EIGSE Michael Hartnett 2019, which concluded in Newcastle West on Saturday night, marked the 20th anniversary of the poet Hartnett’s death with a great celebration of music and poetry.
But it will also be remembered as the Lorenzo Eigse when the opening night had to be cancelled due to weather warnings about Hurricane Lorenzo, the hurricane that never really happened. (A bit like Salad Sunday in Newcastle West, muttered those familiar with the Hartnett poem.)
But, with the exception of opening night, Lorenzo failed to dent the Éigse programme which drew large and appreciative audiences throughout the weekend.
Cllr Adam Teskey,Deputy Mayor, delivered the opening speech instead on Friday night saying that Hartnett’s death, in October 1999 “was felt keenly by all those who loved him, and with his passing, one of the most original, lyrical, strong and independent voices, both in English agus as Gaeilge, fell silent.”
“But whether in Irish or in English, his work remains as compelling and as fresh as ever and it is this legacy which is celebrated through Éigse Michael Hartnett”.
“Éigse is one of those truly magical festivals,” Cllr Teskey continued and he congratulated those who continued to build the festival “year on year.”
While traditional features of the 20-year-old festival continued, such as the rendering in Ned Lynch’s Pub of The Ballad of Maiden Street and The Poetry Slam, this year’s Éigse included some new offerings: the Haiku in the Castle, an evocative homage to Hartnett’s Inchicore Haiku; the launch of a special anniversary edition of the Irish language magazine Comhar dedicated to Hartnett and a poetry reading in the 14th century watch tower of Springfield Castle just outside Broadford.
Rowsome At Large, featuring local performance artist Mícheál Rowsome, also proved a diverting, new, social media departure. Work by Limerick poets Máighréad Medbh and Edward O’Dwyer came with a cup of coffee at Marguerite’s while hundreds of local young people had their poems posted online and on a Poetry Wall in the library.
For many people however, the highlights of the weekend were the two exceptional nights of music and poetry at the Longcourt House Hotel.
On Friday night, the UL Strings Ensemble, led by Diane Daly, performed various pieces of music and songs beloved of Hartnett himself with readings from three former Hartnett Poetry Award winners: Jo Slade, James Harpur and Doireann Ní Ghríofa. Three exceptional West Limerick musicians, Tim and Michael Collins and Diarmuid O’Brien opened Saturday night’s event which included readings from Theo Dorgan, Eileen Sheehan and Paula Meehan. Colm Mac Con Iomaire, nominated for three awards in the upcoming RTE Folk Awards, also performed with the West Limerick musicians closing out the show and the weekend.
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