As soon as i landed i threw myself into the only open mic in Dublin, the weekly Write and Recite, that was the Dublin poetry WaR scene before the Super Happy Yummy Dublin Fun Times scene that succeeded it, and, unlike WaR, did make a very large and seismic impact, after social-media and the Facebook platform took off and all at once the grubby and disheartening grass-roots open-mic work, the printing of little cards and flyers, trying to get the word out in public, evaporated. And the lonely bored and mixed up kids thinking of poetry, alone in their bedrooms, could be coaxed out by a new buzz. Wholly different from the one we had at Write and Recite. Austerity replaced excess and the kids came out to shout the old guard down.
And they/we were very successful at it. The new slam and spoken word scene was perfect for radio, and many of the old guard whose poems of expensive holidays in Umbria and villa stays in Tuscany, no longer relevant to the newly poor and fucked over masses, were replaced with the new young kids in fairly short order after the Crash. I played a minor part by creating the All Ireland Poetry Slam.
I created the AIPS when i was in the Iveagh homeless hostel, at the end of my 18 month stay there, and where i'd moved to after graduating uni in England. It was after a particularly low night at WaR, getting roaring drunk and shouting at the top of my lungs, songs in the doorway of the Duke pub off Grafton Street - where WaR was on its fifth week of what the MC, Gerry Mac, hoped would become a permanent weekly residency.
The song was the full song we used to blast out at full volume every new years eve in our cul de sac in tolerant Ormskirk, where the neighbours would indulge us as we played rebel songs, 'come out ye black and tans, come out and fight me like a man, tell your wife how you won medals down in Flanders.'
A crowd of homeless alcoholics and drug addicts gathered round me, joining in, and one of them insisted, i'm getting ye a pint. And at the bar the manager behind it said, 'out, and never come back.' He then barred WaR, and i got barred (for a short time) from attending at its new venue, and the only way i could think of wheedling a way back in was to create the All Ireland Slam and hand it to Gerry on a plate. Which i did.
Most of the new breed of successful performance poets that came to prominence thru winning the all ireland slam, replaced a lot of the senior page-bound anti-performance alpha poets that thought their RTE gigs were for life, when Famous was alive and his stability was the feature of poetry in Ireland, as the living tide lifting all other Irish poets. Now in its ninth year, the eight annual --(two from each province that compete in a rotating final, this year in Ulster, Belfast)-- Connacht, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster titles, along with the one All Ireland Live Poetry Champion title, are very coveted because this competition is transparently fair, democratic and the most authentic and successful live poetry competition in Ireland.
RTE last had a slam eleven years ago, by private entry, and it was won by a Trinity academic with a truly awful piece of doggerel. I think the slam is so respected by the national broadcaster, because it was created out of the real stuff of living poetry, and not in some lofty high-vaulted drawing room of a government arts office on Merrion Square. It has a reputation as the real thing. Giving a leg up with nothing more than a few words arranged into a title most irish people would not say no to being. An All Ireland Live Poetry Champion.
Of course, being English, though i was unaware of it in the early years i was handing out prize money and doing something for nothing in the service of other poets; what has ended up most interesting to me, is how i got treated by the very people that made careers and were involved with the competition i created - treating it as a stepping stone upon their own way to wherever they think it is they have arrived at doing their spoken-word versions of fíliocht.
I wrote to the RTE show that a lot of the people i'd given money to for being ace poets, had got gigs on as talking heads, usually interviewed and poached by RTE the day they won the all ireland slam competition, such is the national cultural excitement around my creation. After writing nobody replied, and i asked one of the winners who had a regular spot on the show, hey, i wrote three weeks ago and haven't heard back, did anyone say anything to you?
And was given a devastatingly clever and perfect answer, 'i haven't been there for three weeks'. I suspected this was a cute way of avoiding answering a straight question, which in ireland, unlike the UK, is generally avoided, and a lot of dancing round has to happen with everyone holding their cards close to their chest, before, if at all, you discover the knowledge you want.
I wrote to another contributor to the same show, in the comment section of their blog, who is now full time at RTE poetry department, and the main editorial leader of the new kiss-ass gen of shmokin shpoken wordas in peroppa woppa orda. And they were very brusque and replied as if i had done something exasperatingly wrong even contacting them. And no, it was my problem, they had no input into the show, and, it felt like at the time, like being told to go away and why don't ye just die and let someone else take over the all ireland now you've done all the hard work of creating and establishing it.
Then i wrote to a producer of the show on fb and got ignored and blocked by them. i thought then that perhaps all the ace poets i'd given money to and helped with their careers, were perhaps jealous of me, and, perhaps, hated the fact i was English.
And of course, over the next few years, it was obvious by the silence, avoidance of any contact with me, making it plain i was not welcome at any of the many gigs they had the power to invite me to, not answering any simple emails, and no contact whatsoever from those i helped out, once my use had stopped, that of course i was just another English mug in their eyes.
There is now a very powerful loosely connected and working band of thirty-something nod and wink live poatz on their now seven year old (yawn) New Scene, of a handful of the same old faces saying the same old poems, and just as laughably pulling every stroke in the 'fuk u ova' playbook - and doing the exact same petty guarding of their hard-won small poetry patches in Ireland - as the lot they replaced where doing when i first arrived and before the supposed saviours came in and tipped over the furniture whilst using the word fuck a lot as proof of their revolutionary credentials.
'I almost threw up recently in a bar with some writer friends who were discussing, no, gushing over a poet and one poem in particular; a poem that is utterly incompetent, megalomaniacal and clichéd all at the same time. But one has to bite their tongue in such situations: there is no room for dissent, or in this particular case, basic common sense. This needs to be addressed. If one smells bullshit, then one should be free to say ‘I smell bullshit’ without fear of being alienated from the wider community. And of course this bullshit only exists because of dubious editorial practises at various journals—these editors publish bad poems and writers see the bad poems and reproduce them ad nauseam, then they build up a minor reputation, publish a collection with an imprint that churns out book after book, poet after poet, then they get a job teaching impressionable young people how to write bad poems.'