A Soundtrack to The Blocks
A Soundtrack to The Blocks
(BACKGROUND: A while ago the Bogman’s Cannon asked me to write a playlist focusing on the interesting variety of spoken word poetry being produced by young people in particular. As the Bogman’s site is taking a break for the summer, contributors have been encouraged to promote their own articles on the Facebook page. So this is my post, but it’s really a Bogman’s Cannon post, if you get me. Thanks again to those at the Bogman’s Cannon for allowing me to contribute to the page in this way.)
This playlist aims to sample some of the brilliant poetry being produced at the moment by poets aged 16-24.
A lovely love poem to Phibsborough.
One of the debut poems from a fellow young poet who has gone on to write lots of interesting stuff.
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Galway’s bid to win capital of culture
is all twenty twenty give the horse plenty.
We’re in with a great chance.
until they hear about
the legionnaire’s disease outbreak
in the fire station,
where our life savers need saving.
The birds are tweeting
about the arrival of the jury this July .
The word is out they’ll rule on the bid.
Best to keep them councillors out of sight,
with the malarkey they go on with, in city hall.
Govern, govern my arse
they wouldn’t govern a sly fart on a runway.
We’ll end up crowned the capital of fools.
Accusations of nepotism, potassium .
a host of other isms chisms, chasms and schisms.
I sent you that letter by mistake
said the CEO, buckling under pressure.
You are not actually co-opted
onto those committees ,
FYI, you are co-workered off .
My ogyny, your ogyny, misogyny.
We laugh about it at bus stops.
We say, aren’t some of our
elected representatives a laughing stock.
We’ll never get Capital of Culture
if they look through that window.
Some people live their lives
so they can die on a trolley
in Galway’s A&E.
Just wait and wait and wait
and you’ll die waiting.
Eighteen million on a new block
and not a new bed in site or on site.
The car park police in the hospital grounds
are a culture shock unto themselves.
Don’t die on a trolley in the bidding city
the forbidding city
before you have paid your parking
or we will kill your next of kin
with the weight of their parking ticket.
Culture capital or no culture capital.
The swans in the canals all know,
we underpay our nurses
we underpay our teachers.
We overpay our consultants
and we don’t know why.
This is fair-play city, or unfair play city
if you are a woman working for years in NUIG
and hoping for a promotion.
They’ll sue the blog off ya,
but won’t they look silly,
don’t they look silly.
This is pity city, shitty city.
Sewage in your nostrils city.
This is Galway
city of expert panels.
City of slickers and slackers
who name call Traveller s’ knackers.
If you want the odour of outrage
ask the students at GMIT
who have to re-sit exams.
Allegations of cheating.
Oh no not this again.
They are coming in July to rule on the bid.
We’ll hide that bit of news about the GMIT
and the gender discrimination in NUIG
In the parlour that never gets used,
to that we’ll throw the new block,
the bedless block at University Hospital Galway.
This is Galway slicker and slacker.
Have your home burgled
by your favourite nephew,
while you are at his other aunts funeral.
He didn’t know it was her house
and he didn’t know taking her jewelery
without her permission was stealing.
This is Galway the bidding City
the forbidding city.
Where the woman in court apologised
to her man for putting him through this.
The judge asked her, did he apologise to you
when he was sticking that screwdriver
in your forehead?
No but he wasn’t feeling himself that day
Someone in City hall, not a councillor this time,
is yowling about the capital of culture bid.
If the bid book isn’t ready on time
says the yowler,
I’ll send you all to the fire station
or the picture palace.
She is pepping and prepping and side stepping.
Her side -kick got side kicked. No impact.
Complaining is the devils work.
Stick in a few more theatres’ there
that we don’t have, stick in a gallery or two.
How will they know if it’s true?
How will they know if it’s not true?
This is Galway, city of tools.
A man brings a cleaver into hospital with him.
The judge coming down with a migraine,
reached into her bag a yokes.
What got into you, she said,
pleading with the plaintiff?
I heard the chops were tough your honour,
nothing more, nothing less.
But you were seen chasing the back
of a poor man’s head, with a cleaver.
It wasn’t me your honour, and he wasn’t poor.
