Not Just a Flash in the Pan

As the spoken word scene in Dublin continues to flourish, Ezra Maloney sits down with founder of Flash Poetry Nights, Tadgh Dolan, to discuss the Dublin poetry scene and its growth.As the slam poetry scene in Dublin continues to expand, more and more nights have cropped up all across the city. Flash Poetry Nights began in February of this year and although it may be the new kid on the block, the event has seen a huge surge in popularity, securing a place at Body and Soul Festival as well as being featured in The Irish Times and Hot Press Magazine all in the space of less than a year.
“I think for Ireland, we need slam poetry. It gives women a voice to speak out about the huge gender gap in our country, it gives the LGBT community a platform to discuss all types of discrimination..."
“I first got involved with slam poetry when I was a student in UCD. I competed at the inter-varsity poetry slam and loved it” Dolan recalls. “I was working at a restaurant at the time and I’d been  talking to my boss, a big supporter of the arts, about competing at the inter-varsity and he asked if I’d want to do something similar at the restaurant. I jumped at the opportunity.”Dolan promised himself that he would one day perform in a slam after becoming interested in DEF Poetry Jam on Youtube. To this day, ‘the sky ain’t a ceiling’ by Jill Scott, a poet on the channel, remains one of his favourite poems of all time.  In March of 2014 he ticked slam poetry off his bucket list, competing in the UCD heats and going on to compete at inter-varsity level in NCAD. Even though he did not place it did not deter him. I was definitely a newbie, and still am when it comes to slam. My real passion as I said is meeting creative people and organising Flash is such an incredible way to do that.”The monthly slams in Howth are renowned for drawing crowds of over one hundred people. Dolan’s passion for spoken word translates into the enthusiasm of the audience and the attendance of poets and writers from around Dublin’s Creative Quarter. For Dolan the credit lies with the poets themselves and with the success and diversity of the Dublin poetry scene.“I think a lot of it is down to the poets themselves, they are so giving with their work. They want to share, they want to inspire and they want to stir shit up.” He also believes that slam poetry can be therapeutic as it lends a voice to minority groups who are often silenced. It can also be, quite simply, a way to vent about negative experiences or just things that irritate the poets themselves in daily life. “I think for Ireland, we need slam poetry. It gives women a voice to speak out about the huge gender gap in our country, it gives the LGBT community a platform to discuss all types of discrimination and above all else slam acts as a fuck you to anyone who thinks that these issues don’t exist”. Of course this sudden rise in the popularity and practice of slam poetry hasn’t come out of nowhere in Ireland. Spoken word has been a popular art form for hundreds of years, dating back to the Celtic bards of long ago. “Ireland has a huge tradition of spoken word, think of the old Irish story-tellers and how ingrained poetry is in our culture. It’s important for Ireland more than ever, as poets have often been some of the most effective activists in history.” The modern form of spoken word is often traced back to America in the 1960s and associated with the Beat poets, the Harlem Renaissance, and even the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. Fast-forward two decades and competitive poetry slams are being held nationwide in America, and now, as with many cultural phenomenons, it has reached our shores and Flash Poetry Nights, among many other events like that of Slam Sunday is born. With the tremendous success of poetry slams and spoken word, does Dolan believe that his kind of poetry is leading to a decline in the spoken word?“In my opinion it hasn’t. If anything it’s elevated poetry in general. Most poets will tell you that written poetry is very different to slam. Written poetry is about solitude, being alone with your thoughts and getting them down on paper. Slam is more visceral and performance based.” Dolan says. Perhaps he is right that slam really is a different breed of poetry to the written word as Dolan believes that slam relies more on communication with an audience. “It’s not just about the written word, and I love that. I think it challenges all poets up to their game.”As the poets entering slams are often young first-time performers,  Dolan gives some advice to those interested in trying spoken word for the first time. He encourages aspiring poets to just get out there and do it! “If you feel like you don’t have a voice in any area of your life, whether that’s college, a part-time job you hate, or a relationship you know is destructive, come down to our slam and get involved.” With the slam poetry scene still blossoming in Dublin, there’s certainly no end of talent yet to be revealed at Flash Poetry Nights. Flash Poetry Night’s next slam takes place on Sunday November 27th at the Doghouse Tearooms right beside Howth dart station at 7pm.