It is with heavy heart we pass on the sad news that friend and poet Brian Bailey passed away last night, after battling cancer.
Brian was a figurehead in the Belfast poetry scene: an old pro from the days of the Arcadia open mic nights in North Street Arcade, he ran the poetry nights at Bookfinders for a while, and founded the Belfast Poetry Cup, an early local slam than happened at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. More recently, he organised the Poetry & Pints festival at the John Hewitt Bar, and had performed with the music group The Who-Ers.
He also was a great encourager for young talent, and had many a kind word to say to us and other upcoming poets. Brian was the one to suggest running an open mic night in the Safehouse Gallery. That became 'Make Yourself Heard', an early precursor to Purely Poetry.
Throughout the years, Brian engaged with the poetry community, entertaining us all with wild performances and keen insights. Seeing him read was always a guaranteed highlight of the night. He will be sorely missed by us all. RIP Brian.
This poem by Brian feels oddly fitting today:
Hide and Seek
I must hide
for I have no taste for death.
I am hiding,
and death mocks its rattling teeth
in its laughing skull.
I must die:
it is written.
I am dying,
whiling away my deposits
and withdrawing my finality.
I must hide
because my living tends to scare you.
I am hiding,
my bones from the inside and midnight's strike
brings on the new day.
A fantastic night at the Belfast Book Festival for our 5th annual Poetry Slam. And a big hearty congratulations to our Slam Champion 2016, Jenny Cleland!
Jenny, who has been a finalist in the competition in 2014, as well as making it to the final of the Belfast heat of the All-Ireland Poetry Slam in 2013 and 2014, wowed us with three solid readings, full of tenderness, passion and heartbreak.
Well done also to her fellow finalists Mark Cooper, Ray Givans and Dave Wilson, and to all the poets who entered and shared their work onstage. You make the night special and oh so worthwhile.
Special thanks also to our guest judges Órfhlaith Foyle and David Braziel for scoring on the night and sharing their work too!
Competition was tight on the night, with the slimmest of differences at times between the poets. The entrants also included Jason Ashord (semi-finalist), Ellie Farmer, Thomas Elliot, Brian McMahon Gallagher, Daryl Fletcher, Elizabeth McGeown, Mary Glover, Bernadette McKevitt, Amy McAllister (SF), Anthony Ferguson (SF), Tim Higgins (SF), Peter Adair, Patricia Devlin-Hill (SF), Patrick McNicoll, Nathan Thanki and Will Donnelly.
We had the sunshine of your poems last night at Purely Poetry burning brightly, thank you to everyone who came and read, listened in, applauded and shared in the camaraderie.
We had plenty of new readers (always grateful to hear your work) and welcomed back some people who had not been able to attend for a while; they all came with new delicate, downright funny and heartfelt poems. Thank you, we were honoured to have you with us.
Our readers were:
Peter Adair, Shelley Tracey, Megan Halliday, Patrick McNicholl, Will Donnelly, Linda McKenna, Ross Thompson, Ona Harris, Yvonne Boyle, David Smylie, Thomas Elliott, Helen Hastings, Clodagh Brennan Harvey, Anthony Haughey, Mark Cooper, Geraldine O'Kane, Siobhan McCafferty, Jenny Cleland, David Braziel, Chris Jenkins and Nathan Elout-Armstrong.
And in our overflow cup....
Kevin Murray, Wendy Lewis, Martin Rolston and Mary.
You brought beauty, brutal honesty, unrequited love and fun to the Purely Poetry table; for that we salute you and beckon you to come again! Thank you all for being there for one another, creating a space where people feel supported enough to read their personal often raw poems and to brave their first time. Love to you all.
Remember we are back on Saturday 18th for the Belfast Book Festival Poetry Slam at Crescent Arts Centre, and Purely Poetry open mic returns on Friday 1st July, both at 8.30pm. See you soon!
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