Poetry and Sound Art

ó bhéal doireann and mick by cal

Photo by Cal Doyle

Last Monday night I took part in an unforgettable evening at Ó Bhéal in the heart of Cork City, as part of their 2016 Commemoration series of events. It was a themed collaboration between poetry and sound art, along with silent film projections.  I read from my sequence of centenary poems, commissioned by Cork City Libraries and Cork Arts Office earlier this year. Unfortunately my friend and fellow participant in this commission, Leanne O’Sullivan, couldn’t be with us for this performance due to sudden illness (she is feeling better now, a great relief). I always jump at the chance to work on a project with Leanne, her enthusiasm and passion for poetry are infectious. I hope her talent is infectious too. 

Also performing on the night was gifted sound artist Mick O’Shea, whose experimental and challenging work I have long admired. Mick is an artist who is a member and director of the Cork Artists Collective and The Guesthouse. He has been instrumental in establishing a vibrant sound art scene in Cork city and has exhibited in UK, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Tasmania, USA, China and Japan. He works in sculpture, drawing, sound and cooking. On this occasion, he chose to riff on motifs of a piece inspired by the Morse Code message sent by the rebels to announce the Eater rebellion. His work and the poems cohered very well, thematically. On a large screen behind us were projections of silent film footage shot in the aftermath of 1916, which added another dimension to the atmospherics.  It was such a buzz to perform with Mick. It’s mesmerising to watch him perform, as he conjures such depths of sound from a whole variety of strange instruments. If you like, you can listen to a recording of our performance here.

This sort of collaborative project is quickly becoming the beating heart of my artistic practice. The more that I develop as a writer, the more I begin to understand how much I adore cross-disciplinary collaborations, fusing poetry with film, dance, music, and art. I always come away from a project like this feel very nourished by encountering the work of others. Is it the best bit of being a writer, for me? Maybe. It’s definitely one of the most electrifying moments of a practice that is frequently solitary, ruminative, and quiet (apart from the tap-tap of laptop keys and the blissful snoring of a baby. Oh, the glamour!) 

I’m so glad to have been invited to participate in such a stimulating collaboration. This event was generously funded by The Community Foundation for Ireland. Míle buíochas le Paul Casey agus Julie Goo as ucht a gcuid tacaíochta ar an oíche. Keep an eye on the Ó Bhéal website for further events in their 2016 Commemoration series. More on Mick O’Shea’s work here and you can see his piece ‘Martha’ from the Arts Council collection here

Thanks to poet Cal Doyle for his photos of the event. Read his amazing poem ‘Echolocator’ at the Poetry Foundation, here.  

More art today, as I am launching the new exhibition at the Glucksman Gallery in UCC. I Went to the Woods: The artist as wanderer’ is curated by Chris Clarke and Pádraic E. Moore, and features artists Anna Bak, Brendan Earley, Fiona Kelly, Juha Pekka Matias Laakkonen, Richard Long, Helen Mirra, Ria Pacquée, herman de vries, and Walker & Walker. I’m really excited, and planning to read a brand new poem! Thanks to gallery director Fiona Kearney for inviting me to speak.