Photo by Laoise Neylon of Ciaran Hogan, Emmet O'Reilly and Geoff Finan

Emmet O’Brien started Vybrations as a monthly night that would let poets focus on expression rather than competition.

“There is a lot of emphasis around competition with poetry slams. Everyone wants to be the best poet … but here you just get up and express how you feel,” he says, on a recent night.

The 19-year-old from Cabra has been writing poetry for five years, he says. But he has only stood up in front of an audience in the last few months.

There were about 35 people in the audience last Wednesday in the events room at Clockwork Door on the quays. It’s a room full of books and board games, couches and chairs.

Geoff Finan, a tall, dark-haired poet from Stoneybatter, versed against the rising house prices in the inner city: “Rents go up, shops close down, and hundreds of years of history is nestled safely in a bin.”

He followed that with an attack on how poetry is taught in Irish schools – with students forced to learn answers by rote – and then moved on to the story of his first kiss.

O’Brien spat out his poem “The Northside” on the struggle of growing up there and not fitting into masculine stereotypes.

The young Nigerian-Irish poet Dagogo Hart took those listening to a beach in Lagos from where slave ships departed in the 19th century. He rhymed about love, and about family.

The pauses are everything, says Finan later. He practices in front of the mirror at home.

“When I was up there first I was like a machine gun, couldn’t get it out quick enough,” he says. As his confidence has grown, he is happier to go slower, to let the story unfold.

O’Brien said he got a slagging when he first starting to do poetry. Now, though, many of his peers will tell him that they like his work.

“I love everything about performing,” he says. “Nerves turn into excitement. I love getting on stage and looking at people and feeling that emotion.”

Says Finan:  “Music has all the lovely tones, but with poetry it is just the words so you have to be very succinct in what you are saying.”

“Language is there to be manipulated,” says O’Brien. “It’s a beautiful tool. It also it lets you go on stage and be the scaldiest person ever, it’s deadly.”

The next Vybrations event is planned for 12 August.

CORRECTION: This article was updated on 19 July at 12.25pm. Emmet O’Brien is not called Emmet O’Reilly. Apologies for the error.

Laoise Neylon is a reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at

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