Pádraig Ó Tuama

Distinguished Irish Poet
Theologian and Mediator

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • Poetry and Conflict Resolution
  • Emily Dickinson and Time: the Past, Present, and Future Collide
  • Exorcisms, Demonisation and Reparative Therapy
  • In Praise of the Secular
  • Poetry and Form: From the Sonnet to Free Verse
  • An Evening with Pádraig Ó Tuama


“Probably the best public speaker I know.” —William Crawley, BBC

“Today, we are not just neighbours, but old friends who, tragically, have travelled a troubled road, along which many wrongs have been done. I wonder, here, whether I might quote the words of a Cork man, the poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama, whom I met when my wife and I visited the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland three years ago. His poem, ‘Shaking Hands’ makes reaching out an imperative of leadership.” ―Prince Charles

“Putting to work poetry and gospel, side by side with story and Celtic spirituality, Ó Tuama explores ideas of shelter along life’s journey, opening up gentle ways of living well in a troubled world. The reader can’t help but be drawn in, slip-sliding into the harbor of the author’s soulful words.” —Chicago Tribune

Irish Poet Pádraig Ó Tuama is a theologian, conflict resolution mediator, and the author of four volumes of poetry, Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community (2017), In the Shelter (2015), Sorry for your Troubles (2013), and Readings from the Books of Exile (2012), which was longlisted for the 2013 Polari First Book Prize.

For Ó Tuama, religion, conflict, power and poetry all circle around language, that original sacrament. Working fluently on the page and in public, Ó Tuama is a compelling poet, teacher, and group worker, and a profoundly engaging public speaker. He has worked with groups to explore story, conflict, their relationship with religion and argument, and violence. Using poetry, group discussion and lectures, his work is marked both by lyricism and pragmatism, and includes a practice of evoking stories and participation from attendees at his always-popular lectures, retreats, and events.

Ó Tuama has been a featured guest on On Being with Krista Tippett twice, and is a regular broadcaster on radio on topics such as Poetry, Religion in the public square, Loneliness, Conflict and Faith, LGBT inclusion, the dangers of so-called Reparative Therapy, and the value of the Arts in public life. In 2011, with Paul Doran, Pádraig co-founded the storytelling event Tenx9 where nine people have up to ten minutes each to tell a true story from their lives. From 2014-2019, Pádraig led the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organization. Currently, Pádraig guides the weekly podcast Poetry Unbound through NPR’s On Being, which dives and immerses the listener into one poem every week.

His poetry collection Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community draws on the spiritual practices of Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation community Corrymela—of which Ó Tuama was a leader from 2014-2019. Described by Canterbury’s Poetry Laureate Patience Agbabi as “compassionate, contemporary and formally innovative,” this prayer book was structured over 31 days, offering a daily Bible reading with accompanying prayer. His book In the Shelter interweaves everyday stories with narrative theology, gospel reflections with mindfulness and Celtic spirituality with poetry, ultimately revealing the transformational power of welcome. Network Magazine praised it as being remindful of Augustine’s Confessions and Newman’s Apologia: “It comes from the heart, it recognizes the hurts and the triumphs, and it encourages us to say ‘hello’ to new things.” Sorry for Your Troubles, arose out of a decade of O’Tuama’s experiences hearing stories of people who have lived through personal and political conflict in Nothern Ireland, the Middle East, and other places of conflict. One poem, ‘Shaking hands’ was written when Padraig witnessed the historic handshake between Queen Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness, who has since used the poem publicly. His first book Readings from the Books of Exile interweaves parable, poetry, art, activism and philosophy into an original and striking expression of faith.

His poems have been published at Poetry Ireland Review, Academy of American Poets, Post Road, Cream City Review, Holden Village Voice, Proximity Magazine, On Being, Gutter, America, and Seminary Ridge Review.

Pádraig Ó Tuama holds a BA Div validated by the Pontifical College of Maynooth, an MTh from Queen’s University Belfast and is currently engaged in a PhD in Theology through Creative Practice at the University of Glasgow exploring poetry, Irishness and religion.

He is based in Belfast, Ireland.

Pádraig Ó Tuama’s website


Irish poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama’s work centers around themes of language, power, conflict and religion. He is the author of four books of poetry and prose: Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community, In the Shelter, Sorry for your Troubles, and Readings from the Books of Exile. He presents the podcast Poetry Unbound with On Being Studios, where he also has responsibilities in bringing art and theology into public and civic life. From 2014-2019 he was the leader of the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation community. He is based in Ireland.


