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Menu of Poems 2023

To celebrate Poetry Day Ireland on Thursday 27 April, we are delighted to share a Menu of Poems.

Celebrating Poetry Day Ireland, Menu of Poems has served a helping of poetry on the hospital meal trays of Ireland since its conception in 2008. Each year, ten thousand copies of a short anthology of poetry are distributed throughout Irish hospital wards, waiting rooms and other healthcare contexts for patients, visitors and staff to enjoy.

This year, the menu is curated by Theo Dorgan, a Cork born poet, writer and lecturer, and screenwriter, living in Dublin, This is a marvelous venture and it’s a pleasure and an honour to contribute to it. Now more than ever we need words that speak to us in the direct language of the heart. I chose these poems in the hope they will help steady the hearts of readers as they have steadied mine.’ Dorgan, reflects on the selection, ‘In hospital, in my experience, people move quickly and lightly between moods.  I thought, then, that I would choose three very different poems, with this in common:  each of the poems offers a concentrated experience, a moment of great attention to the world. Each is a pleasure to read and speak, to dwell on, to take heart from, and my hope is that as the reader’s moods change, one or other of the poems will speak to that mood. And this, too: each poem offers a moment when the reader’s mind can fly free of the bed, the ward, the walls of the institution.’

The anthology includes Mary O’Malley’s poem “The Hare”, Pat Boren’s poem “Hedge School” and Mary O’Donnell’s poem “Unlegendary Heroes”. There is also a bonus available on the website Theo’s own poem “The Promised Garden”.

Liz Kelly, Director of Poetry Ireland, said: ‘Poetry Ireland is once again delighted to be involved with the Menu of Poems project in 2023. Theo Dorgan has imaginatively selected powerful, thought-provoking poems that we are sure will bring great pleasure to all who read them. Saolta Arts has done a tremendous job in producing and sharing this remarkable menu of poems.’

Justine Foster, Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre is a long-time member of Arts and Health Coordinators Ireland, and distributes the poems through the many healthcare settings that take part in Arts for Health Partnership programmes across West Cork: ‘This project is a wonderful example of arts and health organisations working together to bring poetry into healthcare settings for people who may not otherwise be able to engage with the arts. It brings us together through a shared experience for a national celebration of poetry.’

To listen to Theo Dorgan, Mary O’Malley, Mary O’Donnell and Pat Boren reading the poetry, go to


Menu of Poems

Produced by Saolta Arts on behalf of Arts and Health Co-Ordinator’s Ireland, supported by Poetry Ireland and HSE Health Promotion and Improvement Menu of Poems is an AHCI (Arts and Health Coordinators Ireland) joint initiative between Arts for Health Partnership Programme, West Cork; Arts and Health Programme at Tallaght University Hospital, Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary Community Healthcare; Cork Kerry Community Healthcare; Galway, Mayo Roscommon Community Health Organisation; Saolta Arts and Saolta University Health Care Group incorporating University Hospital Galway, Merlin Park University Hospital, Mayo University Hospital, Portiuncula University Hospital, Roscommon University Hospital, Sligo University Hospital and Letterkenny University Hospital; Kildare County Council Arts and Health Programme; Naas General Hospital Arts Committee; MISA Creative Life at St. James’s Hospital; St Luke’s Radiation Oncology Network in Dublin; St. Vincent’s University Hospital; University Limerick Hospitals Group incorporating University Hospital Limerick, Limerick Maternity Hospital, Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital and Croom Hospital; Waterford Healing Arts; and West Cork Mental Health Services Arts and Health Programme.

Theo Dorgan is a poet, and also a non-fiction prose writer, novelist, editor, documentary screenwriter, essayist, librettist and translator. Among his recent publications are: Jason and the Argonauts (2014), a libretto commissioned by the Royal Albert Hall; Liberty Walks Naked (2015) and Barefoot Souls (2015) translations from the French of the Syrian poet Maram al-Masri; Foundation Stone: Towards a Constitution for a 21st Century Republic (2013, essays, editor) and the novel Making Way (2013). His most recent collections of poems are Nine Bright Shiners — awarded the Irish Times/Poetry Now Prize for best collection in 2015 — and Orpheus, published in 2018, both from Dedalus Press. His translations of Lorca’s Romancero Gitano into Irish, Bailéid Giofógacha, was published by Coiscéim, Dublin in 2019. He is a member of Aosdána.

Arts and Health Co-Ordinator’s Ireland is an all-Ireland support network of professionals who are responsible for managing arts and health initiatives. Formed in 2003, AHCI aims to build capacity and maximise resources for its membership, who work in the Arts and Health Sector throughout Ireland, North and South. The network members co-ordinate a range of arts and health activities, including environmental enhancement, visual art, sculpture, performance, participatory and collaborative arts practice, professional development for artists and staff, artist residencies, health promotion and arts and health research.


Menu of Poems 2023 Photo Credit: Andrew Downes.

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