LINGO Festival is almost upon us. The spoken word festival will see some of the best artists from around the country take to stages across the capital. We briefly caught up with two performers, Alicia Byrne Keane and Özgecan Kesici. Both are fixtures of the local scene.

Spoken Word, for the uninitiated, is essentially performance poetry. Most of it has a beat, but that’s not a rule. Some of it has music, but some doesn’t. Alicia Byrne Keane is performing for the second time at LINGO this year. We ask her who she’d pick out for us to see this year? “Kate Tempest”. That was quick. A nineteen-year-old Alicia first saw Tempest in London and had never heard poetry like it before. It turns out that Özgecan is a fan of Tempest too. We’re sold!

We’ve actually seen both interviewees perform before. With Alicia, there’s always serious driving rhymes and rhythm at work, and always humour. Definitely worth catching at LINGO. But she’s been performing all over. She says she’s just back from a gig in Limerick for a very enthusiastic audience of students.

Alicia was also performing at Body and Soul festival this year. A piece about a wannabe-emo teenager prompted several audience conversations post-performance about having that very same experience. Spoken word can be like that, it’s very hard not to connect with someone’s story. We’ll come back to that.

Alicia says her most recent work was a collaborative short piece around the Repeal the 8th Movement. Alicia says it’s been a good Summer for writing poems. She hasn’t performed them yet because she’s still learning them. We can’t wait till she does, and we’ll be doing our very best to catch her at LINGO.

Alicia Byrne Keane

In Özgecan Kesici’s case, we had to catch up over Skype. She’s in Germany visiting family after finishing a large chunk of her PhD thesis. When not writing in an academic capacity (Sociology), Özgecan writes from personal experience. The last thing she wrote? “A crappy little poem”. She’s hopes it’ll grow. She’s been writing but some of it’s “more for the page than for the stage”. And she’s been writing a lot on the migrant crisis. But before we go further, we should go back.

Özgecan has migration etched into her being. Her grandparents were Kazakhs from Western China who between the 1930s and the 1950s had to move to India and eventually Turkey. She, however, was born in Germany, and now finds herself here. She’s just finished visiting her husband’s family in Denmark. Always moving, always travelling.

This is part of a running theme in Kesici’s work. We saw her perform three years ago, and it was spellbinding. You don’t hear very many people talking about picking berries as a child in Turkey and painting you the scene. Her unique experience gives you an interesting perspective. The nicest thing she’s heard from an audience member? One of her pieces is titled ‘An Open Letter to the host country of an Immigrant’. Özgecan recalls a Singaporean girl comment that those words fully captured her experience too.

That piece, she says, is about becoming part of something – wanting to be accepted. And it’s this which she says has been great about spoken word poetry and with the Dublin scene in general. The onstage aspect almost demands you pay attention and experience the performer’s perspective, and all this in a city renowned for its words, its literary history and its stories. Özgecan’s stories were completely unique when we first heard her, but they have tragically taken on a whole new significance in the years since with the alarming developments around the migrant crisis.

Özgecan is hoping she can present new perspectives to her audience at Lingo. We seriously recommend catching her at the Poetry Slam on the first day of the festival (October 21st) at the Workmans Club. And go see Alicia Byrne Keane in the Cobalt Café on October 22nd while you’re at it. Two performers not to be missed.

LINGO Festival takes place between the 21st and 23rd of October, 2016. Please see www.lingofestival.com for more.

Dave likes words. Big ones, small ones, bad ones and beautiful ones. But most of all he loves using them to talk about his favourite things – many of which happen to be right here in his hometown.

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