A united f(r)ont for Irish spoken wordIrish poetry is always in a healthy place. Heaney, Yeats, Boland, Kavanagh, Mahon and Ní Chuilleanáin have all portrayed imagery of lovingly-rendered domestic scenes, beatific evocations of nature, reckoning with our collective history, establishing ourselves in the pantheon of literature forever. If you’ve seen Scott Tyrrell’s beautiful illustrated map of Irish spoken word artists, you’ll know that the scene is still thriving, as Tyrrell says in the description of the map, “between ancient campfires and pub PAs”. Poetry and spoken word have never been more en vogue, and increasingly more young people are writing and performing their own work. The scene is vibrant, it’s full of energy, it’s bursting with vitality. It’s also fractured.
Unless you get published, go viral, or end up on RTÉ somehow, there isn’t a set path for young poets who want to make a career out of spoken word performingThere are no tiers to the Irish spoken word scene; it’s all on the same level, and that level is underground, at small events and competitions. These events are vital to the continued growth of the homely and accessible scene as it is, but when amateurs and seasoned poets alike have to perform and compete with each other in the same spaces without possibility of upward mobility, it can prove disillusioning. Everything is word-of-mouth; Facebook invites are the new pamphlet, chucked at everyone possible in the desperate hope that people will come with no guarantee of numbers. Unless you get published, go viral, or end up on RTÉ somehow, there isn’t a set path for young poets who want to make a career out of spoken word performing. Forging your own path with absolutely no structure or precedent seems liberating in an idealistic, romantic way in-keeping with the troubadour essence of Irish creatives. Until poets want to be paid for their work. Spoken word poets cut their teeth at open mics, free events, slams, featured readings, and if they get a real taste for it, with the desire to hone their craft, they have to continue doing free gigs, giving out their independently-published collections for dirt cheap, getting paid pittance if they even get paid at all. Did someone say “exposure”? Enter Boundless & Bare. Boundless & Bare is a newly-established agency for representing spoken word artists and event facilitators in the Irish spoken word community. Melissa Ridge and Melanie O’Donovan co-founded Boundless & Bare in January 2018 with the aim to connect, strengthen and elevate the spoken word community in Ireland while honouring the creativity that has existed in Ireland for generations. “Boundless and bare” comes from the poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, specifically the lines “Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare / The lone and level sands stretch far away”. Without the fallen statue of Ozymandias, without just one old structure of power, the sands of the Irish poetry scene stretch on forever with nothing to signify the old kingdom. Plenty of room to build from the ground.
Creating a network between creatives and event facilitators is a big ask even in a country that can be traversed in a couple of hoursSo far this year they’ve been working on a number of different avenues and platforms to promote the spoken word across Ireland. At the beginning of every month they put together an event listings of open-mics, slam poetry competitions, set shows, featured readings, festivals and variety shows featuring the spoken word into a comprehensive monthly gig guide. In April of this year the Boundless & Bare podcast launched season one with the first episode “Bea, Bodies & Being a Poet” with Beatrice Adomaityte, hosted by both Ridge and O’Donovan with new guests each episode. Guests so far are a veritable who’s who of Irish spoken word and include Aidan Murphy, Dagogo Hart, FeliSpeaks, Niamh Beirne, Caoimhe LaVelle and Sean Colletti. Guests set to appear are Sasha Terfous, Dimitra Xidous, Tyrone Lewis, Ross McFarlane, Caoimhe Donnelly and Therese Cahill. Creating a network between creatives and event facilitators is a big ask even in a country that can be traversed in a couple of hours, so touring is an important part of the Boundless plan. In July 2018 they set out on their maiden voyage with the Sunshine Tantrum Summer Tour, travelling to Clonakilty, Borris in Carlow, Waterford City and Tullamore. At each event they brought along a diverse line-up of established and up-and-coming spoken word artists from Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow and Limerick. The tour garnered much attention and acted as the catalyst in helping to organise individual tours for artists to and from Ireland.
The hope with Boundless & Bare is to bring attention to talent with a community-based mentality that will allow people to connect with other creatives and find new platforms to showcase their performance artIn September 2018, in association with Boundless & Bare, Slam Sunday Grand Slam Winner Dagogo Hart flew to Scotland to perform with the Loud Poets in Glasgow. October 2018 saw Birmingham based poet and writer Sean Colletti launch his debut poetry pamphlet ‘Saeculum’ with Bare Fiction in Dublin. He is due to perform in Cork and Limerick over the course of October and November. Ridge and O’Donovan’s future plans are exciting and comprehensive. They plan to organise town hall meetings with performers and creatives across Ireland, as well as with event facilitators, to nurture and establish networking events with panel discussions. Workshops and live podcast events are also in the works for 2019, and in a couple of years they hope to curate a spoken word festival that sees performers and acts from around the country and further afield come together for a range of events. Also in the pipeline is an end-of-year publication outlining the highlights of Irish spoken word in 2018, and expanding their blog, publishing show reviews, spoken word essays and think pieces. If this all seems very ambitious, that’s the point. The hope with Boundless & Bare is to bring attention to talent with a community-based mentality that will allow people to connect with other creatives and find new platforms to showcase their performance art, whether it be spoken word poetry, theatre, comedy, or storytelling. To get poetic on it, their manifesto is in the name. To promote a spoken word event in November or to get involved as part of the team go to www.boundlessandbare.com