UCD President Launches Grief’s Broken Brow

22nd November 2023

This week, UCD President Professor Orla Feely marked the final months of the Decade of Centenaries with the launch of Grief’s Broken Brow, a fine press book featuring poetry and art inspired by archival material and artefacts from the War of Independence or the Civil War. The book was produced by The Salvage Press as part of Poetry as Commemoration, a UCD Library project supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under the Decade of Centenaries programme 2012-2023.

In partnership with Poetry Ireland and Arts Council Northern Ireland, UCD Library invited ten poets and one artist to respond to archival material and artefacts from the War of Independence or the Civil War. The poets featured in the book include Bebe Ashley, Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi, Martina Evans, Seán Hewitt, Nithy Kasa, Victoria Kennefick, Aifric Mac Aodha, Paul Muldoon, Padraig Regan, and Stephen Sexton.

Videos of all the poets reading their contribution are available HERE. 

A video on the making of the book, by Ror Conaty, can be viewed HERE

James Earley, an artist whose work often references his family’s heritage in stained glass, designed a suite of three images for the book, inspired by the windows of the Public Records Office after the destruction of the building in 1922. UCD’s Dr Lucy Collins and Commandant Daniel Ayiotis of the Military Archives, offer reflective essays on poetry and archives. This fine press artist’s book was hand printed by Jamie Murphy and Ellen Martin-Friel at The Salvage Press with cover papers by Sligo-based artist Louise Gaffney.

Speaking at the Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) on Wednesday evening, Professor Feely remarked:

“UCD has made significant contributions not only through scholarship on the period but through exhibitions, documentaries and creative and cultural works such as Signatories, Voices of War, and the Civil War Cantata to name just a few. It is with great pleasure that Grief’s Broken Brow is included in this list of creative contributions to the Decade of Centenaries by UCD Library.”

At the launch, Cork-born poet, Martina Evans read her poem was inspired by the papers of Máire Comerford held in UCD Archives. Nithy Kasa and Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi also used UCD Library collections as sources for their poems with Enyi-Amadi’s ‘Wound’ inspiring the collection’s title.

On the publication of Grief’s Broken Brow, Minister Catherine Martin, TD, whose department leads the Decade of Centenaries programme, offered the following comment:

“Throughout the Decade of Centenaries, we have remembered and explored many painful and emotive events. We are fortunate to have an abundance of talented poets and writers who have engaged with and responded to the wealth of primary sources available, to help us reflect on complex and sensitive themes through the medium of poetry. The arts have provided a different medium that allows for new perspectives to be introduced, encouraging us all to be open to the possibility of new meanings and deeper understandings of complex events and themes.”

100 copies of the book have been produced and will be presented to county library services across the island and other significant repositories as a legacy object from the Decade of Centenaries. Each copy is typeset and printed by hand using metal and wooden types from the 1920s, and each artwork includes 5 plates for the different coloured layers of the image. The cover paper, made by artist Louise Gaffney, is printed by hand using Japanese suminagashi technique like marbling. Each book is housed within an embossed slipcase echoing the form of the artwork inside.

About ‘Poetry as Commemoration’:
Poetry as Commemoration is a UCD Library initiative in partnership with Poetry Ireland and Arts Council Northern Ireland. It is supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under the Decade of Centenaries Programme 2012-2023. The aim of the project, which took place across 2022-2023, was to encourage people on the island of Ireland to build a greater understanding of the events of the past, particularly the War of Independence and the Civil War, through creative engagement with archival materials. This was achieved through poetry commissions, creative workshops and public poetry installations. Further information about the project at www.poetryascommemoration.ie

About Grief’s Broken Brow:
Grief’s Broken Brow is a limited-edition fine press book created by Jamie Murphy at The Salvage Press, with a suite of original artwork by James Earley. The title is taken from Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi’s poem ‘Wound’ and it features commemorative poems by Bebe Ashley, Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi, Martina Evans, Seán Hewitt, Nithy Kasa, Victoria Kennefick, Aifric Mac Aodha, Paul Muldoon, Padraig Regan, and Stephen Sexton. Each poem is inspired by a particular archival item or artefact and the artwork was inspired by Earley’s own family history as ecclesiastical decorators. UCD’s Dr Lucy Collins has written an introduction to the collection while Commandant Daniel Ayiotis, Director of The Military Archives, provided an afterword.