Northern Ireland news

Ireland's first 'Poetry Jukebox' launched in Belfast

Belfast's Poetry Jukebox has been commissioned and curated by poets Maria McManus & Deirdre Cartmill and supported by Belfast International Arts Festival 2017. Picture by Hugh Russell

IRELAND'S very own 'Poetry Jukebox' has been launched in Belfast.

Resembling a ship's periscope, the installation adds a new dimension to the city's soundscape, with organisers saying they want to "put poetry where it belongs: everywhere, for everyone".

Passers-by can pause during their busy day and select a poet to listen to from a list of 20 original works on the jukebox, which has been place outside the Crescent Arts Centre on University Road.

All are living Irish writers and most are reading their own works, with each lasting for two minutes.

Among those featured is acclaimed Belfast poet Michael Longley.

Developed by the Belfast International Arts Festival artists in residence, Deirdre Cartmill and Maria McManus, it launches as part of that festival but is envisaged as a permanent installation in the city.

The aim is to create "an innovative new journal of poetry for the island of Ireland" and submissions were sought for the first collection in July.

However, it will be a rolling programme of poems, with future calls for submissions to follow.

The artists said they want to "put literature in public space... (and) open minds and hearts with the power and intensity and gentleness of poetry".

"We want to share beautiful, profound and life-affirming words and change the words on our streets, opening hearts and minds, putting poetry to work where it belongs: everywhere, for everyone.

"We want this jukebox to belong to everyone. Thanks to the wonderful support for our crowdfunding, you have helped make this happen."

The idea behind Poetry Jukebox came from Ondrej Kobza & Michaela Hecková as part of the Czech cultural project Piána na ulici (Pianos on the Streets).

Musical installations, especially pianos, are becoming increasingly common on streets across the world.

Belfast's Poetry Jukebox expands the usual auditory offering to spoken word - similar machines are already in use in parks in Czechoslovakia.

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