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Poetry as Commemoration: Introduction

A new initiative working with poets and communities across the island of Ireland

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Poetry as Commemoration project, an all island project, will use poetry as a means to deepen our collective understanding of Ireland's past and to explore a challenging period of our history relating to the struggle for independence and Civil War, in a spirit of openness and inclusivity. 

Key Strands

Key components of this project include

  • The Commissioned work: A core component of this project is to commission a selection of poems, in English and in Irish, on topics, themes and events inspired by primary source materials relating to the War of Independence and Civil War that are held in archives around the country. A selection committee will be drawn up by IPRA, working closely with Poetry Ireland, to select the commissioned poets, ensuring diversity, representation from both sides of the border, and academic input.

  •  Creative writing workshops: A community engagement programme will include creative writing workshops for adults and children. They will draw inspiration for new creative work by engaging with original documents relating to the War of Independence and Civil War.

  •  Poetry in public spaces: A programme of poetry in public spaces, including the curation of recordings generated by the project for the mobile Poetry Jukebox will tour towns and cities, together with other poetry exhibitions and installations, such as “Rain Poetry”.

rain haiku Nidhi Zak

Rain poetry by Nidhi Zakaria Eipe

Poetry Jukebox - Lucy Collins and Maria McManus

UCD’s Associate Professor Lucy Collins and Maria McManus of Quotidian with the Poetry Jukebox

Gabriel Rosenstock - rain poetry

Rain Poetry haiku as Gaeilge by Gabriel Rosenstock

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This is a temporary webpage . A new website is under development 

Examples of archival materials

Kilmichael Ambush

Kilmichael Ambush destruction

House smashed by auxiliaries after the Kilmichael ambush (UCDA P80/PH/16 Desmond FitzGerald Photographs)


Four Courts map

Plan of the Four Courts

Map of the inside of the Four Courts (UCDA P17a/304 Papers of Ernie O'Malley)

Waldron notes

Notes on the Civil War

Notes on the Civil war by John Waldron, Tuam, Co Galway. This page refers to the so called 'Tuam Martyrs', 6 members of the anti treaty forces executed in April 1923 at the site of the Tuam workhouse (GS12-10Galway County Archives).

Free State Soldier

Irish Free State Army Soldier

Thomas MacMahon, armoured car and machine gun division who sustained a hip wound on Dame Street. (UCDA P80/PH/119 Desmond FitzGerald Photographs).

Mountjoy menu

Anti-treaty propaganda leaflet

An anti-treaty propaganda leaflet entitled 'Gentlemen, the King' , published by anti-treaty forces during the civil war (UCD OFM collection in Special Collections)

Four Courts image

View of the damaged Four Courts

View of the facade of the Four C‚Äčourts from Merchants Quay by W.D. Hogan. (UCDA P80/PH/30 Desmond FitzGerald Photographs)

War News

Poblacht na h-Eireann War News

Poblacht na h-EireannWar News – published by anti-treaty forces occupying the Four Courts on June 28th, 1922 at the outbreak of the Civil War (UCD OFM collection in Special Collections).

letter from Marion O'Malley

Letter from Marion O'Malley to Richard Mulcahy

Letter from Marion O'Malley to Richard Mulcahy relating to her three imprisoned sons (UCDA 17a/289 Papers of Ernie O'Malley)

Developing the project

A Creative Producer will be engaged to develop and lead this project .

Work will include developing a dynamic programme of activities to engage diverse audiences on the island of Ireland, including poetry workshops, events, installations and publications. This person will also work with the poetry partners, along with local, regional and national organisations, individual poets and practitioners, to facilitate creative engagement with archives

Process of writing commemorative poems.

"The stories of individual people in our history, held in their letters, diaries and memoirs as well as in public documents, can capture the imagination and create an emotional response in both the writer and the reader. Commemorative poems help us to unpack historic events and to understand the humanity of the people involved.Poet Jane Clarke, commenting on a commissioned poem for a film in the Strokestown Poetry Festival


Jane Clarke also spoke about drawing inspiration from the writings of Asenath Nicholson. She described the role of the poet as being like an outsider …."a sensitive, observant, compassionate outsider…  drawing on their emotional, intellectual and imaginative response to archival material to write poetry of and out of these lives".


The Irish Poetry Reading Archive (IPRA)  at UCD Library is delighted to lead this exciting national commemorations project which will explore poetry as a means of deepening our understandings of the past through archives and other original documents. By engaging contemporary poets to look at Ireland’s past we endeavour to reflect the Ireland of the 21st century.  This artistic expression will form the future interpretation of both past events and current commemorations.

Poems, drafts, photographs, manuscripts etc from this project will be archived with the Irish Poetry Reading Archive, in UCD.

Irish Poetry Reading Archive cover