It was Sheer Poetry

The following article by our honorary secretary and committee member, Angela Murphy, first appeared in Skerries News on 1 October 2021.

ON Seamus Heaney’s headstone is a quotation from one of his poems:

walk on air against your better judgement

Reflecting on the the second Fingal Poetry Festival that took place over four days in and around Skerries last week, something of that exhortation, to be both grounded and at
the same time to be in the world of the imagination, is still vibing me.

The Fingal Poetry Festival grew from being a strand in the fondly remembered Soundwaves Skerries Arts Festival into Poetry at the Mills, an annual evening of poetry and music, to a fully formed festival, with a tricky birth during Lockdown in September 2020.

This year’s festival felt like a celebration of so much more than poetry and music, as the sense of connection from being at live events again, restored something powerful in both performers and audiences, in quite tangible and often magical ways.

Ivy Bannister and Irish Sign Language interpreters

A personal highlight was the opening night, at Skerries Mills courtyard, where most of the live events took place. ISL interpreters performed with poet Ivy Bannister as she read, and their embodied communication amplifyied and transmitted in a way that made my mind and body still in utter awe.

The Fingal Poetry Festival has a simple goal and that is to bring the leading exponents of poetry to the communities of Fingal with as much imagination as possible – and to facilitate the people of Fingal to engage with poetry in all its many forms.

This year’s offerings included a colossal illuminated projection on the gable wall of Skerries library featuring three haikus, two in English, one in Irish by poet and festival artistic director Enda Coyle-Green, and poet and festival Irish language co-ordinator
Ceaití Ni Bheildiún; readings and conversations with leading Irish poets; film poems; and a poetry slam evening where the festival’s slam champion was crowned.

There were poems by school children on benches around Skerries; poetry in shop windows;
poetry trails quizes; ‘poetry in a van’ bringing poetry and music to nursing homes at Lusk and Loghtshinny; and the Fingal Poetry prize and An Fiach Dubh winners were unveiled.

There was a family poetry fest; poetry workshops online; poetry picnic; children’s workshop; even ‘Dial a P for Poet’ with an actor/ writer performing a new piece in your garden.

How do you measure the success of the festival – audience numbers? Social media posts? It is not possible to capture the expansions of heart and mind, the connections made and truths realised, the joy made contact with, the reach of any of it in terms of connecting with individual and collective creativity and inner resources.

But hopefully our values of inclusivity, equality, diversity and openness were evident across the festival and will guide us as we continue to grow in showcasing new areas of poetry and performers, and in reaching new and overlooked audiences.

We are deeply grateful to the Arts Council for its support in endorsing our vision and for its
financial support, as we are to our sponsors, DHL and Country Crest and to Fingal County Council who have been so enabling since the first stirrings of this festival.

With the inspiring leadership of Ernestine Woelger, festival director, the Fingal Poetry Festival committee is already begininng to look to 2022 and considering how to build on this year’s creative foundations.

Angela Murphy is hon. secretary of the Fingal Poetry Festival

The winning poem of the 2021 Fingal Poetry Prize

Shipwrecked
By ANNE F O’REILLY
The kitchen upside down —
scones and cakes pulled from the air.
I remember her singed hair,
the day the gas whooshed out,
the way she’d magic coins
from old handbags, suit pockets
to buy ice cream, lemonade
a quarter pound of biscuits,
how on a whim she’d pack
a string bag — banana sandwiches,
togs, buckets, spades, a silver teapot,
somehow getting all of us
on a train bound for Howth —
though she hated sun, preferred
north facing rooms, never
owned a swimsuit,
days when exhausted with it all
she’d sigh, saying she felt like
the wreck of the Hesperus —
run aground in some northern sea.
I never heard her sing
though she recited poems
that spirited us to Katmandu
or sometimes made us cry.
Afterwards, at the kitchen table
we sorted sympathy cards, conjured her
with stories, her quandaries and fagaries,
her everyday fiascos.
I thought of the Hesperus
imagined the barnacled hull
like the wreck in Howth visible at low tide,
felt the house list to one side.

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