When poetry is your life, where do you go when so many people believe that poetry is dead—entombed in dusty books, resurrected by English teachers to frighten young minds with the arduous task of memorizing archaic lines, and creeping out at open-mics in basement cafes of college towns?
Go to Ireland, Poet, where poetry is fresh, vital, and so alive, it’s green. And listen as similes and metaphors astound and abound in every story you hear from a bar stool to a street corner. The Irish are renowned for having a long love affair with language. Their linguistic entanglement with poetry is every inch a physical attraction as poetry bares the body of thought in a way that both reveals and gives way to imagination.
Unfortunately, only two ears and one body make it impossible to hear all the great poets in Ireland –the chatty cabbies, the old friends at the back of the bus, the man who returned his ham sandwich because it nearly cut his throat. My advice is to head to Obheal to find the highest concentration of poetry and poetry lovers in the largest and most rebellious county, Cork.
Obheal means “by word of mouth” in Irish, and its success stems from its commitment to remain true to this very basic and fundamental understanding of poetry. Everyone is welcome and every performer and listener shares and connects along this open, continuous conversation on life called poetry and story-telling.
Paul Casey, a talented and gracious poet, founded Obheal six years ago, and his warm, generous spirit lifts The Hayloft into a space where art and artists thrive. He devised a three-part formula for the evening which stimulates and surprises even the regulars after 301 Obheals and counting.
The evening dawns with a five-word challenge to spark creativity and friendly competition to win the esteem of fellow writers, a free pint, and two books of poetry. All five-word poets are encouraged to submit their poems to the Five Word Anthology, published annually.
Obheal ripens with a reading by a renowned guest poet from Ireland or abroad, many of whom offer workshops in The Hayloft preceding Obheal. The night concludes with an enthusiastic open-mic; but, as you know, Poet, poetry does not end and neither does Obheal—they merely pause to take a breath.
The Hayloft, upstairs of The Long Valley Bar
10 Winthrop Street, Cork City
Mondays 9:30pm to midnight
Emily Davis-Fletcher is from Missouri, USA. She received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Stephens College in 2006. In 2008, she earned a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies from NUI, Galway. She has read her poetry on local radio and at numerous events. She lives in Cork, Ireland, and is a co-organiser with Cork Feminista. She writes regularly for Some Neat Things and has recently been published in Southword.