Poetry as Commemoration

6th May 2022

Poetry as Commemoration and Poetry Ireland have commissioned ten poets to write a poem, in English or Irish, inspired by documents from the War of Independence and Civil War. Writers will select an archive anywhere on the island and explore items relating to this difficult period of history. Using artefacts as creative inspiration for new work, poets are encouraged to reflect not only the events of the past but to engage creatively with imagined futures too.

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin TD, who has responsibility for leading the State’s Decade of Centenaries Programme, said:

“Poetry as Commemoration’ is one of the flagship initiatives under the Creative Imagination Strand of the Decade of Centenaries Programme. I welcome the enthusiasm and ambition of the Irish Poetry Reading Archive UCD and Poetry Ireland, who have really embraced this project.

The ten poems commissioned as part of this project will be a meaningful and lasting legacy for the Decade of Centenaries Programme. I hope that the medium of poetry will offer a safe space to encourage the examination and exploration of the difficult and still distressing events and themes related to the Irish War of Independence and the Civil War. The use of our rich primary sources from both our national and local archives grounds the poetry in factual accuracy and authenticity. I would like to express my gratitude to the 10 poets announced today for bringing their creativity, imagination and insights to this project. We look forward to their finished works in due course.”

Reflecting on the initiative, which is led by UCD Library and supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, under the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 programme, Dr Julie Morrissy, Poet in Residence at the National Library Ireland, wrote:

“Through poetry we can pause, reflect, and bring new curiosities to our shared histories. Poems can tunnel into the stories we think we know, ask new questions, and perhaps open new ways of imagining our futures.”

The commissioned poets are Aifric Mac Aodha, Chiamaka Enyi Amadi, Bebe Ashley, Martina Evans, Seán Hewitt, Paul Muldoon, Nithy Kasa, Victoria Kennefick, Padraig Regan and Stephen Sexton.

Academic lead on the project, Dr Lucy Collins, thanked the poets for their commitment to the project and to those involved in the commissioning process, writing:

"We are delighted to have received such a positive response to the Poetry as Commemoration project from the writing community in Ireland. This interest and generosity is expressed in the diverse and impressive list of commissioned poets for our commemorative volume. It is very exciting to have the opportunity to bring writers into archives and to support the new work that emerges."

Members of the selection committee included Dr. Lucy Collins (UCD School of English, Drama & Film), Paul McVeigh (Writer), Dr Julie Morrissy (Writer & Academic), Niamh O’Donnell (Former Director of Poetry Ireland), and Kimberly Reyes (Writer).

Director of Poetry Ireland, Liz Kelly, responded to the news stating:

"Poetry Ireland is honoured to partner with 'Poetry as Commemoration' in commissioning ten poets to both reflect on the events of the past and to engage creatively with imagined futures, The entire island of Ireland is open to these poets as a palette, and we all look forward to the outcome of this project as the Decade of Centenaries commemorations come to a close."

Poems will be published in Spring 2023 as a limited fine press edition by The Salvage Press. Recordings of the work will be made available through the Irish Poetry Reading Archive and touring Poetry Jukebox installations.

The commissions are a core strand of Poetry as Commemoration, an initiative of the Irish Poetry Reading Archive at UCD Library. It is supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, under the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 programme. Project Partners include Poetry Ireland, Arts Council Northern Ireland, and Quotidien Ltd. 

About the Poets

Aifric Mac Aodha ag obair ina heagarthóir Gaeilge le Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly agus gorse. D’fhoilsigh An Sagart an chéad chnuasach filíochta léi, Gabháil Syrinx, sa bhliain 2010. Foilsíodh dánta dá cuid ar irisí éagsúla, POETRY Young Irish Poets ina measc. Aistríodh a saothar go teangacha éagsúla, an Fhraincis, an Ghearmáinis, an Iodáilis, an Spáinnis agus an tSeicis san áireamh. Bhronn An Chomhairle Ealaíon mórchuid sparánachtaí uirthi agus ghlac sí páirt i bhféilte ar fud na hEorpa, i Meiriceá, i gCeanada agus san India. Is é Foreign News (The Gallery Press, 2016) an cnuasach is déanaí léi. Tá cónaí uirthi i mBaile Átha Cliath, áit a bhfuil sí ag obair leis an nGúm.

Aifric Mac Aodha is the Irish-language poetry editor of Poetry Ireland Review, gorse and The Stinging Fly. Her first poetry collection, Gabháil Syrinx (The Taking of Syrinx), was published by An Sagart in 2010 and her poetry has been published in various magazines and journals, including POETRY Young Irish Poets. Her work has been translated to many languages, including French, German, Italian, Spanish and Czech. She has been awarded several bursaries by The Arts Council and, in recent years, she has read at numerous festivals in Europe, America, Canada and India. Her latest collection, Foreign News, with translations by David Wheatley, was published by The Gallery Press in 2017. She lives in Dublin where she now works for the Irish-language publisher, An Gúm.

