Blackwater International Poetry Festival - Previously Know As The Fermoy Poetry Festival
My Concern For Poets Who Can't Afford It, But Go Anyway
I attended this VERY small local poetry festival called Blackwater Poetry Festival (Originally Called The Fermoy Poetry Festival) in the summer of 2014. I loved Ireland but needed to write about what this festival is really like since a lot of people may be booking their tickets now for travel this summer. This is a small local festival who entices poets from all over the world from their international poetry group on Facebook. It seems to many like it is a bigger establishment, but most members are not active and only about 10-20 Americans attended when I was there and from what I have heard from many, they were not planning on going back. A lot of poets have not returned after their first visit and have since left the group. Although I was really happy to meet some of them, I could have done it in America and avoided the drama and saved a A LOT OF MONEY since they supply no food, lodging for most poets or any transportation to different locations. Then I could have planned an amazing trip to Ireland to see other beautiful places (Fermoy was beautiful) there also and not get stuck doing the same thing for four days in a small town at pubs. I was fortunate to have interviews in Dublin and also in other places so I was not there the whole time and disappeared for a day or two during the festival. I'm so happy I did! I will explain about some other awesome places there later on in my article. At one point the festival lost its funding from the city (There are only two people who run it, a husband and wife). A lot of their funding comes from poets from different countries who pay to submit their work to poetry anthologies and travel there to the yearly festival which they advertise on facebook. People and poets who do not have the money are also asked to PAY for their submission to a yearly contest that will fly ONE winner to the festival FREE. I still don't really know how they choose this winner but have seen the same people on their finalist list for years so at one point quite a few poets stopped submitting. After poets get there to the festival, nothing is FREE. NOTHING.
So read on my fellow poets.
What It Really Costs To Attend This Festival
This is a very small festival meaning there is no budget for transportation or food and they do not supply it. A lot of poets from different countries were stranded in town at all hours because they could not afford the cab fare there or back to where they were staying. An example of cab fare would be around 12 euros for a ten minute ride. I have to say I absolutely loved the cab drivers that picked me up on a regular basis! Such great guys! Quite a few pub readings are not that close, so most had to get cabs to take them there or hitch a ride from someone who hired a car. It was not unusual for me to pay around 20 euros ($22 dollars at current exchange) for transportation. One night I was out at a house in the boonies (meaning in the middle of nowhere) and there was no cab available. Finally when one came, I ended up having to pay them around 40 euros (about $50 with tip) to get me back to my hotel. Ireland does not have a train station and the only way to get places is by car, cab or a bus that charges you a decent fee to travel elsewhere. I stayed at a great hotel in Kilworth about ten minutes out of town. The food issue was another matter completely. Like all small towns a lot of the places closed early (except for one Chinese take out next to a pub across the bridge) and pub food that they stopped serving at a certain hour. I mean you can't eat pub food forever? All the readings in town were mostly at pubs, so if you do not drink (I do not) then you are stuck in a sort of party pub atmosphere at all hours. At one point I felt like I was at a college party and it went to 2am!! People were spending so much money on drinks that the pubs were doing fine because of the festival since it brought tourists there to drink and read poetry. I would not be surprised if some of the poets went into massive debt on their credit cards. Drinks cost a lot! Especially the whiskey and harder drinks. Lets not forget the drama! You couldn't even pay for some of the hilarious moments! At my first workshop taught by an established Irish poet, the claws came out. Two poets proceeded to rip the guy apart with words and I thought about that line, "Can't we all just get along?" Apparently not. I felt so much compassion for the poet who taught it, I told them all to shut up and purchased many of his great works. Respect is the word.
Ireland in August Beautiful! I Love The Irish!
On a great note, the Irish are my favorite people and that is why your first time to Ireland should be seeing as much as you can of that beautiful country! First time travelers and poets seem to get stuck at the festival because it is expensive in late July & early August. Make sure if you go, you plan it out early so that you can see other amazing places like Dublin and Kinsale. You will regret it if you do not. I have heard many poets complain about this because they purchased their ticket and didn't have a lot of funds to travel. There is no way you can go to this festival without spending atleast $3-$5 grand for a week at that time of year. This includes your airplane ticket if it is around $1000-$1500, hotel stay, food and transportation. The people who head the festival help some people at their small home, but they can only fit a few. I would encourage poets to book a place to share ahead of time to help with costs. I would also encourage poets to drop in at the festival for a few days and then venture elsewhere. I flew into Dublin for interviews and visits with other amazing poets who do not attend the festival. There are so many cool poetry places in Dublin and other parts of Ireland also that you can go and join. The best part about my trip was heading down to Kinsale which is one of my favorite places ever! If you really want to attend the festival, I would say to go for about two days and then to a few night events. The only full day that I recommend is the bus ride to historic sites around Fermoy. Dublin is about a 4 hour bus ride and Kinsale takes a few hours also. You would do yourself a disservice if you do not visit atleast one of those places. If you can't afford it, I would save up to go when you can.
International Poetry Festivals
It is important for first time travelers who go to any country to do some research. Also plan ahead with other poets so no one gets stranded. Atlease one person in your group should not drink and hire a car if you do not have the funds for cab fare. I think if a lot of poets knew what it really would cost, they may never have attended until they had more funds to see more of Ireland. I did meet some great people who will probably not attend again, but I have made friends and have great memories. The main point is that I did not just go for the festival and if I were to go again, I would pick a festival that provides food and transportation to people visiting. Like any person traveling abroad, you need to be prepared and know what you are in for. If you plan to go to the festival for a week, then just go for a few days and then venture out. If you can't afford even your plane ticket, then do not go at all. Unless you do not mind hanging in town all day going from pub to pub and you like to drink a lot and can afford it.
I think it would be best if poetry festivals have reading at libraries or city locations that showcase poets work without a party atmosphere every single night. Poetry festivals should be about poetry and encourage people to live a healthy life, not drink away their sorrows. I think an opening welcome party is good, but not all day and every night.