‘A win for the Irish language’

PRESTIGE - Pictured at the All Ireland Poetry Slam Finals in Sandinos Bar are, from left, Leinster poet Karl Parkinson, who finished in 2nd Place, event organiser Abby Oliveira, Connacht-born Irish speaker Seamus Barr'O Suillebhain - the newly crowned All Ireland Poetry Slam Champion 2011/2012, and Munster finalist Fergus Costello. (Photo courtesy of John O'Neill - 912JC3)
PRESTIGE - Pictured at the All Ireland Poetry Slam Finals in Sandinos Bar are, from left, Leinster poet Karl Parkinson, who finished in 2nd Place, event organiser Abby Oliveira, Connacht-born Irish speaker Seamus Barr'O Suillebhain - the newly crowned All Ireland Poetry Slam Champion 2011/2012, and Munster finalist Fergus Costello. (Photo courtesy of John O'Neill - 912JC3)
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A captivating poet performing only in Irish made history this week when awarded the prestigious title of All Ireland Poetry Slam Champion.

In an impassioned battle of words, Seamus Barra O’ Suilleabhain, representing Connacht, won first place and the admiration of all - despite the majority of the audience not speaking Irish. Although the precise content of his work remained a mystery to most, his passionate, animated delivery won over the entire room.

It was the first time that the final of the nationwide contest took place in Derry, with the Back Bar of Sandinos packed to capacity for the event.

The first round saw eight of the country’s most accomplished slam poets take to the stage for three-minutes each.

Local performer Conor O’Kane, AKA Teknopeasant, and Seamus Fox represented Ulster, Seamus Barra O’ Suilleabhain and Sarah Clancy represented Connacht, Karl Parkinson and John Cummins performed for Leinster, and Mary O’Connell and Fergus Costello for Munster.

Each performer wowed an enthusiastic audience, with Conor O’ Kane, Seamus Barra O’ Suilleabhain, Fergus Costello and Karl Parkinson all winning the round on points. The second round was mesmerising, with each poet leaving its audience awestruck and wanting more. After a great deal of deliberation and soul-searching, the three judges decided that Connacht-born Irish speaker Seamus Barra O’ Suilleabhain and Leinster poet Karl Parkinson would go head to head in the final round.

Choosing a winner from this nail-biting finish proved incredibly difficult for the competition’s three judges - Eaman Craig (aka Derry rap artist, Wileman), myself, and acclaimed poet Jason Lee Lovell, founder member of University of Ulster Poetry Society.

In the end, Seamus Barra O’ Suillebhain was justly named as the All Ireland Poetry Slam Champion thanks to the fluidity and passion of his performance and his natural ability to make poetry in the Irish language as melodious as music. A bold, but well-deserved winner.

Following his stunning achievement, Ireland’s new Poetry Slam Champion for 2011/2012, Seamus Barra O’ Suillebhain said modestly: “This isn’t so much a win for me as much as a win for the Irish language.”

Organiser Abby Oliveira added: “Seamus is an engaging performer who writes his work only in the Irish language for an Anglophone audience. The fact that he was effortlessly able to engage and entertain the largely English speaking audience is testament to his deserving win.”

Many thanks to all who participated in this important literary event and all who supported Derry’s first-ever All Ireland Poetry Slam Final.