Athlone’s epic poetry contenders

Members of Poetry in the Park pictured at a recent meeting.

Members of Poetry in the Park pictured at a recent meeting.

An arts project from Athlone has been shortlisted for an Epic Award for its work in the community.

Poetry in the Park is one of just six remaining voluntary arts collaborations in the Irish category and the winner will be announced in Glasgow on Wednesday (February 26 ) at the Ireland/UK awards night.

The Epic Awards celebrate the 60,000 voluntary arts groups across Ireland and the UK.

Four of Poetry in the Park’s key women will be in Scotland with their fingers crossed: Jackie Gorman, Caroline Coyle, Brenda Burke, and visual artist Rose Finnerty, who founded the project as part of her involvement in Athlone’s Making Space arts collective.

Caroline Coyle says the venture, which is two years old, has “brought a buzz back to poetry”.

“Our aim was to take poetry outdoors through a range of actions, mediums, and environments which challenge people’s perceptions about poetry, how it’s delivered and how we can relate to it.”

Jackie Gorman says the group, who meet at 2pm on the first Sunday of each month at the inspirational, Shannonside setting of Burgess Park, are over the moon to be nominated for the much-coveted award.

“We are delighted to reach the finals of the Epic Awards this year and thanks to all those in Athlone who have supported Poetry in the Park since its inception,” she said.

Poetry in the Park is a friendly event that takes poetry back to its roots as a public, performance experience, giving poets and poetry fans an opportunity to read their poems, or poems they like or to listen to poetry or short stories.

It firmly puts to bed any ideas the public has about poetry being a quiet, dull, or lonely pursuit.

Last year was a busy year for the collective. Along with the monthly open air meetings, they hosted two events to mark the passing of poet Seamus Heaney and an event to mark the importance of the Springwell Road in local folklore.

With the support of a local company, they also published their first poetry chapbook.

In a generous act of “guerilla poetry”, the group handed out copies of their collection to surprised and delighted shoppers on a Sunday afternoon before Christmas.

Jackie and Caroline have been accepted to a mentoring programme with renowned poet, Noel Monahan, whose work is familiar to poetry fans and Leaving Cert students.

Jackie says Poetry in the Park has been “a great journey”.

“It’s not simply about being recharged, as in a good night’s sleep or a holiday, it is about being charged at a completely different voltage.”

The competition winner will be decided by judges, but at epicawards.co.uk the public can vote for Poetry in the Park as The People’s Choice favourite.

To vote log on to www.facebook.com/poetry-in-the-park

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