In 2020, the city of Dublin released a striking video of the city set to an amazing poem as part of their campaign for the title of European Capital of Culture.
This video, created by Dublin2020, went viral in the last hurrah of the campaign. Poet Stephen James Smith, a native Dubliner, manages to cram mentions of every nook and cranny of the fair city in the poem.
From the Anglo Saxons, Silicon Docks, flowers sellers to ice cream at Teddy’s in Dun Laoghaire the poem will strike a chord with anyone who knows the city.
As the Dublin2020 campaigners put it themselves put it “The video captures the good and the bad of Dublin, the successes and the failures, the community, and the divide...It is “a visual representation of what Dublin is today, a portrayal of the city’s grime and glory.”
James Smith is a Dublin poet and playwright central to the rise of the vibrant spoken word genre in Ireland today. The “Dublin You Are” project is a collaboration between a number of Dublin-based artists, Dublin2020, and the people of Dublin: LINGO festival, especially Aoife Dooley, Wissame Cherfi, Aidan Kelly, and Derek Kennedy.
Each year since 1985 the European Union designates one or more cities as a European Capital of Culture. In 2010 Croatia and Ireland will host the event in 2020. On November 13. 2020, Limerick was named as Ireland’s winner.
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Here is the text of “Dublin You Are,” by Stephen James Smith:
Dublin you are grey brick upon brick,
full of tarmac and hipster pricks?
Just face it all other places Pale in comparison,
you are more than some former Saxon garrison.
Dublin your warmth came too late for John Corrie.
Dublin are you even sorry?
Dublin you are divided by more than the Liffey,
You said YES to equality
and it’s about Blooming time.
Yet Dublin you always Proclaimed to cherish all!
Dublin your Panties are on Capel Street
compromising any Papal feats.
Dublin Jedward, awkward...
Dublin you are more than a settlement on the Poddle,
But Dublin what’s the craic with coddle?
It’s shite, why don’t we just admit it!
Dublin you brought back Sam again, but
Dublin when did you go from,
the clash of the ash, to exchanging gold for cash?
Dublin, Dyflin, Eblana, Baile Átha Cliath,
and 180 other tongues your citizens are using to name ya...
So céad míle fáilte to all.
Dublin where power is held by too few in the Dáil.
Dublin when will you revolt again?
1988 wasn’t your true millennium
despite the 50ps & milk bottles.
Dublin you’re mine, but I’m happy to share you.
Dublin from RTÉ, TCD, UCD, U2, SIPTU, IFSC
and acrimonious Temple Bar STDs, ODs & OMGs!
No longer the 2nd city, yet you play 2nd fiddle
to Google & Guinness,
to Facebook and unsociable twits.
Dublin look at yourself.
Dublin your tower blocks & tenements
are an excuse for a solution.
Dublin c’mere ‘till I tell ya
you can be more than,
rapid dirtbirds & banjaxed bowsies,
alrigh’ story bud & yeah sure it’s all good,
jaysis that’s scaldy,
Why Go Baldy,
I’m excira & delira,
Dublin I cry for ya!
Dublin you’re a tough bastard,
yet full of the softness of all of the people on your streets.
Margaret Dunne dancing on O’Connell Street,
The Diceman Tom McGinty miming on Grafton Street,
Pat Ingoldsby with his poems on Westmoreland Street,
and your Mollys, Malone, Ivers & Bloom.
From the gospel of Kelly, Drew, McKenna, & Sheahan,
to Borstal Boys like Brendan Behan
Two Gallants reJoycing, and Evelyn looking out to sea.
Snow falling slowly on The Dead in Glasnevin
Glen & Markéta Once strolling, (I think this was changed but not sure!)
to Christy Brown willfully controlling a foot
to paint pictures & poems,
to your heroines.
Brenda Fricker the city’s mother,
Maureen O'Hara and enchanting other.
Dublin you are boom & bust,
running Wilde & Swift
Dublin can I trust you?
Dublin your true blue is Harry Clark’s cobalt
Dublin from a Thin Lizzy, Dicey Reilly,
to a fluzzy in a jacuzzi God fearin’,
Dublin shooting down Veronica Guerin.
Dublin you are Bang-Bang, 40 coats,
Zozimus a blind street poet,
Dublin you are all of us,
and all who are yet to come,
so let's go to the Gravediggers and have a pint.
Dublin remember Stardust and all your waltzing lovers.
Dublin Big Jim’s arms are outstretched to a Risen People,
yet are we under the thumb again?
Dublin your GPO columns are scared from The Crackle of gunshots.
Dublin your CCTV will never yield your essence like the shots
of Arthur Fields Man on Bridge.
You are the Poolbeg Towers,
and the poor shower
begging on Bachelor’s Walk.
Dublin you’re all talk, yet you have my attention,
from Robbie Keane to Paula Meehan.
Dublin’s Calling, ohh ahh Paul McGrath, while some say Up The RA
Dublin bridging caps with Joyce & Beckett
and finally to Rosie Hackett!
Dublin Paddy Finnegan was forced to sell
The Big Issue on your streets,
while Daffodil Mulligan was played to bodhrán beats.
Dublin you say delish,
Dublin you are full of Polish
and Brazilians speaking Portuguese,
and now the Chinese
have turned Parnell Street into Chinatown,
Dublin don’t let them down.
Dublin don’t forget ‘no blacks, no dogs, no Irish’,
Dublin perish the thought of you being racist.
Dublin Cú Chulainn has fled the GPO, and heading for Monto.
Dublin your bay embraces despite the Sellafield Sea,
and your mountains frame all your natural beauty,
Dublin a wailing banshee stricken with T.B.
Dublin you’re European, but could be Craggy Island in disguise?
Gabriel Conroy is heading west because of an epiphany.
Just sayin’ Dublin you only painted your post boxes green!
Is The Abbey doing all you’d dreamed?
Dublin you are Notorious for clampers, Senators & seagulls,
to Celtic Tiger & septic tanks
to singing Highkings & rampaging Vikings.
Dublin come here,
take me for a Teddy’s and a romantic stroll down the pier...
Dublin you are
a dancing place, a sprawling space
of villages and many faces on the edge
of an island that’s eroded by the Atlantic,
battling with being romanticized,
Dublin are you dynamic?
Struggling with identity?
Changing for the better?
Changing for us?
Dublin don’t be scared
in this poem.
We live in you,
I love you,
Most of the time,
Dublin You Are,
* Originally published in 2016. Updated in 2022.