What about local artists?
Someone dared to ask,
not the yowler from city hall
or her side-kicked side-kick.
To hell with local artists
what do they bring the city?
nothing but scruffy dogs
and ripped jeans,
hippies with hobbies the lot of them.
As for the buskers, wanting to fit in
with the odor of outrage.
Move them on, hide them in GMIT,
or the picture palace.
Don’t mention local artists at all.
Let it be like they don’t exist
Raise the rents is the best way
to keep the ripped jeans gang out,
like it’s always been.
Artists me arse.
This is Galway, the bidding city
the forbidding city.
City of thieves or is scribes or is it tribes?
The jury are coming this July,
the word is out they’ll rule on the bid,
for capital of Culture
give the horse plenty.
We have a great little city here,
a pity little city, a shitty little city.
In the wake of ‘Brexit’ in Britain, xenophobia is in the air – with hate speech and hate crimes against minority groups and presumed immigrants on the rise. In British and international media, condemnations of these appalling racist acts and language have been coming from left, right and centre – as is only proper. Racism, particularly in its explicit and violent manifestations seen in the past week, needs to be called out for what it is. More than that, acts of discrimination in any form should be openly condemned and actively opposed.
There’s the logic. But here’s the thing. As everyone in Ireland knows, there are currently almost 5,000 people living in the ‘direct provision’ system here: a network of privately run detention centres where people born in countries outside the Anglosphere are corralled for seeking asylum in the Irish State. Asylum seekers have their right to food, shelter, fair employment opportunities, access to third-level education and even the smallest chance of personal independence systematically controlled and curtailed – for years on end.
All of which is why the recently announced reforms of the ‘direct provision’ system were long overdue. However, the normal conditions of life under this system are also the reason why mild reform feels like an insult to even the idea of migrant rights and State obligations, not to mention the people and families who have been campaigning on this basis for years. The message, of course, has been clear and reasonable from the beginning – clear, reasonable, but always ignored by the series of centre-right Ministers it was directed to, most recently Frances Fitzgerald. ‘Direct provision’, after all, is not an efficiency issue, to be tweaked, rubber-stamped and kept intact – and certainly not on a for-profit basis. No: ‘direct provision’ is a human rights issue. It always has been. And it still is.
Anything less than a comprehensive overhaul of the current asylum-seeking process – with the aim of recognising the basic needs of migrants and the obligations of the State under international law – can be understood as State racism. With or without reforms, ‘direct provision’ is a rights-denying system of control and detention of human beings, enforced on xenophobic grounds. On the level of base discrimination, it is perhaps only surpassed by the European Union’s systematic efforts to deport, demonise and deny the rights of refugees along its mainland borders – people also characterised by their common flight from persecution, poverty or distress in their home countries.
Even beyond the issue of xenophobic thinking, the tendency to objectify and then deny the humanity of other human beings has been one of the defining characteristics of both the Irish and EU political establishments over the last decade. It’s a telling fact that there are over 57,000 refugees now stranded in Greece on EU orders – a country in which the unemployment rate has risen above 25% in the wake of EU-imposed austerity. Similarly in Ireland, the homelessness crisis has deepened – in no small part due to that pernicious strand of political thinking, from Dublin and Brussels, that views the health and well-being of ordinary people as disposable, ignorable and secondary to the supposed freedoms of big business and financial capital.
After all, and broadly speaking, what privatisation has meant for Ireland’s asylum seeking process is similar to what it has meant for other areas of Irish society: the ‘service’ in question is run (the system in place is organised) on the basis of the profit margins of the private sector, and not according to the needs of the people whom the service was supposed to provide for in the first place. The divisive and damaging results of this creed are evident across Ireland’s housing, healthcare and education sectors, as well as finding an incarnation in the ‘direct provision’ system.
Once again: these are not efficiency issues. They’re human rights issues – and a failure to address them as such, in Ireland and in the EU, has consistently generated what can be objectively described as inequality and injustice. The fact that these last have become the norm, that they are accepted and even defended as legitimate outcomes of a valid worldview, is proof of our complicity in that more obvious violence we’ve seen of late – the dehumanising violence of xenophobic acts. As for ‘Brexit’? Maybe soon we’ll reach a radical response: dealing with the roots of that disaffection the EU has sown and reaped with the help of our own political leaders over the past decade.
