Poemathon with Older People brings a spotlight to their voices, imagination and creativity

Poetry Ireland with the Global Brain Health Institute (Trinity College Dublin) and Neuroscience Ireland is inviting older people across the island of Ireland to write a line of poetry for a Poemathon with Older People.  

The contributions will be combined to form a longer poem that captures the thoughts and imaginings of older people right now in society. John Sheahan, one of Ireland’s best knownmusicians and member of The Dubliners, has penned the opening line of the poem: “Intrepid intruder, stalker of unwashed hands”.  

He will also be contributing the final line of the poem, which will be curated and edited by poet and editor Seamus Cashman.  

John Sheahan said, “The Poemathon with Older People is helping to give a voice to an older generation – a wonderful way to bring us together creatively from all parts of the island of Ireland in a collaborative poem. I look forward to seeing how each contribution steers the poem, meandering like a river, towards its final destination when the finished poem is launched in March.”    

Submissions to the Poemathon can be made through a form on Poetry Ireland’s website from 18 January until 5pm on 12 February – at this link

Niamh O’Donnell, Director of Poetry Ireland, said that the project is designed to give an opportunity to create, to imagine, and to write.  

“The Poemathon is a creative opportunity to express reflections, reactions and responses to what is currently happening in society including the great number of changes to our lives, and particularly to the lives of older people, due to the Covid-19 restrictions,” she said.  

“I’m really looking forward to reading their specific and deep insights into issues of isolation and togetherness, community and belonging, vulnerability, resilience and hope. It’s really vital at this time to provide a space for their voices and thoughts while celebrating creativity for everyone and we’re delighted John Sheahan is working with us on the Poemathon, along with the Global Brain Health Institute and Neuroscience Ireland.” 

The Poemathon with Older People is following on the success of the Poetry Day Ireland Poemathon for children, which took place in April 2020, and saw 380 young writers contribute lines to a poem with the first and last lines penned by the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins.  

Collaboration in poetry writing has a long history and tradition, often used as a method of ‘opening the voice’ in poetry workshops, based on the idea that when writers share in a writing process, the outcomes often prove to be imaginative and surprising, with a creative conversation taking place within poems themselves. 

The Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity College Dublin is one of the partners in the Poemathon project.  

“As an Atlantic Fellow at the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), I work to promote brain health and dignity in aging populations,” said Dr Francesca Farina. “I am therefore delighted that GBHI is supporting the Poemathon in partnership with Poetry Ireland and Neuroscience Ireland. 

“This creative project is devoted to older people across the island of Ireland. At a time when many may feel forgotten and vulnerable, the Poemathon is an opportunity to remember and acknowledge peoples’ experiences and, ultimately, help us to feel more connected as a society.” 

A reminder that the opening line of the poem is: “Intrepid intruder, stalker of unwashed hands”. Entries can be submitted until 5pm on Friday 12 February on the Poetry Ireland website: at this link.  

One lucky entrant will be drawn at random to receive a book bundle comprising of titles from Poetry Ireland and Trinity College Dublin.  

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