in my humble opinion

Fringe 2007 - Review - Pack Up Yer Troubles! - 4 stars

“Words march out like angels leaving heaven. Beautiful words, but I’m suspicious”

It seems the very reasons I was most interested in seeing Pack Up Yer Troubles! are some of the reasons the poet performers roll their eyes at. One of them even had a poem about it - Aisling Doherty's A Poet Abroad (give it a listen). I’m sure they must get quite tired of being lauded for their accent, something that comes naturally to them. I’m sure they also get tired of being expected to be colorful and poetic all the time, simply because they’re from Ireland. And yet, they are poets, and they are from Ireland, and there is that accent, so if that was what got me in the theater seats in the first place, I’m sure I’ll be forgiven.

After all, I wasn’t asking for tales of leprechauns or the horrible political strife that has ripped their country apart over the years. I wasn’t looking to have my stereotypes reinforced. I just wanted to hear good poetry read with an Irish accent. It could have been about anything. And in Pack Up Yer Troubles!, it was.

“Press us to your fractured heart.”

In fact, several of the other members of the Belfast Poets Touring Group had already packed up their troubles and left for the next stop on the tour, leaving behind just two of the female poets to shoulder the load for the final performance on Sunday. They must have known we’d be in good hands. While I missed a little of the variety that surely must have been part of the previous performances, I was happy to have what remained.


“Stubble on the face

You kiss me like a hedgehog

Ow ow ow ow ow.”

“If this phone is being used to organise paramilitary activity Please press one...”

To change things up a bit, in addition to reading their own work solo, the poets also ready the work of others in the group, and did a number of joint readings together of work they’d created in tandem to be read by two voices. There was humor (as when, during a litany of good things about men, they chanted in unison “Russell Crowe, Russell Crowe, Russell Crowe, Russell Crowe...” and later “Orlando Bloom, Orlando Bloom, Orlando Bloom...” “Wait a minute, he’s a bit young.” “Oh, who cares, he’s pretty.”) and talk of love and loss, of things past, and hopes for the future. There were words spent in praise of home and family, and picking at their foibles. There was ample talk of the failings of men who spend too much of their time drinking and fighting, and also talk of men who get it right.

“When you talk, I lick the words right off the plate. I don’t even use a fork. Then, ask for more.”

“If you would like to order more weapons Please dial two...”

Pack Up Yer Troubles! was a very pleasant way to pass the time. They do have collections of the group’s poetry in published form, and while I was dashing off to the next show too quickly to stop and grab a copy, I do want to go online and go skulking for a copy of my own.

“So, for your own safety,

Step off the poem

And back away slowly.”

“If you would like help writing a conflicting press statement Please dial three...”

Even without the accent, the words of these poems are lovely and funny, and well worth your time. I hope the Belfast Poets Touring Group had a worthwhile enough time here this August to consider coming back again. The construction of poems is something that continues to elude me personally in my own work, so I’m always a little in awe of people who do it, and do it well. That would be, among others, the Belfast Poets Touring Group.

“If you would like to put an end to violence please leave your name and number and a representative from the company will visit you in the next few hours. Thank you for calling.”

(The phone call text is “Welcome To Orange” - copyright Aisling Doherty)

You can learn more about the traveling poets of Belfast and see and hear samples of their work on the web in several places, at or befriend them on MySpace at or

Highly Recommended.

category: 4 Star Shows - Excellent Friday, September 7, 2007 at 6:53 AM

© Matthew A Everett