Poetry project – ‘Lines from Lockdown’

Working with Writing on the Wall, Liverpool Irish Festival have selected two poems, which we believe hold incredible relevance to the lockdown situation we find ourselves within during 2020. We’ve worked with the Sefton Park Palm House ‘Palm Readers’ group to develop the project you see below.

Quarantine, by Eavan Boland, considers an aspect of Irish history that we will be leading several projects on over the coming years, An Gorta Mór also known as The Great Hunger or The Irish Famine. It reminds us of the politics involved in quarantine and the hardships people suffered, then and now. It makes us think about our gifts, our privilege and our heritage, reaching across the generations with love and a sadness that don’t always make the right decisions. Sadly, Eavan passed away in April 2020 and so the video resulting from the use of this poem will be the Festival’s tribute to her.

Stephen James Smith’s We Must Create reminds us that we must create to stay well, to find connection and to feel. It commits us to thinking of others by considering our connection and heritage, in addition to what we can bring to the world. Stepehn has approved the project and will be involved as we progress towards the Festival.

Both are written by Dubliners in the first quarter of the twenty-first century; both provide many layers of meaning, which we encourage you to explore as deeply as you are able.

The task

We would like to see your ‘covers’ of these poems, in whole or individual stanzas (numbered for easy identification). In the case of Stephen’s poem, We Must Create, we encourage you to write your own stanza to add to the end, so we can share these with Stephen and our Festival audiences. We’ve given you a rough example below. See ***

  • First and foremost, pick your poem -or poems- and decide if you are going to add a stanza to it for We Must Create. When sending your entry, let us know the stanza numbers you have covered for which poem. You are welcome to do all and both, but understand some would prefer to run shorter submissions
  • Run a quick test on your camera, DSLR or phone, to make sure your speech can be heard and the image is as clear as it can be. Try not to sit directly in front of a light, which will either put you in silhouette or bleach you completely!
  • Check you are filming in landscape and recording at the highest resolution your equipment allows
  • Start by addressing the camera with your full name and current location. Be creative – if the whole family are involved, that’s great – just let us know so we can credit you all!
  • Focus on the feelings the poem(s) generates in you
  • Once recorded, please send* your MP4 film to [email protected] via WeTransfer, with your name, age (in the case of minors), location and email, so we can credit you appropriately.

That’s it! We will splice the entries together to create a full performance of the poems and may put individual entries up on our site for you to access later, if they stand out.

Deadline for entries: Extended from Sun 9 Aug 2020 to Sun 13 Sept 2020.
First streaming of complete poem:  Thurs 15 Oct 2020, at the opening of the Liverpool Irish Festival. Anyone submitting their email address will be sent the link.
Download this information as a three page PDF.
General terms and conditions apply. You can see those on this page.

The Poems


Eavan Boland, born Dublin, Ireland 1944-died Dublin, Ireland 2020.

Stanza number Stanza
1 In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking—they were both walking—north.

2 She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

3 In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

4 Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

5 Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

From New Collected Poems by Eavan Boland.
Copyright © 2008 by Eavan Boland.
Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton.
All rights reserved.

We Must Create

Stephen James Smith, born Dublin, Ireland 1982.

Stanza number Stanza
1 We must create to know who we can be
I say this for you, I say this for me
We must create to know who we can be

2 Early beginnings, heart beat warmth and you
First breath, eyes open a new point of view
Hands touch, ears hear, clocks ticking I am who?
We must create to know who we can be

3 Screaming out from within with a voice here
Notes flowing on air lulling the fear
Melody all around this atmosphere
We must create to know who we can be

4 Hearing truth in onomatopoeia
Boom, boom, belch, zoom, zap, playing with grandpa
While cookie cutting, baking for grandma
We must create to know who we can be

5 From scrawling with crayons to Lego bricks
From knitting needles, soft textile fabrics
To air-guitaring auld Jimi Hendrix
We must create to know who we can be

6 There are creative accountants, CVs
Tinder profiles where you look the bees knees
But best not to force it, it comes with ease
We must create to know who we can be

7 We heard a song sung, it helped ease the pain
We didn’t feel so lonesome as we sang the refrain
We forgot that feeling until we heard it again
We must create to know who we can be

8 From nursery rhymes to white collar crimes
What have you to say in uncertain times?
Have you a chance to change the paradigms?
We must create to know who we can be

9 Do you remember the time you heard an opening allegro
Or when that beat dropped and how it made your head go?
Some things make no sense unless you’re in flow
We must create to know who we can be

10 You may rise then fall, or fall then rise
An arc of a story contains no surprise
But how you tell it, therein the art lies
We must create to know who we can be

11 Artistry gives rise to community
We’re all part of a changing tapestry
There’s art history in identity
We must create to know who we can be

12 If you do it for the money you’ll be called a fraud
If you think you’re great company and you might be God
Delusions of grandeur aren’t that odd
We must create to know who we can be

13 There’s all sorts of forms, disciplines, levels
To challenge yourself in the intervals
Where you’ll find rivals and reasons for approvals
We must create to know who we can be

14 If it’s saved you from yourself
And now there’s no other way
It doesn’t matter how it moved you, welcome to the ballet
You’ve just found the peak of Parnassus, fair play!

15 We must create to know who we can be
I say this for you, I say this for me
We must create to know who we can be
We must create to know who we can be.

From Here Now by Stephen James Smith.
Copyright © 2019 by Stephen James Smith.
Reprinted by permission of Pace Print and the poet.
All rights reserved.*** To get you going, we’ve given you a little
starter for 10…

Commit to the process; trust in your speech
Engage in the idea, tweak gingerly
Film it and send it; await now to see
We must create to know who we can be.

General terms and conditions

  1. This is a community art project intended to provide a positive and creative activity during Covid-19 social restrictions. We have approached Stephen James Smith for use of his poem, which he has given freely. We have approached Eavan Boland’s publishers for use of the poem, but have not had official confirmation that we are free to use this work. having double checked permissions for the use of poetry we believe that the motivation and respect for the work suggests we are able to use it, respectfully and with safety. In the event that it is not permitted, we will remove the poem from this page and cease the project work around this poem.
  2. Criminality will be reported. Indecent submissions will be reported and rejected.
  3. All submissions must come with a named credit to be selected. This is for safeguarding and due credit if work is selected for press purposes
  4. The Liverpool Irish Festival will assume you have the right to use any imagery, likeness or art work sent to us in support of the poetry project. Please ensure you have these rights
  5. We will only accept and display respectful work and the Liverpool Irish Festival has final say in determining what this means. Our intention is to limit work to that which can be reasonably shared with all ages, without causing upset or alarm or triggering safeguarding or decency concerns. Content which flouts decency regulations will be reported
  6. The Liverpool Irish Festival reserves the right to use these entires online (web and social media); in our printed publications and our promotional materials. We will not sell your work or share your contact details without direct liaison (e.g., if a national publisher wanted an interview with you, we would contact you to permit contact).
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Sefton Park Palm House logo