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Once upon a time...at the Drunken Poet

Words by Baz Bardoe

Photography by Meg De Young

For some people the mention of an ‘Irish’ venue elicits a sigh. They have become ubiquitous and in many cases not terribly authentic. In fact quite often, not even run by Irish people. At some point we’ve all stumbled into the ‘Irish’ pub full of new fittings that reference the real thing, but most likely were made in China. In many cases they have become a franchise with little character or charm. But there is hope. If you want a venue that is laden with charm, run by an Irish person who is ardent about her culture and available for intimate gig bookings and open mic opportunities, then you need to check out The Drunken Poet in West Melbourne.

Siobhan Dooley hails from Kilkenny in South-East Ireland and has just celebrated 10 years living in what she describes as the “wonderful” city of Melbourne. Her vision has been to create a venue that brings music, verse and drink together in the kind of natural way that her culture does so well. Dropping into The Drunken Poet is best described as a celebration. On open mic night a singer/guitarist bangs out original tunes to a packed, intimate and appreciative house. Portraits of poets by local artists cover the walls. The Guinness flows…in short this is the real thing — a venue with authenticity and charm.

When I suggested that the combination of music, poetry and Guinness was staggering towards the Irish cliché, Dooley’s response was emphatic.

“Actually, I’m embarrassed and annoyed by the pigeon-holing of my nation and the hackneyed cliches perpetuated by the vast majority of ‘Irish’ pubs out of Ireland. “What distinguishes The Poet is exactly that – poetry! The tradition of poetry, storytelling and singer-songwriters is what makes me proud to be Irish. The Drunken Poet is unique in Melbourne because it showcases the best qualities of the Irish — creativity, romance, melancholy and of course …humour!”

The portraits of poets and lyricists that decorate the walls have their own stories.

“The portraits have mostly been commissioned by local artists and are of poets around the world who have tested the limits, in all senses of the word! It creates a unique ambience. And if you happen upon a poetry open mic night you will get to meet 75 year old Ken who apparently is an institution, performing at every one.”

For musicians who want a chance to perform, Dooley points out that they really are an “attentive and encouraging’ audience, which is good because performers do their thing literally right in front of the audience. Being a metre away at eye level will improve your stage craft and confidence more than just about anything and from what I heard, it is providing an outlet for some real talent.

As you would expect The Drunken Poet isn’t shy about the black Guinness, but that certainly isn’t their only choice and Dooley even admits to being a Gin drinker. If you are new to The Drunken Poet Dooley suggests that “Sunday afternoon is the perfect way to start.”

To inquire about open mic night and gig opportunities, email Siobhan Dooley at drunkenpoetmusic@gmail.com


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