Spoken Wordsmiths

Lewis Kenny, spoken word poet
Lewis Kenny

Spoken Wordsmiths

21 June 2017
2 min read

While the arts in Ireland has long had a reputation for the written word, performance and our oral storytelling culture, it's only in recent years these areas have merged to create a spirited and dynamic spoken word scene.

Poetry of course has been performed for millennia but as a performance art, in modern times spoken word poetry evolved largely in the United States, from 1960s beat poetry to the likes of Gil Scott-Heron in the 1970s through to the rise of poetry slams in the 1980s.

There has been a growth in storytelling nights and performance poetry events and though still a nascent creative scene in Ireland, it nonetheless attracts a passionate following. With certain works now gaining online traction, a wider audience is being exposed to the medium. Here are just a few spoken word artists forging a name for themselves in Ireland in 2017.

Lewis Kenny hails from Dublin and his local area of Cabra is captured in a piece that lies halfway between nostalgic paean and bittersweet lament. Uniquely, he has become the first poet-in-residence of Bohemians Football Club. As a long-term football fan and supporter of the local Dublin team, Kenny has his own view on what makes a football club.

While the arts in Ireland has long had a reputation for the written word, performance and our oral storytelling culture, it's only in recent years these areas have merged to create a spirited and dynamic spoken word scene.

Stephen James Smith's poem My Ireland was commissioned as part of the 2017 St Patrick's Festival. The poet and playwright creates a stirring take on his homeland, holding up a cracked mirror to reflect back all that is good and bad, amusing and tragic about contemporary Ireland. Smith has been involved in running several spoken word nights and festivals and previously won the Cúirt Literary Grand Slam. 

Felispeaks was born Felicia Olusanya in Nigeria and grew up in Longford. Having taken part in the Intervarsity Poetry Slam, she has since gone on to perform at the National Concert Hall and is a member of the Word Up Collective, which features artists from the hip-hop and urban music scene. Her work How About Us addresses the inequality encountered by women worldwide.

Poet and actor Emmet Kirwan's Heartbreak tells the emotive story of a young single mother and the challenges she faces. The piece evolved from being performed onstage by Dubliner Kirwan to an award-winning seven-minute short film, directed by Dave Tynan.