2022-2023 marked the centenary of one of the most challenging periods in Irish history including the ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the establishment of the Free State and the ensuing Civil War. During this difficult phase of the Decade of Centenaries, Poetry as Commemoration invited communities to turn to poetry as a mode of understanding and expression.

Poetry, as a medium, invites nuanced interpretation, unpacking complex issues in a compressed space. As former Director of Poetry Ireland, Niamh O’Donnell, has stated, poetry has a generative capacity, ‘offering interaction and discovery as an alternative to confrontation, offering curiosity not certainty, hope not hate’.  Poetry can communicate the effect of significant events on the lives of ordinary people, while simultaneously promoting a shared understanding of these events.

In 2022 and 2023 the Poetry as Commemoration initiative encouraged people on the island of Ireland to build a greater understanding of our shared past through creative engagement with archival materials  relating to the War of Independence and Civil War.

The project involved 3 core activities:

  • Poetry Commissions
    Ten new poems were commissioned, inspired by primary sources, in English and Irish, on topics, themes and events relating to this challenging period of Irish history. Read the poems here on the Virtual Poetry Wall.
  • Creative Writing Workshops
    A community engagement programme of creative writing workshops for a range of age groups was rolled out in 2022 and 2023. Archival materials relating to the War of Independence and Civil War era was used to inspire these new writing. Poems created in workshops were collected to form a new archive which will is now housed in the Irish Poetry Reading Archive, Special Collections, UCD Library, as a record of public commemorative practice. This archive is part of the legacy of the Decade of Commemorations and is available to the public for research and teaching. Read the poems here on the Virtual Poetry Wall.
  • Public Art
    Touring Poetry Jukebox sound installations brought the written word to life in public spaces, bringing poetry to new audiences and opening up unique perspectives on the past. Read more about the tour locations here and read the poems here.


Ursula Byrne, Head of Development & Strategic Initiatives, UCD Library.

Dr. Lucy Collins, Associate Professor of Modern Poetry, UCD School of English, Drama & Film.

Evelyn Flanagan, Head of Special Collections, UCD Library.

Dr. Catherine Wilsdon, Creative Producer, Poetry as Commemoration.

This project is an initiative of the Irish Poetry Reading Archive at UCD and is supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, under the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 programme.


Fine Print Edition

The ten commissioned poems, along with accompanying essays by Dr Lucy Collins and Commandant Daniel Ayiotis, have been published as a limited-edition collection entitled Grief’s Broken Brow. 100 copies of this fine press edition were designed and created by Jamie Murphy at The Salvage Press with original artwork by James Earley, suminagashi cover papers by Louise Gaffney, and binding by Duffy Bookbinders Ltd. Grief’s Broken Brow is available for the public to view via county library services and selected repositories (see full list here). This carefully crafted edition provides a tangible record of the Decade of Centenaries and a legacy object for future generations. Read more about Grief’s Broken Brow here. Read the commissioned poems here.


Recordings of commissioned poets reading their poems are available to view via the Irish Poetry Reading Archive YouTube channel.


Poems written by workshop participants are preserved in the Irish Poetry Reading Archive in UCD Library and on the Virtual Poetry Wall providing a tangible record of participants’ engagement with the commemoration of the War of Independence and Civil War through poetry in 2022-2023.


Screenshot of website homepageThis site including all poems gathered and submitted has been web archived by UCD Library as a record of this Decade of Centenaries project.