As we enter September, it is time once again for the wonderful Dublin Fringe Festival to kick into gear. With that in mind, I wanted to resurface an audio recording we did last year to mark the 10th anniversary of our award nominated Fringe show “Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About“. (You can read more about the process of developing and staging the show here). For all the wonderful success that we experienced with the original staging and touring of the show, we never adequately captured it at the time. So, for the 10th anniversary we did a studio audio recording of a performance, and then hired the talented composer Gareth Quinn-Redmond to compose a soundtrack/score for the piece. The end result is a beautiful piece of art that elevates the original beyond our wildest dreams. It didn’t get much love at the time of release, but I stand over it being as good as anything I have ever created. Please listen and share with others. It really deserves to be heard. Spotify link above. Soundcloud link below.
For several years I was referred to as a performance poet, or sometimes as a spoken word artist. In essence, I wrote lyrical things and told them animatedly into a microphone. I picked up a love for this artform when I lived in New York, and later honed and nurtured it in Ireland. The community of performance poets in Ireland was (and likely still is) very small, so we became a close knit community. Some of us even banded together to establish and run Ireland’s first ever spoken word festival, LINGO.
My poetic other life had many other highlights including writing and touring a spoken word pla around Europe, wild performances at Electric Picnic festival, participating in an Irish poetry showcase at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in NYC, and sharing a stage in front of 500 people with the legendary Saul Williams.
I wanted to share one of the few recordings of my work filmed by Storymap (a cool project that sought to put pins on a map of Dublin with a video story/performance associated with that place) in my spiritual home The Stag’s Head pub. A place where I hosted and ran the brownbread mixtape show for nearly a decade. I have such fond memories of eclectic, electric nights in there. Anyway, without further ado, here is my poem “The hole there in the floor, which, fittingly, was written partially in New York and in Dublin.
The swell of the sea. Ducking under the waves. Crashing like forceful thunder. The water enveloping me like a buzzing blanket. Coming up for air in the frothy white foam. Sunlight glinting across the saltwater. Feeling brand new. This is the life.
For anyone new to my website, I just wanted to holler about the recent publication of our award-nominated spoken word play, Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About. A decade ago we staged this show at the Dublin Fringe and subsequently toured it around Europe to huge critical acclaim. It was one of the most fulfilling and important artistic experiences of my life, and you can read more about the genesis and creation of the show here.
As for the book itself, we put incredible thought and care into creating something that was a unique work of art in-and-of-itself, with a cover produced on a letterpress printing press, on high quality handmade paper, which gives it a really unique look and feel. Inside the pages we have lots of gold too, with new forewords from myself and the other authors, archival photos, and essays from our Director, Sarah Brennan, as well as Irish Times journalist Gemma Tipton.
This unique 10th anniversary limited edition book is for sale right now directly from this website, so please consider supporting independent artists by picking up a copy today!
My good friend Stephen James Smith kicked off his UK & Ireland tour last night in the Pepper Cannister church here in Dublin, and he was gracious enough to give me a support slot. We had a quick chat before I performed my Sine Metu poem, followed by my final piece from Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About. It was a gorgeous evening of music and poetry, with a really special vibe. If you can catch the show on its current tour I highly recommend it.
Around the time my first son was born I wanted to write something to mark his arrival. I was doing a lot of festival gigs at the time and I found that humorous poems always garnered a better reaction in those large crowd settings. So, I played around with the idea of something silly and funny, that was masquerading as a parent imparting knowledge. In addition, I wanted to amplify that realisation every kid has that their parents don’t necessarily know what they’re talking about.So I took that to the extreme and built out a list of ludicrous “facts” that made me laugh. I then started whittling them down to my favourites and I ended up with seven that worked best. My mind immediately jumped to traditional parenting ideas of old like the 7 deadly sins, and I had a perfect title – 7 deadly facts. This made me smile, knowing that there was also a bit of wordplay with the term “deadly”, a Dublin slang term for great or cool. And thus, the poem below clicked into place and was finished. It’s never been shared in print before, because it undoubtedly works better as a performance piece, but it still makes me smile. I hope it does the same for you.
