Above: Dr Sandra Collins, Maureen Kennelly, Barry Pierce, Prof. Patrick G. O'Shea, Nithy Kasa and Sam McGovern. Photo: Paddy Barrett
Poetry Ireland and the National Library of Ireland have announced that University College Cork (UCC) has joined as a partner on Poetry Aloud, the annual poetry speaking competition for post-primary schools, in a new 10-year agreement.
Dr Sandra Collins, Director of the National Library of Ireland, Poetry Ireland's Director Maureen Kennelly and President of UCC, Professor Patrick G. O'Shea were joined by previous Poetry Aloud winners Barry Pierce, Nithy Kasa and Sam McGovern and guests at Poetry Ireland's headquarters in Parnell Square on Monday 25th June to announce UCC as a major new partner for Poetry Aloud.
Poetry Aloud is an annual poetry speaking competition for post-primary schools, presented throughout the island of Ireland by Poetry Ireland and the National Library of Ireland. The only competition of its kind in Ireland, students participating in Poetry Aloud commit poems to memory and then speak the poems aloud at heats, regional finals and at a national final that takes place each December at the National Library of Ireland.
Since it was launched as a national programme in 2006, Poetry Aloud has grown from just a few hundred entries to over 1,800 entries in 2017.
As the alma mater of many of Ireland’s finest contemporary poets including Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Theo Dorgan, Paul Durcan and Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, UCC is the ideal partner to join Poetry Ireland and the National Library of Ireland in plans to significantly expand the competition’s reach in all 32 counties, exposing many more students to a wide range of prestigious poetry in a supportive and generous atmosphere.
Speaking on the occasion, Professor Patrick G. O’Shea noted: “UCC has a very rich connection with poetry, dating back to one of our early innovators George Boole, who as well as being one of the world’s finest mathematicians, was also a very well-regarded poet. The tradition of stellar poets emerging from UCC continues to this day and we are proud of the ongoing achievements of contemporary poets Graham Allen, Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, Leanne O’Sullivan, and Martin Veiga who teach here at UCC and cultivate the next generation of poets across many languages. These connections to poetry make our association with Poetry Aloud even more meaningful for us. “
Maureen Kennelly, director of Poetry Ireland believes that “the benefits of participating in Poetry Aloud are immense, and heart learning (as opposed to learning by rote) and speaking poetry helps greatly the development of cognitive and imaginative capacities. To know a poem by heart is to own a great work of art forever and Poetry Ireland is very much looking forward to working alongside UCC and the National Library of Ireland to bring this wonderful celebration of poetry to many more students. It is especially fitting that we are announcing this partnership here at our new home in Parnell Square as UCC is one of our foundation sponsors, achieved through their purchase of the Great Book of Ireland in 2013.”
Director of the National Library, Dr Sandra Collins, added: “Ireland has an extraordinary reputation for poetry. In our archives you will find unparalleled riches in the manuscripts of some of Ireland’s greatest poets. This all-Island competition fosters young people’s talent and interest in poetry. The National Library is delighted to welcome our new partner UCC, and looks forward to another great year for Irish poetry.”
The late Seamus Heaney was a significant supporter of Poetry Aloud. In 2009, when he won the David Cohen Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Literature, he nominated Poetry Aloud for the accompanying Clarissa Luard Award. He remarked, “I truly believe Poetry Aloud deserves all the support it can get, because it promotes literature, and, in particular, poetry, widely, intimately and to inestimable effect. But fundamentally, I choose it because it brings poetry into the memory and affections of the young in a way that will make it a lifelong possession and value.”
In recent years, the competition has also received support from the UK based John S Cohen Foundation, and from Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody, in memory of Seamus Heaney.
Many participants have gone on to perform on Ireland’s national airwaves and as part of flagship events such as Celebrating Seamus Heaney at the National Concert Hall.