Fifty nights a year, guest poets from across the spectrum at Ó Bhéal

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In the latest of our regular series on open mic nights featured in our Gig Guide, Write Out Loud talks to Paul Casey, director of Ó Bhéal, a weekly open mic night in Cork. Ó Bhéal is Irish for “by word of mouth”:


How long has Ó Bhéal been running? And what made you think you should set up a poetry event in Cork?

Fifty Mondays per year since April 2007. Plenty poets and very few reading opportunities, or not enough that seemed inclusive enough. Also, I'm a poet and have a need to discover other poets and poetries regularly.


Do you have guest poets? If so, how do you choose them?

Ó Bhéal has featured around 800 guest poets in over 540 Monday events and five Winter Warmer weekend festivals. Poets regularly apply to read so there is a long waiting list. We feature an even spread of guests from emerging to established and from across the genre spectrum, from experimental to traditional, performance to multimedia collaborations, throughout the year.


What are the highlights of running a poetry night?

Hearing the nuances and subtleties of a poet's verse read aloud and first-hand. Witnessing the creation of new verse and connections between people. The listening that is cultivated.


And the difficulties?

Funding, funding and funding.


What advice would you give to someone thinking of setting up a poetry night?

Probably best not to, unless the urge is overpowering. No, just joking. The more poetry nights the merrier. Read tons of poetry. Go to loads of other gigs to see how it's done elsewhere. Let it develop as organically as possible (in relation to the area and venue) and keep the event regular (commit long-term if you can).


Questions by Emma Purshouse


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Derek Sellen

Mon 29th Jan 2018 10:27

What doesn't necessarily come across in the Q&A is the fantastic welcoming atmosphere at Ó Bhéal. The enthusiasm for poetry and the spontaneity are memorable.

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