagerly launching oneself into the live poetry Dublin scenes in July 2004, experiencing the cultural and personal joyousness common with returning English plazzies -- I created this competition eighteen months after first arriving and marvelling with comedic un-containment at the bonkersness of the poetry folk here.

At the very point I became the local live WaR poetry scene's loony-in-chief of boozy cultural disruptiveness, in which this competition was conceived, in the belly of drunken social shame and moral mortification, as a personally created gift and apology to Gerry MacNamara, and vehicle with which I was hoping to wheedle a way back into his open-mic poetry and weekly WaR event, that one's alcoholic rendition of Come Out Ye Black and Tans had got barred from the Duke pub in Dublin five weeks into what Gerry was expecting to become a permanent weekly residency; eighteen months into Write and Recite's four year verbal brawl round some of Dublin's most iconic pre- and post-crash literary drinking establishments.

This is the datum and base from which the idea of an all island slam was created and could only rise above. And has continued to do so successfully over the previous crazee decade of poetic triumph and debacle, belief and despair, hope and faith in this one mad idea born in the pit of a personal sorrow this annual public roller-coaster emerged out from and resolved in a light of self-lit poetic positivity that is now ten years on from its first incarnation.

A dream and idea turned into living reality and truth by this guardian bardic bore (Kevin Desmond), AIPS creator, and lore-steward custoding the Poetic Tradition of the All Ireland Poetry Slam's Senchus Mór.

In which a slam poem is primarily the spoken cultural object rendered in any of the dizzying myriad yet unmistakably Irish spoken forms of Cuchulainary verbal magic taught from the Tuatha Dé Danann tongues of such mighty oaks as all those that have wore and won the annual crown of this eminently authentic live prestigious poetry process and organisational lesson-maker with which many of our finest and most successful younger live poets have created and found their own spoken song.

And out from, within, and with which, as the late great Padraic Fallon translated the otherworldly words of blind 18C Connacht slam-poet equivalent, and last of the wandering bards, the autodidact Mayo poet, Anthony Raftery: 'one can find the well by their wet footprints, and make one's soul!'

(pipes by Joanie Madden)

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