Poetry Jukebox commemorates Galway connections to Ireland’s struggle for independence

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Galway Daily arts Poetry Jukebox at Galway City Museum

A free sound installation, the ‘Poetry Jukebox’, can now be found in front of Galway City Museum commemorating Ireland’s struggle for independence.

Visitors can wind the handle of the jukebox to hear poetic reflections on a range of historic events including the 1916 Rising (from the perspective of a bicycle), the 1921 truce, and the battle at the Four Courts in June 1922.

The Poetry Jukebox was installed as part of Poetry as Commemoration, an initiative led by UCD Library under the Decade of Centenaries Programme 2012-2023.

Since January 2022, this all-island project, delivered in partnership with Poetry Ireland and Arts Council Northern Ireland, has encouraged citizens to use poetry to explore the challenging period in our history spanning the War of Independence, 1919 to 1921, the Civil War and its aftermath.

Brendan McGowan, Education and Outreach Officer at Galway City Museum welcomed the new artistic installation.

“Galway City Museum is delighted to host the Poetry Jukebox and would encourage locals and visitors alike to crank its handle to listen to the selection of creative responses to this seminal period in our history, and to visit our Revolution in Galway exhibition.”

Attracta Fahy’s poem ‘What the Corrib Heard’ can be heard via the Poetry Jukebox, and remembers Galway man Fr. Michael Griffin who was murdered on the 14th of November 1920.

She heard the curse of omertá, as she flowed
on like a swan-maiden wearing the world’s sadness, leaving
no trace she had ever been there, bending around wood, stone,
her song, a cry from the garden at Gethsemane.

Fahy was one of a group of writers who took part in Poetry as Commemoration workshops at the museum in November 2022.

Under the expert guidance of poet Gerry Hanberry and Brendan McGowan of Galway City Museum, the group composed poems in response to artefacts featured in two exhibitions about the struggle for independence, Revolution in Galway and War of Friends.

These poems are now preserved in UCD Special Collections and will feature on the Virtual Poetry Wall on the Poetry as Commemoration website.

The jukebox also features a poem commissioned by Galway Public Libraries as part of the Decade of Centenaries programme. Emily Cullen’s ‘Bridget’s Hope’ transports the listener to Athenry on the 12th of July 1921, the day after the truce.

I wake to a sweep of swallows
the light falling slant against walls,
a new word truce on my tongue.
It has seeped into my deepest sleep
I’m trying to make sense of the term.
Truce? Does this mean we nearly won?

Nithy Kasa, who was raised in Kinshasa and in Galway, also appears on the Poetry Jukebox with her symbolic poem ‘Poppies in a Field of Shamrocks’.

Kasa’s poem, which draws on material from UCD Archives, is one of ten special commissions for Poetry as Commemoration.