That excellent annual event, Voices of Poetry, took place last night in the BSR. Every year it seems the sun is shining outside as the darkened space, lit by a single spotlight, gives us an hour’s treat of great poetry. As Mr Swift, the compère in black tie, pointed out, there was a ‘175’ tinge this time.

Again there was the mixture of poems in English and other languages, and of pupils and staff reading. The first off was appropriately the Senior Prefect, Kitty Morris, with a poem she had studied in Irish class, followed by two pupils with their own poems – Emma Hinde, winner of the Junior Poetry Prize, with ‘Eye of the Storm’ and Caoimhe Cleary, Commended for the Peter Dix Memorial Prize, with ‘Electric Picnic’.

Mr Swift was proud to have unearthed possibly the most obscure yet in the history of the event, as Shannon Dent read a poem from a native pre-Columbian Ecuadorian language. This was followed i by Latin (JiWoo Park), Italian (Sveva Ciofani), French (Georg Mueller-Methling), Korean (JiWoo Park again) and Vietnamese (Florian Zitzmann). Tiernan Mullane read in ‘American’ Raymond Carver’s ‘My Death‘, and then there were Swedish (Gioia Doenhoff), German (Carla Ladanyi) and Swahili (Akin Babajide).

Poetry has featured throughout the Columban year, and Jasmine Williams read a piece from the ‘Poem in Your Pocket’ initiative on Ireland Poetry Day (and in Mental Health Week), Walt Whitman’s ‘I Dreamed in a Dream’. Poetry Aloud was represented by national finalist Harry Oke-Osanyintolu, who recited Thomas McCarthy’s ‘State Funeral’. Next Mr Swift sprang a surprise: a €10 tuck-shop voucher with a poem was taped to the bottom of one chair, and Polina Grakhovskaia had it. She sportingly came into the spotlight to read our ‘The Dead‘ by Billy Collins (and retain the voucher). There was a bravura performance by Mr Swift himself of his own ‘Poetry Slam’ piece, written as lyrics for one of his songs. Next was Kate Higgins with another Irish poem.

Four teachers were next. Mr Girdham read ‘Breaking-up Night’, a poem from The Columbanmagazine of 1890 nostalgically recalling the old pre-Christmas tradition; it is reproduced in the new book Floreat Columba. The founder of Voices of Poetry, retired Head of English Mr John Fanagan, had written his own poem marking the College’s 175 years, and read it out. You can see it at the bottom of this post. The Warden followed, impressively reciting from memory Rudyard Kipling’s famous ‘If’ (written for Kipling’s only son, who died in the Great War: this is marked in Wellington College, where the Warden previously taught). Mr Finn followed, also reciting from memory, this time Yeats’s ‘September 1913’, which he had learned when studying for the Leaving Certificate (it is still often on the course).

Frank Meng’s reading of a poem Mandarin was dramatic, as was Katie Lam’s in Cantonese, and then Éile Ní Chianáin read the third Irish poem of the evening.

 Rounding off, as is traditional, was the recent winner of the Peter Dix Senior Prize for Poetry, Tania Stokes, with her ‘Death of A Moth‘ (she is pictured above with Mr Swift and Mr Fanagan), and then Manuela Sanchez from Primary with Yeats’s ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven.’

And so the final whole-school BSR event of the year came to a lovely close.


SCC 175, by John Fanagan

May in 1843 saw
St Columba’s on its way.
From the plains of County Meath
To Whitechurch where we are today.

Wardens, teachers, pupils all
Have given of their very best.
We celebrate 175
Moving forward with new zest.

So much has changed, yet much remains
Of what has made us what we are:
Our friendships and our memories
Now span the world both near and far.

Next weekend it’s party time,
With sports, a barbeque and ball.
Tonight, as one who loves this place,
I say happy birthday to us all.

27 May 2018