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Meet Michael Cullen

Michael Cullen is a Dublin-based historian, teacher, and poet with a passion for self-expression through writing. With a background as a tour guide at Kilmainham Gaol, “Mikey” now teaches History and English at the secondary school level. He has been featured in several anthologies, including ‘Drawn to the Light’, ‘Peace, Land, and Bread’, and ‘Pandemic’. Recently, his spoken word piece titled ‘Home’, performed at the ‘Seanchoiche’ event, has gone viral on social media platforms with over half a million views. It’s truly amazing to witness such a remarkable piece of writing go viral for the thought and expression within the penmanship and performance.

Here at Void, we’re thrilled to share with our readers an exclusive behind the scenes interview with Michael about his blockbuster piece of poetry.

I wrote this poem in April 2022 and what it meant to me then has changed as I have changed over the last year. The general jist of it is about how the places, people, things that once satisfied us, can, as our perceptions and consciousness grow, become limiting and restrictive, repetitive almost. It is a poem of yearning; yearning for something more, but not knowing exactly what else it is you wish for, hence ‘elysium’ ‘Tir na Nog’ – just something different, excitement, adventure, peace, danger – anything to dispel the monotony of the routines that we can easily find ourselves falling into and the familiarity and stagnation that routine breeds, as symbolised by ‘ the grey’. One can easily fall into a routine and stop challenging themselves and striving for more ‘ the birds flocking to the bird feeder each day’, we stop flying and thus stop living.

I think the point of life is to be continually growing and challenged, we are all going to die one day, as symbolised by ‘a cat waits for us all’. We get so caught up in trivial bullshit, work, gossip, social media, nights out and I believe this leads to stagnation, we lose sight of what truly matters and that life is short. Everything after a while blends into one, I want to have experienced everything there is to experience in this life- write my own story. While routine and comfort can be good, and there is a nobility in handling your responsibilities in spite of your wishes and dreams for elsewhere, I find myself becoming restless if I am doing the one thing for too long and I sometimes get so caught up in work, college, responsibilities, daily life and its demands that I begin to lose touch of myself and operate purely at a head level- ‘I can no longer hear my souls songs’.

Although on the surface it may seem to be a morose poem, it is a challenge I set myself to keep striving for more, to embrace all life has to throw at me and to never become too comfortable or complacent in what i’m doing or in how i’m living, to continually grow my mind and my soul and embrace change- it is the only constant in life.

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by Michael Cullen

Restrictive , refined and stifling
Is the cage that I call my home .
The bars are
repetitive in nature
And symmetrical .
Concrete .
Concrete .
Grey .
Semi detached –
As far as the eye can see ,
As carbon copied estate after estate
After yet another estate and identical row of shops ,
Vended by and to cater the ‘essentials’ of the local populace it comprised of :
A pub , bookies , newsagent , Chinese , chipper and any beautician facility or barbers take your pick .
Concrete road connecting identical rows of houses ,
identical rows of carefully constructed green arrangements ;
Life was restricted to these areas .

Houses full of people
Yet not all known ,
Thousands of neighbours
Yet ,few friends to phone .
We live so close together
Yet so far removed,

Even the birds are not free,
Their lives too restricted –
To the diy shop bird feeders
That they flock to each day .
Same time , same routine,
Same Black cat appears too:

-To Pounce

On a hapless , helpless bird .
The cat hasn’t caught them yet
But her time will come,
She will not give them forever.

However ,
The birds still flock in feathered furry
To get their bread and make their living ,
Knowing that the cats prowling
in malicious hope of fatal weakness,

There’s a cat waiting for us all .

We’re ostensibly civilized ,
But in this world the spirit dies
And we’re eaten up by triviality
And vacuous ,vapid superficiality.
The grey colors one’s skin after too long and attacks one’s spirit,
Grey skies ,
Grey earth
– Uninspired minds ,
‘ I can no longer hear my souls song’.

I sometimes look up at the night sky
And I gaze in wonder and awe ,
All the land I haven’t seen or saw ,
All that was possible if I could soar ,
But I am tethered to this place
that’s forgotten me
By the longing I feel deep in my heart
And so I’ll look up at the sky and dream-
At least then I’ll have made a start.

I wished for peaceful, obsequious seas,
And warm summer evenings with her in July ,
If only my vision was coloured with ease ,
To Elysian lands that I could fly.

But I am a bird who’s never seen ,
Exotic lands I’ve never been,
Of fields of gold few and far between
Of tir na nog I can only dream.

But , I call to the feeder same time same day ,
Knowing my fate may call me home
At the hands of a beguiling black cat,
no more this land my dreams may roam ,
But still I fly to the feeder ,
Pluckily , plodding along ,
In the face of certain death
And not sure what for, or why
I still, each day , each time , I fly.

So When I spread my wings and trust the wind
all corners of the sky for me to Roam
And I’ll find myself where it all begins
Just know my destination is home .

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