Five young Irish poets will make history this summer as they become the first team to represent Ireland at the Brave New Voices slam poetry festival.
Brave New Voices is the largest ongoing spoken word event in the world and is also the world’s first poetry slam dedicated to youth. Ages 13-19 are represented, mainly by American cities, but also including international cities and countries, including Ireland for the first time when the festival takes place in Atlanta from July 12th to July 19th.
Among the five poets that will make the trip to represent Ireland is DCU student Melissa Kavanagh, the team’s co-captain. Clondalkin-native Kavanagh is the only member of the team from Dublin, with all other participants hailing from the west coast. Co-captain Ryan Mangan is from Galway, while teammates Neasa McCormack, Iobhar Stokes and Lucy FitzGerald hail from Clare, Limerick and Kerry respectively.
The team was assembled by former Cúirt Grand Slam champion Stephen Murray, who Kavanagh credits with endearing her to poetry when she was in transition year. The first year psychology student says it was the difference between what Murray taught during a transition year workshop and what was being taught day in/day out that led her to where she is now.
Following the success of his travelling workshops, Murray sought to establish a team capable of competing at Brave New Voices and after picking Kavanagh and Mangan as co-captains, he set about finding their teammates. The competition he set up for this purpose received over six thousand entries, with the national finals on RTÉ’s Arena radio show.
Regarding Murray’s role, Kavanagh says that he “never edits” the work of the young poets, focusing “more so on the business aspect and guidance”. The business aspect is something Kavanagh is particularly keen to stress; the team receives no funding from Poetry Ireland due to cutbacks and is reliant on donations from friends, family and well-wishers. Their aim is to raise €5,000 to cover travel and accommodation costs; at the time of writing their total sat at €3,319.
When asked what could be considered a success for the Irish team in their first outing, Kavanagh responds confidently: “we’re going for gold.” She is quick to point out that the fact that an Irish team is travelling at all is a success of itself, while their aims also include increased awareness of slam poetry in Ireland and the continuation of “the whole promotion of youth art.”
On a possible future poetry society or team in DCU, Kavanagh is optimistic, saying it is something that she is pursuing and that there are “probably a good few budding writers here.”
More information is available on the group’s Facebook page, Team Ireland Brave New Voices. If you would like to donate to the team, please visit http://fundit.ie/project/brave-new-voices-atlanta-2015.
Odrán de Bhaldraithe
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