This opinion piece by Annemarie Ni Churreain originally appeared here in The Guardian.
I was abroad when I got the call. There’s been an accident, I was told. You need to come home.
You lose your foothold in the world when you learn that someone you love has been harmed. I remember the coldness that burned into my bones at first. Then, anger. Next, the slow drip of guilt and delusion. I should have been there. I know he will survive. I was sitting under a strip light in a hospital corridor one morning when I finally realised that my 23-year-old foster brother was going to die.
I grew up in north-west Ireland in my biological family, alongside adoptees and foster siblings (most of whom had only sporadic contact with their relatives or original families). For all of us, the question of how to deal with loss was central to our lives. What does it mean to be part of a system in which loss and separation are the cornerstones? How do you prepare to be parted from the person you never expected to have in your life? Where can we process our grief? When a child or adult of the care system is dying, all these familiar questions become further amplified.
One of the greatest resources we have for unpacking these questions is the relationship between a child’s foster family and original family. Within this relationship is the potential to share stories, information and emotional support. In my life I have had more than 30 foster siblings and this much I have learned: no one understands the love you feel for your foster child better than the original family. No one else understands the depth of your hopes, fears, and loss. Even in families where violence or abuse has occurred, there are always other individuals (grandparents, cousins, in-laws) who pose no risk, and who want to participate in a meaningful relationship. It’s vitally important that social workers find these individuals and help care families establish links.
Yet in Ireland some of the 6,000 children in care (and most care leavers, of which there are 20,000) have no social worker. Tusla, Ireland’s child and family agency, has recently reported a massive shortage of staff, and in my experience the dialogue between families often happens in ways that are unsafe and incoherent, such as via social media. This superficial level of engagement, in a society that struggles to understand “different” families, spells disaster. It leaves families completely alienated when a crisis occurs.
In the hospital, I met most of my foster brother’s relatives for the first time. I also saw first-time meetings between biologically-related adults and children. It was a strained atmosphere intensified by the fact that we had no shared history, and no social work support. All this hindered and coloured the very practical business of hospital access, medical care and deciding future plans. In hindsight it seems sad and wrong that this is howthe families met for the first and only time.
Families must be encouraged to liaise, not least because outsiders to the fostering experience may not always understand the unique dynamics around our losses. When a child or adult of the care system dies, even the familiar blueprint for acknowledging or ritualising death is fraught with complication. How does a community console a person whose relationship with the deceased is not clear? How do you reach out to a family whose bereavement may be mired in regret, stigma, or silence?
On the day of my foster brother’s funeral, I stood in a back pew and watched the procession move down the aisle, the coffin carried by members of the biological family – some I had barely met. In that moment, I felt daunted by how much needs to change in the care system. I did not go to the graveside during the burial, partly because I didn’t know if I belonged there, partly because I didn’t feel that at such a young age he belonged there, partly because I did not have the appropriate support.
Growing up in a foster family, I received no support to deal with my losses. I received no proper support to connect with biological families. Yet, I have learned along the way that a respectful and transparent relationship is one of the best ways to make sense of the complexity of the care experience. Social workers have a pivotal role to play in nurturing this relationship. My foster brother died as the result of an accident, but I have been left with the question: unless families are helped to work together, how can we keep anyone safe?
Annemarie Ní Churreáin is a writer and poet from Donegal in north-west Ireland. She is an advocate for family diversity and Irish foster care reform. Support care reform in Ireland by following The Care-Leaver’s Network Ireland
Also by Annemarie Ni Churreain Living with Trauma: Why We Need To Support Foster Carers in Ireland
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett reading his very moving poem The Trees of Palestine at the Gaza Kids to Ireland Fundraiser in the Purty Kitchen last night. In his fascinating intro to the poem Richard explains how his witnessing of the horrendous treatment of Palestinians, as well as their courageous and dignified resistance to Apartheid Israel, during a youthful trip to Palestine inspired him to get involved in politics. Highly recommended viewing. Donate to Gaza Kids to Ireland here.