Chiamaka Enyi Amadi is a poet, columnist, editor, and arts facilitator. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, she moved to Galway as a ten-year-old. Enyi-Amadi’s work is widely published online and in print, notably in the anthology The Art of the Glimpse: 100 Irish Short Stories, edited by Sinéad Gleeson (Head of Zeus, 2020). Her writing has also appeared in RTÉ’s Poetry Programme, The Irish Times, Architecture Ireland, Poetry International, Poetry Ireland Review, and The MASI Journal. Enyi-Amadi co-edited the anthology Writing Home: The ‘New Irish’ Poets (Dedalus Press, 2019). She has performed at many festivals and venues, including the Dublin Human Rights Festival, Mother Tongues, International Women’s Day, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, and the Measuring Equality in the Arts Sector conference. Enyi-Amadi is a recipient of the 2019 Poetry Ireland Access Cúirt Bursary, and her work was longlisted for the An Post Irish Book Awards Writing.ie Short Story of the Year 2020.

Bebe Ashley lives in Belfast. Her work is most recently published in bath magg, Poetry Ireland Review, and Modern Poetry in Translation. Her debut collection Gold Light Shining was published by Banshee Press in Oct. 2020. Currently, Bebe is working on a collection poetry that charts her progress towards qualifying as a British Sign Language interpreter.

In 2021, Bebe was longlisted for the Ivan Juritz Prize for Creative Experiment and awarded a Chair of Ireland Poetry Trust Award. Most recently, Bebe was selected by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Future Screens NI as one of nine artists to receive a Digital Evolution Award in support of a project Confetti that explores poetic potential of Braille and 3D printing.

Martina Evans grew up in County Cork and trained in Dublin as a radiographer before moving to London in 1988. She is the author of twelve books of poetry and prose. She has won several awards including the Premio Ciampi International Prize for Poetry in 2011. Now We Can Talk Openly About Men (Carcanet 2018) was shortlisted for the 2019 Irish Times Poetry Now Award, the Pigott Poetry Prize and the Roehampton Poetry Prize and was an Observer, TLS and Irish Times Book of the Year in 2018. American Mules, published by Carcanet in 2021, was a TLS and Sunday Independent Book of the Year and is shortlisted for the 2022 Pigott Poetry Prize. She is a Royal Literary Fund Advisory Fellow and poetry critic for The Irish Times.

Seán Hewitt's debut collection, Tongues of Fire, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2020. It won The Laurel Prize in 2021, and was shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize, a Dalkey Literary Award. In 2020, he was chosen by The Sunday Times as one of their “30 under 30” artists in Ireland. His memoir, All Down Darkness Wide, will be published this year with Jonathan Cape and Penguin Press. He is a Poetry Critic for The Irish Times and teaches Modern British & Irish Literature at Trinity College Dublin.

Paul Muldoon is author of fourteen full-length collections of poetry, including Howdie-Skelp (2021), Frolic and Detour (2019), One Thousand Things Worth Knowing (2015), Maggot (2010), Horse Latitudes (2006), Moy Sand and Gravel (2002), Hay (1998), The Annals of Chile (1994), Madoc: A Mystery (1990), Meeting the British (1987), Quoof (1983), Why Brownlee Left (1980), Mules (1977) and New Weather (1973). Muldoon has taught at Princeton University since 1987 and currently occupies the Howard G.B. Clark ‘21 chair in the Humanities. He was poetry editor of The New Yorker from 2007-2017. He occasionally appears with a spoken word music group, Rogue Oliphant. Muldoon was born in Portadown, Co. Armagh. He now lives in New York.

Nithy Kasa was born in Kimpese, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was raised in its capital, Kinshasa and in Galway, West of Ireland. Joining the Dublin Writers’ Forum in 2011, she went on to read for Poetry Ireland, Concern, the National University of Ireland, Galway, the Royal Irish Academy, the Cúirt International Festival of Literature and University College Dublin, among others. She took part in the Ó Bhéal series Make a Connection for the European Year of Cultural Heritage (EYCH) 2018. She was also a guest poet for the 2019 Carlow University’s (USA) MFA Residency at Trinity College Dublin. Her poem ‘Gathering’ was shortlisted for the Red Line Book Festival the same year. She received the Poetry Ireland Commission 2020, with the support of an Arts Council of Ireland Commissions Award, and was shortlisted for The Eavan Boland Emerging Poet Award 2021. Nithy divides her time between Ireland and The Congo.

Victoria Kennefick's first collection, Eat or We Both Starve (Carcanet Press, 2021), was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and the Costa Poetry Award. It was a book of the year in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Irish Times, The Sunday Independent and The White Review. She is an Arts Council of Ireland Next Generation Artist.

Padraig Regan’s first collection, Some Integrity, was published in 2022 by Carcanet. Prior to this, they authored two poetry pamphlets: Delicious (Lifeboat, 2016) and Who Seemed Alive & Altogether Real (Emma Press, 2017). They were the recipient of the 2021 Clarissa Luard Prize, awarded by the David Cohen Foundation, as well as an Eric Gregory Award (2015) and the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary Prize (2020). They hold a PhD on creative-critical and hybridised writing practices in medieval texts and the work of Anne Carson from the Seamus Heaney Centre, Queen's University Belfast, where they were a Ciaran Carson Writing and the City Fellow in 2021.

Stephen Sexton’s first book, If All the World and Love Were Young was the winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2019 and the Shine / Strong Award for Best First Collection. He was awarded the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 2020. He was the winner of the National Poetry Competition in 2016 and the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award in 2018. Cheryl’s Destinies was published in 2021, and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection.