Eigse Michael Hartnett a 'cornerstone' of Ireland's cultural calendar

Colm Ward

Reporter:

Colm Ward

Eigse Michael Hartnett a 'cornerstone' of Ireland's cultural calendar

Author Donal Ryan who launched the festival

EIGSE Michael Hartnett, Newcastle West’s annual celebration of all things literary, has become a “cornerstone of Ireland’s cultural calendar”, with a reputation that has spread throughout the country.

That is the view of award-winning author Donal Ryan, who was speaking at the launch of the festival on Monday night. Running from next Thursday, April 14 to Saturday, April 16, it will feature a host of readings, performances, exhibitions and a poetry slam at venues throughout the town. Among those taking part, alongside Mr Ryan, will be author Colum McCann and poets Rita Ann Higgins and Michael Coady.

“This year’s festival will be an exciting and eclectic mix of voices and music, and the members of the organising committee have, as always, put their hearts and souls into it,” said Mr Ryan.

“I was told by a teacher years ago, I think about 1992: ‘Cock an ear to a fella from West Limerick called Michael Hartnett, you could do worse.’ Some of us were fascinated by him, especially the way he slightly stepped outside things and realised that to get to the heart of a people or a place or a matter, you had to be in some way slightly outside of it."

With his Newcastle West-born wife Ann Marie among those at the launch, he added, to laughter: “Without West Limerick I wouldn’t really be a writer. That's because I married into West Limerick and my wife made me write books.”

The Nenagh-born author said that in the same way Michael Hartnett had drawn on the people of his native West Limerick for inspiration, “I created a slight mish-mash of North Tipperary and West Limerick-ese.

“Michael Hartnett’s poetry springs from the soil and stone and soul of West Limerick, it’s Camas and Templeglantine and Maiden Street.” Newcastle West, he added, was a place where “poetry forms part of every exchange”.

Mayor Liam Galvin said he was very much looking forward to the festival. “We are very, very proud of Eigse Michael Hartnett. The message from the people of Newcastle West is that the door is open and everybody is welcome to enjoy the weekend,” he said.

The opening event next Thursday will feature a keynote address by Rita Ann Higgins.

The free event also will feature the presentation of the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2016, which is this year being shared by John McAuliffe from Listowel, Co Kerry for his collection The Way In and to Doireann Ní Ghríofa from Kilnamona, Co Clare, for her collection Clasp.

Friday offers a chance to see some innovative dance films along with some integrated dance performances, choreographed by Mary Hartney, inspired by a Michael Hartnett poem. There will also be readings and a Story Exchange where local students get to tell their own stories.

The big headline act of Éigse Michael Hartnett 2016 is the reading by internationally acclaimed author Colum McCann on Saturday night. He will be joined on stage by singer/musician Colm Mac Con Iomaire.

See www.eigsemichaelhartnett.ie for more.