“People are always saying ‘poetry is dead’ and I have to say ‘you’re going to the wrong events!’ to them”, an example the of enthusiasm for spoken word felt by Erin Fornoff, one of the participants on the spoken word stage at the Independence festival which will be held in Mitchelstown on the August Bank Holiday weekend.
While Erin started doing spoken word relatively late in life it quickly become very important to her, “I started doing it when I moved to Ireland in 2009. I thought it would be a great way to get free tickets to music festivals… all jokes aside what attracted me to spoken word was that it was an alive and vibrant art form, and as I was new and very lonely it seemed like a way to express myself, to let people know where I was coming from. I found a community there – the poets I met have become some of my closest friends.”
Over the time she had been performing spoken word Erin has sensed that many people have an out-dated idea of poetry, “I find that some people perceive poetry as a “stuffy” thing, perhaps only associating it with a classroom for secondary school – but spoken word is a different beast. Audiences who would never go to a ‘leather elbow patch poetry reading’ might hear spoken word at festivals, or at an event that includes music and comedy. They’re exposed to it where they wouldn’t before. Ask any spoken word poet and they’ll have had somebody come up to them after a gig and say “I didn’t even know that I liked poetry!”
Karl Plover programmes the stage and MCs it under his stage name of Wasps Versus Humans thinks Indiependence is a great opportunity to be exposed to such talent, “we’ve gone for a cutting edge feel to the spoken word stage and this year we have put in some spoken word musical crossovers too. On Saturday we have Karl Parkinson, John Cummins and myself with a headline performance from Temper-Mental MissElayneous who mixes rap, spoken word, beats and loadsa attitude! Then on Sunday will see the return of the much loved Jinx Lennon; the hip hop vibe of Captain Moonlight from Kilkenny; Dublin poet Colm Keegan and of course Erin, who I think is a rising star on the spoken word scene.”
Erin is excited to be a part of that line up, “I’ve worked with most of them and they’re all extremely good. Both Colm and John are past All-Ireland Poetry Slam Champions and Temper-Mental MissElayneous is a force of nature on stage – if you ever want to see a girl from Finglas rapping while playing the hell out of a bohdran, she’s your woman! It’s humbling to be included among such talent.”
Karl and Erin’s confidence in the future of Irish Spoken word is echoed by Temper-Mental MissElayneous “I’m currently in New York, Hip-Hop’s Mecca, recording a rap album with the producer Mike Larry Draw, but I’m coming back to do Indiependence and then in August I’ll be leading, along with Colm Keegan, Ireland’s first poetry team the Lingo Spoken Word Festival.”
Erin sees great potential in Ireland’s spoken word scene, “15 new spoken word nights started up in Ireland last year, and those nights tend to be packed out, it’s getting huge. And Irish talent is as good as anywhere – or better. Poets are a natural resource of Ireland. People crave a voice, particularly in more difficult times. It’s also a free art form, you don’t need equipment or gear or even a laptop.”
Erin has a clear focus with the work she produces herself, “I try to tell stories with my poetry. It’s less angry than a lot of poets though it tends to be on the serious side rather than comedic. My style is fairly gentle and I tend to focus more on the positive. A lot of my poems are about my home in the Appalachian Mountains of the Southern US, and my family, and homesickness. I tend to focus on moments with people from my past and big decisions they’ve made – to take the risk, to experience something new, to jump off the cliff!”
* This year, the spoken word stage will also be hosting music industry discussions on both the Saturday and Sunday led by Irish Times music writer and Culture Vultures curator, Tony Clayton Lea along with a panel of top music industry heads. The live informal discussion will give the audience the opportunity to hear from leading professionals from a record company perspective, to radio production, print media and PR.
Indiependence Festival takes place on August 1 – 4 at Deer Farm, Mitchelstown.
For more information and times go http://www.indiependencefestival.