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Welcome to the Void, Emmet O’Brien

Finding the words to describe the work and performance of Emmet O’Brien is no easy task. The 24-year-old from the Northside of Dublin is a beautiful amalgamation of talent and story. Labelling a creative such as Emmet as a poet almost doesn’t do the artist justice for what impact and accomplishments he has made and achieved in his creative career thus far. Emmet O’Brien is a Filídh, a filídh is a legendary olden Irish term which translates to a poet who has surpassed rudimentary levels of the art. A creative who was worshipped for their skills and their art and someone who has undoubtedly left a stamp in the world they roam. As humble as the man is I doubt he’d accept a compliment of such standard but those who know of him would certainly agree; that the stamp he has left on the creative scene in Ireland so far is more than enough of a reason to deserve a label such as filídh.

What I love about Emmet is his work off the stage as well as his performance on it. The artist lives to help and support up-and-coming talent and creativity and enable them to perform for an audience, which is rarely achieved for the newcomer. The sheer positivity that radiates from this man’s actions is truly wonderful to witness and long may they last.

A full house, socially distanced at the time of course… yet despite being held 2 meters apart from one another I’ve never felt more of a unified connection within an audience before, it’s almost as if our hearts beat at the same rhythm for those sixty minutes. All of us look on in awe and unison as Emmet magically combines story into poetic lyricism, a transition so smooth the lads in Pink Floyd would be emerald with envy. In the performance, Emmet includes some personal stories that incorporate topics of the importance of understanding and listening to your deep feelings within yourself and finding your own way to cross the bridges of your troubles, combined with hilarious snippets of memories that give you that warm nostalgic hug we all long for from time to time. I must recommend to all those reading this feature to catch one of Emmet’s shows, they’re truly an amazing experience.

We’re over the moon to collaborate alongside Emmet to discover the artist behind the art and unfold the mystery behind the Filídh. You can read his exclusive Void Magazine interview below.

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Tell us about yourself!

My name is Emmet O’Brien, a poet from Cabra in Dublin city. I’m 24, and work as a civil servant during the daytime. When not doing poetry around Dublin you can find me in most pubs around town and ballybough drinking many a pint of Guinness, or playing snooker in Fairview.

What does being a poet mean?

To be completely honest, it is a means of expression for me, it just seems to be the most beautiful form of expression, and one that I find relatively easy. When I write poetry, it feels different than to conversation or self-thinking. I find myself being a lot more honest with myself, and also writing about any particular topic gives me clarity on that topic, almost as if I find the answers to issues or have a change of perspective when I write. Sure, poetry means fine language, use of metaphors etc, but for me, it is just a means of self-expression.

Tell us about the events that lead to poetry

This is a funny one, I love answering it. I started writing poetry at about 15, and had a big interest in it at school, I was a bit of a Messer in school but i remember being silent in English when we did poetry, the hand was going up to answer any question. Onetime my English teacher Mr Watsham told me to put my hand down and let someone else answer, the pure embarrassment hahah! I always loved to dissect poems, I still can’t really answer why, but it was a private love of mine. That was page poetry. At the time when i began spoken word it was my last whack at performance art. I had been in a band, rapped, and also tried comedy, and all of them flopped big time! I remember being at a house party one night, i think in Dolphins Barn, maybe Cabra, but a lad asked me to rap because he had heard I was fond of it and he rapped too, we went back and forth and afterwards he said, “you should try no beat”. After that i never saw the dude again, would genuinely hope to meet him but I was locked and can only remember how he looks, not his name. About a month or two after this i went with my mam to see Shane Koyczan in the Workmans Club, I heard Phil Lynch read “My wife thinks I am at a poetry reading” and Stephen James Smith recite “My Ireland”. I remember before Shane even came on, I said to my mam “This is what I’m going to do”. It was the first time I had ever heard someone read page poetry, and then someone follows with spoken word on a live stage. It blew my mind. After that, I began performing, I just felt like I had to, I neglected a love for years just because I thought it wasn’t cool and people would slag me, I owed it to myself to be happy I guess, instead of just doing something because i thought people would like it

Where do you find Inspiration?

Everything inspires me, and when I say everything, I literally mean that. In general, I have a love for life, and what I mean by that is I spent so long hating myself and life that I gave up on it. I thought if I was going to live, then I was going to do it with gratitude for what we have been given freely. Nature and human nature in action are my biggest draws. Trees, flowers, currents in the water, parents playing with their children, two lovers sitting on the canal, all of this. I’m a massive people watcher, and I love to make stories in my head for the origin and future life of people and things. I personify a lot of objects too, I like to think of nature as different people, just a different form of life in a way. The best example is, when most people see a tree, they see the trunk, and leaves and they appreciate the visual, I would think about how long it is there, how far its roots grow, as it was planted and if so when, was there ever a time it was demolished or destroyed, if so, how did it triumph. The everyday parts of life are the most beautiful, and I feel when people realise that, then inspiration comes from anywhere. I’ve never been a person who gets their primary inspiration from other art or artists, sure people and poems or songs inspire me, but just in a different way, they may provoke a particular train of thought, but most of the time I find myself questioning the mindset of the artist behind the art as opposed to the piece itself, so the mindset of artists inspire me.