DAILY PRAYER WITH THE CORRYMEELA COMMUNITY (2017)

Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community draws on the spiritual practices of Northern Ireland’s longest established peace and reconciliation organisation. For over fifty years, it has been bringing fractured communities together and resourcing others in the work of healing conflict. At the heart of its life is a simple pattern of daily worship. This prayer book captures the essence of the Corrymeela prayer experience to help you incorporate its spirituality into your practice of prayer. Structured over 31 days, it offers a daily Bible reading with accompanying prayer by Pádraig Ó Tuama. as well as an introduction to the spirituality that sustains Corrymeela s remarkable work.

IN THE SHELTER (2015)

“A treasure. More deserve to be stirred by its deep currents. Putting to work poetry and gospel, side by side with story and Celtic spirituality, Ó Tuama explores ideas of shelter along life’s journey, opening up gentle ways of living well in a troubled world. The reader can’t help but be drawn in, slip-sliding into the harbor of the author’s soulful words.”—Chicago Tribune

There’s an old Irish proverb: ‘It is in the shelter of each other that the people live’. In this book much-loved poet, storyteller, theologian and speaker Pádraig Ó Tuama applies ideas of shelter and welcome to journeys of life, using poetry, story, biblical reflection and prose to open up gentle ways of living well in a troubled world. The fourth gospel tells of Jesus arriving in the room where the disciples are gathered, full of fear, on Easter Sunday. He does not chide or admonish; instead he says ‘Peace be with you’, which, in the Aramaic of his day, was simply a greeting. ‘Hello,’ he said, welcoming people locked in a room of fear to a place of deep encounter; encounter with themselves, with their fear, with each other and with the incarnate one in their midst. Interweaving everyday stories with analysis, gospel reflections with mindfulness and Celtic spirituality with poetry, this book explores the practice of welcoming as a spiritual discipline. In particular, Pádraig tells careful stories of welcoming parts of life that are often unwelcome.

SORRY FOR YOUR TROUBLES (2013)
One of the most engaging voices contemporary spirituality in is that of the Irish poet, Padraig O’Tuama. This second poetry collection arises out of a decade of his hearing stories of people who have lived through personal and political conflict in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and other places of conflict. These poems tell stories of individuals who have lived through conflict: their loves and losses, their hope and generosity. One poem, ‘Shaking hands’ was written when Padraig witnessed the historic handshake between Queen Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness, who has since used the poem publicly. The phrase ‘Sorry for your troubles’ is used all over Ireland. It comes directly from an Irish phrase, yet Irish has no word for ‘bereavement’ – the word used is ‘troibloid’. So the phrase would be better translated ‘Sorry for your bereavements’. With this in mind, this new book speaks evocatively about a time when thousands of people lost their lives and many thousands more lived through the searing pain of grief.

READINGS FROM THE BOOK OF EXILE (2012)
One of the most intriguing and engaging voices in contemporary Christianity is that of the Irish poet, Padraig O Tuama and this is his first, long-awaited poetry collection. Hailing from the Ikon community in Belfast and working closely with its founder, the bestselling writer Pete Rollins, Padraig’s poetry interweaves parable, poetry, art, activism and philosophy into an original and striking expression of faith. Padraig’s poems are accessible, memorable profound and challenging. They emerge powerfully from a context of struggle and conflict and yet are filled with hope.


Read “Hunger Strikes” — Poem-a-Day

THE PEDAGOGY OF CONFLICT

I
When I was a child,
I learnt to lie.
When I was a child
my parents said that sometimes,
lives are protected
by an undetected
light lie of
deception
When I was a child,
I learnt to lie.
Now, I am more than twenty five
and I’m alive
because I’ve lied
and I am lying still.
Sometimes,
it’s the only way of living.

II
When I was a child
I learnt that I could stay alive
by obeying certain
rules:
let your anger cool before you
blossom bruises on your brother’s shoulder;
always show your manners at the table;
always keep the rules and never question;
never mention certain things to certain people;
never doubt the reasons behind
legitimate aggression;
if you compromise or humanise
you must still even out the score;
and never open up the door.
Never open up the door.
Never, never, never open up the blasted door.
When I was a child,
I learnt that I could stay alive
by obeying certain rules.
Never open up the door.

III
When I was a child,
I learnt to count to five
one, two, three, four, five.
but these days, I’ve been counting lives, so I count
one life
one life
one life
one life
one life
because each time
is the first time
that that life
has been taken.
Legitimate Target
has sixteen letters
and one
long
abominable
space
between
two
dehumanising
words.