7 Deadly Facts
When I was a kid
the Internet was in black & white
it ran on diesel
and had to be wound up every night
before you went to bed
When I was a kid
the island of Ireland
was made of completely detachable parts
and had an engine on it just north of Donegal
and for three weeks every summer
the country would chug down to somewhere
off the coast of France
on its holidays
When I was a kid
in Waterford it was actually made of crystal which made plumbing particularly disgusting FACT
When I was a kid
if you won the World Cup in soccer you got to keep the other country for 4 years until the next World Cup thus coining the term "Getting a Brazilian" FACT
When I was a kid
we used to dress up as tax inspectors at Halloween and fleece our stupid neighbours FACT
When I was a kid
the most popular television programme
was an Irish language slapstick show
Na Trí Stooges
starring Larry, Curly
agus Modh Coinníollach FACT
When I was a kid
the most popular drink in Ireland was a million pints of whiskey deep fried with a short documentary about Phil Lynott projected through the middle of it on the rocks FACT
Back in 2016 I was commissioned by the friendly folks at Jameson Whiskey to write a piece of performance poetry centred around the latin phrase Sine Metu. Sine Metu is the Jameson Family motto and appears on all of their bottles. It means “Without Fear” and at the time, their advertising campaigns were using Sine Metu prominently, with the tagline “Fear a little less, live a little more”. So, my brief was to write a poem with that as my guiding light. Personally I love these kind of gigs, because you are hired with an implicit trust and appreciation of your craft & artform, and I often find that the slightly restrictive thematic guide rails force me to think more creatively about unlocking the poem. I also want to write an excellent poem that I can really stand over and not just phone it in. So I worked hard on the commisioned piece, and the end result was the poem above, which I was very proud of. The folks at Jameson clearly loved it too and the poem took me on an epic journey. I was asked to perform it live at the annual Pernod Ricard conference on an island off the coast of France, as well as a series of other high profile Jameson events back in Ireland over the following months. Then finally, it was captured for posterity at the old Bow Street Distillery a day before major renovations began. As I watch it back, it takes on fresh meaning in that setting. I love how poetry can do that sometimes. Now, this is not my absolute best performance of the poem (there’s even an obvious mistake, see if you can spot it) but that doesn’t matter, it’s still a decent rendition. And I’m so glad to have a document of this creative milestone. I still like the poem a lot. Hope you like it too.
The Swedish author and comedian Jonas Gardell is one of my favourite writers. There is a gentle beauty and disarming truth in his deceptively simple Swedish writing. Alas not much of his work is translated into English, but it has been translated into a number of other European languages.His novel “En Komikers Uppväxt” (A Comedian Grows Up) had a profound impact on me when I read it almost 30 years ago, and it has stayed with me ever since. It was introduced to me as an undergraduate in college by a visiting lecturer from Sweden, and such was the effect of reading it (in the original Swedish language), that I ended up writing my entire undergraduate thesis about Jonas Gardell’s novels. The entire book is magical, but it is the opening page of the book that I often turn to again and again. On that page sits this simple, elegant, beautiful poem. It says so much with so little and sets the tone for the entire novel.
För allt du hatar hos dig själv – förlåt dig själv
För allt du älskar hos dig själv – förlåt dig själv
För allt du skäms över
För allt du är stolt över
För allt du vill dölja
För allt du vill visa upp
För allt som inte blev som det skulle
För allt du är
För allt du vill vara
Förlåt dig själv
For everything you hate about yourself – forgive yourself
For everything you love about yourself – forgive yourself
For everything you are ashamed of
For everything you are proud of
For everything you want to hide
For everything you want to show off
For everything that did not turn out as it should
For all that you are
For everything you want to be
The book then closes with an equally beautiful, poetic and enigmatic piece that manages to capture the magical innocence of youth and all that it brings. A perfect bookend, literally. I have read these pieces many times at live spoken word events and they always get a huge response. There is something about hearing the musicality of the foreign tongue at first, and then the translation that unveils its beauty. While there is always a little bit of magic lost in any translation (my own translations here included), these pieces still retain the majority of what made them special.
Allt ska vi glömma och allt ska vi förlora.
Och någon annan dag, men inte nu, ska jag visa dig
den hemliga grottan, den porlande bäcken
jag aldrig fann som barn.
Everything we shall forget and everything we shall lose
And another day, but not now, I will show you
the secret cave, the babbling brook
that I never found as a child
imagine if De Niro was 007 how brilliant that would be “the name is Bond, James Bond, you talkin’ to me?”
I recently renovated my office at home and put up my treasured Bob Dylan poster on the wall. Not only is Bob Dylan an artistic hero of mine, he also plays a huge role for me in learning about the craft of great writing. As for the poster; the story of how I acquired it is one of my most treasured New York moments. So, in the spirit of sharing, here is a brand new poem I wrote to try and capture that moment when Bob and I crossed paths in his most famous New York haunts (metaphorically).
the hard rain surfacing from a gig in a dive bar where they are handing over chunks of the bar and pints of Courvoisier because they’re “Closing down, tonight motherfucker, tonight!” I ask for the huge poster of Bob Dylan hanging on the wet wall by the swaying bartender “You’ve got a lot of nerve, But, fuck yeah, take it bro” he says with a wink I throw back my drink balance Bob’s wiry frame over my head for shelter from the storm freewheelin’ outside into the concrete caverns the thin mercury sound of wild Village wind washing rain inside my shoes my heels still wandering to the subway station at 4th street positively singing