What is your approach to poetry?

I don’t have one, it’s too constricting. Telling myself I have to write a particular way or having almost rituals for writing, it ain’t my jam. I will just see something one day, feel an emotion, or think of a topic past or present, and if I feel creative then I write. Most days I write, but on the days when I have a deadline, I come home after work and say “I have to write this poem” it never works. expression is about freedom, if freedom is rushed it is never truly free, to begin with. I guess if I had any pattern in writing it would be to think about what I want to say, what point I want to get across, and what emotions I am feeling when thinking in order to convey that in the piece, and then I write. I don’t believe in editing the way most do, sure I will extend poems and stuff, but if I write a piece and I need to tweak multiple lines, I throw it away and start again. If a line from the previous piece is google enough, then it will naturally fit into the new piece. Definitely an unconventional way of writing, but it works best for me.

What do you aim for people to feel or acknowledge when viewing / wearing your work?

Although my work tends to reflect heavy topics, I do enjoy evoking smiles and bemusement in my audience. For me any reaction is a good reaction. There is a comedic effect from my work as there are very crazy shapes that I don’t think many people would wear on a day to day basis. This can be seen in ‘The Instagram Couple’. I want people to acknowledge that I am able to create work with whatever materials I can get my hands on. In ‘Solastalgia’, for the Hunter’s outfit I used a Storm Protector to create a massive skirt. I want to use materials that are recognizable. If I can provoke emotions while portraying a powerful message then I am satisified.

What do you aim for people to feel when listening to or reading your work.

Nothing specific in terms of what I want them to feel, I just want them to feel. I want people to laugh, to cry, whatever they want to do, particularly young men because once they can acknowledge they feel just like everyone else in the room, even though we may feel different emotions, it can ignite a conversation through comfort. You genuinely have no idea how many lads have drunk with me after a show, and they say something like “I loved that piece on your mother, you know I feel the same about mine….” and a whole hour conversation pursues, where we laugh about shared stories, even cry from time to time in public bars. I truly believe that is crucial for everyone, particularly young men. Just come to one of my shows and embrace emotions. In terms of acknowledgement, I just want the crowd to acknowledge that my art is my life, and I put it out there to gain answers but also to provide those answers to people. We are all just teaching each other how to play the game of life at the end of the day, and advice is almost like a bonus card you receive through life. So just an understanding that I am living, and learning too, and they should do the exact same thing, whatever the means or platform they choose to do it with, just be you, like I am being me, I guess! (Never actually thought about this, good question) *From Editor* – “Thank you amigo :’) “

Your Latest Release and Upcoming Work

I suppose the latest release I am truly proud of was a show called “Speckled Doves” that I released in 2021. I have released bits through 2022 but they were more private and written for people, so it wasn’t necessarily something I was proud of, more something that was owed to people. Speckled Dove was a show basically about my entire life, and what lead to having a depressive episode one night. I sat outside my back garden and thought about everything in life, spent hours just sitting there, and then after that, I went back in and started writing it all down. Not in a poem, but just writing, and I remember writing “was I born to live or born to die”. When I woke up the following morning I re-read that and realised I meant it, which was sad but also comforting. It was a realisation that I wasn’t ok, but it was the first time I had ever honestly reflected back on life and past mistakes, taken accountability for what I did to lead me to this moment, and also gained clarity and acceptance, almost a forgiveness for what others had done. I decided to write the show in order to answer the question, it makes sense as writing is my main coping mechanism. When I was finished didn’t have an answer, but I did have a beautiful and honest piece of art, and so there was my answer, I wasn’t born to live nor die but born to create, and when I put that line down, I knew it was a show. I went back and turned my writing into poems and that was it. I do have a new show called “Whatsup x” coming out at the end of 2022 and will be travelling to Paris and Germany for shows before finishing in Dublin, but it definitely isn’t as serious as its former show. This show is just a laugh really, end of the year putting smiles on faces and just giving people an hour to forget about everything serious!

What are your plans for the future?

I have that tour to end the year, and then maybe a few European gigs for 2023. In honesty, what I am doing now is nuts to me, I have no idea how I ended up doing it, and I never want to lose that. I love sitting with friends and just saying “yeah let’s do a gig together” and seeing where that goes from there. I hate industry and schedules and deadlines and pressure. Just create to create. I have a play called “12:15 In The Boozer” that I want to put out, but I have put plays out with no funding, and it just lacks. This play is definitely some of my finest work to date, and it isn’t even in the realm of poetry, so as much as I want to get that out in 2023, I don’t think I will. The funding for arts in Ireland truly is abysmal, so maybe whenever we decide to appreciate art as a nation then I will allow people to appreciate this art piece, but I won’t release work when I feel it will be underappreciated, and if it is underfunded, there is no way it could be appreciated.

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