Poetry jukebox

The Poetry Jukebox“We are putting something gentle and beautiful into public space”

As heard on arena

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A somewhat mysterious looking, periscope-shaped object has popped up in Dublin’s Docklands, just outside EPIC – The Irish Emigration Museum. What does it do? Who is it for? Why is it there? The word on the street is that it’s a Poetry Jukebox. The people behind the project joined Seán Rocks on Arena to tell him more.

The Poetry Jukebox, is an on-street installation, that allows people to choose a poem from a curated selection. No coin necessary. Nice.

There are currently three Poetry Jukeboxes on the island of Ireland; one in Belfast, one in Strabane and now one in Dublin. Poet and Artistic Director of the project, Maria McManus explained the significance of the installation.

“We are putting something gentle and beautiful into public space so that people who are curious can be rewarded for their curiosity with something gorgeous.”

The poems featured on the Dublin playlist are a special curation on the theme of hunger and migration, chosen by Jessica Traynor, poet, and the Deputy Museum Director at EPIC. She told Seán a little more about the theme.

“We lit upon the notion of hungering as our theme… which gave us a fantastic range, from poems that respond to the famine, right through to poems that respond to the current migrant crisis.”

Seán wondered whether physically recording twenty or more poets reading their work proved tricky, in terms of organising studio time, recording deadlines, etc. The opposite was the case. Jessica explained that poets simply recorded their recitations on a mobile phone and emailed them in. A sound designer then did a little audio manipulation to stitch everything together. This way of working meant that the project could accept work from all over the world.

“It’s a delightful process really… the quick response nature of it is great and means that it’s quite viable for a broad range of people.”

The jukebox itself is a little more cumbersome. At almost 2 metres tall and 220 kgs in weight (Maria says this is so drunk people can’t knock it over), the hardware takes a bit of work to install. It’s all worth it though for Maria who reflected on one of the first interactions with the jukebox in Belfast. A small child ran up to it and hit the button, her mother quickly followed, scooped her up and both stood listening to the poem together.

“For me that was a really important moment in changing the message about what we expose ourselves to in public space… A lot of angry, negative discourse, and here we have something really life-affirming, beautiful and evocative.”

You can listen to the conversation in full, as well as some of the poems featured, here.

© The Listener 2019

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