Tony Gill, a poet who many Dubliners would have passed by on the pavement, sometimes even without noticing, was celebrated last night when Alice Leahy, Director and Co-Founder of TRUST, launched his first volume which was published by Tom Crilly, one of his life long friends and supporters.
“If anyone wants to know what it means to be an outsider on the streets of Dublin Tony’s first volume of poems is an eloquent and deeply moving series of insights. A powerful reminder, as we try constantly to remind everyone as much as ourselves, that we must always look beyond the label, avoid categorising anyone and recognise the human being first and foremost,” Alice Leahy paying tribute to the late Tony Gill and thanking his life long friend and supporter Tom Crilly for his persistence and determination in ensuring that – Street Poet – the title of this volume, was published.
The launch took place in Irishtown, not far from Pearse Street and the City Quays, where Tony Gill was brought up, and was sponsored by the RDRD (Ringsend District Response to Drugs) and The Spelman Centre.
The nature of Tony Gill’s death in 2004 and the subsequent inquest by the Dublin City Coroner meant that there was much publicity because he had allegedly been set alight by another homeless person. The jury returned an open verdict at the inquest.
Alice Leahy went on: “Tony lived what is often described euphemistically “a chaotic lifestyle” but through it all he constantly wrote poetry often bringing us poems, reciting them for friends as well as on the street. He was the ultimate “street poet” because he lived on the street; endured the pain, the humiliation and the highs and lows. His poetry offers prophetic insights, more than all of the reports and research documents that I have seen over the years because above all he reminds us that those on the street are real human beings like the rest of us, except for now they have drawn a poor hand.”
Today I spoke to no one,
And nobody spoke to me.
Am I dead?
‘TODAY’ from Street Poet by Tony Gill
Tom Crilly said that Tony’s life and the lifestyles of all of those who find themselves on the street pose awkward questions for the rest of us: “Do we blame the homeless for their own mess, or do we see them as victims of the system? Are they heroes against conformity, the flawed characters in a diverse society, or just another client to be moved on?”
Alice Leahy said that Tony Gill was well known to everyone in TRUST “and he was different, he was an outsider who could not and would not conform. But in the end he gave us insights and understanding, and his life is a reminder that those who seek answers as to why people feel compelled to be outside can find them if they treat people as people and simply respect those who are different. This volume is a celebration of Tony’s life and I am proud to have this opportunity to be part of sharing the insights and understanding he has given us.”