The story of Ireland is preserved in archives across the island and beyond. Records, letters, photographs and ephemera provide powerful contemporary evidence of events and lives that shaped our collective past.
Since June 2022, we have been inviting communities to draw inspiration from source materials relating to the War of Independence and Civil War in Poetry as Commemoration creative writing workshops. So far, 44 workshops for adults and children have taken place across 12 counties and the programme will continue to run up until October 2023. Workshops were also held in London and online for members of the Irish diaspora.
Led by experienced Poetry Ireland writers, school children and adults are invited to explore the history of Ireland one hundred years ago and to gain insight into the experiences of people from different backgrounds through engagement with primary source materials.
Since the programme began, several groups have visited UCD Special Collections to consult items from the impressive holdings at UCD Library and UCD Archives. Others sought inspiration in local collections held in repositories such as Waterford County Archives, Cork City Library, and the Linen Hall Library. For groups unable to travel to a local repository, the Poetry as Commemoration team put together document packs containing surrogate items selected from various repositories. These packs are free to download on the Educational Resources page of the website.
One example of a document used in workshops is a pension application for Ms Annie Coyne. Held in the Military Archives Pension Collection, it contains a personal statement which informs readers about the kinds of activities the average member of Cumann na mBan was engaged in during the War of Independence and Civil War.
Pension application form of Annie Coyne of Aughagower,
Westport, Co. Mayo
Date: 30th May 1951
Collection: Military Service Pensions Collection
Archive: Military Archives
For younger participants, documents such as this are intriguing and educational, prompting questions about the lives of women in 1922-23 and what happened to them afterwards. Adult groups, however, have more varied responses to the same item. Some may have read about such activities in history books or heard family stories passed down through generations. For these groups, their encounter with the document is a poignant one as they are confronted with a first person account of the experience, adding colour to already familiar stories. This can be a moving and sometimes challenging experience.
A document like this not only encourages understanding from the perspective of others, but it provokes an emotional response in the reader which can be creatively generative. It can also act as a conduit through which people’s own stories or memories can be processed.
The practice of writing can have a therapeutic function unlocking the subconscious mind and facilitating its expression. This is particularly true when dealing with traumatic historic events such as the War of Independence and Civil War. Poetry as Commemoration workshops provide a space for the public to talk about a period of history that was not widely discussed or that evoked difficult memories and family stories that were not easily expressed.
While some participants feel connected to the established narratives of Irish history through family stories, others with no direct link to the events or those who arrived in Ireland after the wars, may feel disconnected from traditional forms of commemoration. Using archival materials as prompts for creative writing allows people of all backgrounds and traditions to connect with the period in various ways so that everyone can gain something from the experience.
A Brand New Archive
Following the workshops, participants are encouraged to submit their work to a brand new archive of commemorative writing which will be preserved in UCD Special Collections for future generations. Poems will also be added to the Virtual Poetry Wall on our website. Over 200 poems have been collected to date with over 60 featuring on the Virtual Poetry Wall. You can explore the Poetry as Commemoration Virtual Poetry Wall here! For more information on upcoming workshops, visit the Workshops Schedule or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Upcoming workshops in 2023
- Newbridge Library, Kildare (Adults)
- Blue Teapot Performing Arts School, Galway (Adults)
- Scoil Pol, Kilfinane, Co. Limerick (Second Level)
- Marshallstown Primary school, Wexford (Primary Level)
- Gaelscoil Mhichil Ciosog, Ennis, Co. Clare (Primary Level)
- Ardgillan Community College (Second Level)
- Crossmaglen, Armagh, Irish language workshops (Primary Level)
- Catherine McAuley School, Dublin (Primary Level)
- Scoil Ard na Mara, Tramore, Waterford (Second Level)
- Carnegie Library, Kilkenny (Adults)
- Verbal Arts, Derry (Adults)
- Wicklow Archives (Adults)
- Wexford Archives (Adults)
More locations to be added in 2023! Are you interested in hosting workshops in your area? Get in touch by email today! email@example.com