Joint winners of Michael Hartnett prize announced ahead of Limerick festival

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

The late poet Michael Hartnett has always been “a touchstone” for Connemara poet Mary O’Malley

The late poet Michael Hartnett has always been “a touchstone” for Connemara poet Mary O’Malley

THE late poet Michael Hartnett has always been “a touchstone” for Connemara poet Mary O’Malley who was named, along with Dubliner Macdara Woods, as joint winners of this year’s Michael Hartnett Poetry Award. 

And Ms O’Malley, who will attend next week’s Eigse Michael Hartnett, felt an “immediate affinity” with the Newcastle West born poet, who grappled with “the dilemma of all poets whose native language is essential to their poetic vision yet not their first language.”

“As in Michael's case, my own grandmother was a native speaker and I, for reasons of history, was not. Like him, my first permission to write came from Irish,” she said this week. 

“When I first met him, at the launch of a small anthology to raise funds for the Simon Community, he was kind, generous and had, in abundance,  that 'uaslacht' of which I later heard him speak.”

Ms O’Malley added: “I used to wait for each book of Michael's as I have never waited for any poet’s, before or since.  His work was, quite simply, essential and so he remains. His stature grows, and will, I think, continue to do so. He was a poet deeply schooled and this gave his poems a quiet authority.”

And she recalled an incident at the Cúirt festival in Galway where Michael Hartnett read and Alan Ginsberg was in the audience. Afterwards, she said, Ginsberg went to a local bookshop and asked for “everything you have” by Hartnett. 

Ms O’Malley’s winning collection Playing the Octopus (Carcanet 2016) was described by the judges as “a beautiful collection of rare gems that sparkle and seduce.” The poet “has created a world that sustains us, that we recognise and can inhabit”, they said. 

Macdara Woods’ Music from the Tent , the judges said, “ is a superb orchestra of verbal melodies, a Big Top in which free verse, ballads and haiku sing and cavort.” And they paid tribute to the poet who “has honoured poetry throughout his life, consistently rendering the weals and woes of the human condition into poems that sometimes ring from the rooftops, and sometimes whisper with deft subtlety”. His  poems “ mix wise and rare insights with a generous heart and an open mind, qualities dear to Michael Hartnett,” they said. 

The winning poets will receive their award next Thursday, April 12, at the opening night of Eigse Michael Hartnettwill which will take place in Newcastle West library and which is free and open to the public to attend. Niall Hartnett, Michael’s son, who spent his early years in West Limerick, will deliver the keynote address that evening. 

Another highlight of the festival is expected to be an evening with author John Boyne, and Limerick’s  singer/songwriter Emma Langford and young Limerick poet Edward O’Dwyer.  There will also be readings with Mike McCormack author of Solar Bones and poet.  In addition, there will be poetry workshops, a Poetry Slam, a book launch with Gabriel Fitzmaurice, a literary walking tour and a film screening. 

A very special “foodie” event, Pulled Pork and Poetry will see award winning chef, Tom Flavin from Monagea and star chef at the Strand Hotel, perform his magic, displaying his know-how, dispensing tips and serving lunch . Academic Declan Kiberd will deliver the Michael Hartnett Memorial Lecture, entitled: Honey, I shrunk the kids: Is there a children’s literature?” 

For the full programme go to www.eigsemichaelhartnett.ie

 

“Macdara Woods has honoured poetry throughout his life, consistently rendering the weals and woes of the human condition into poems that sometimes ring from the rooftops, and sometimes whisper with deft subtlety; poems that mix wise and rare insights with a generous heart and an open mind – qualities dear to Michael Hartnett,” the judges said in their citation.

 

 

The collection, they said,  includes ‘poems that x-ray the body of homo sapiens’,  poems that laud the depth and variety of European culture and topography; poems that encapsulate the mysterious beauty of nature and poems that mourn the dead but celebrate the beauty of the human form and the endurance of love.

 

 

The judges in their citation described Mary O’Malley’s Playing the Octopus  “as And the poet acts as an assured guide.

“ This is a collection that balances beauty and harmony, the poems are restrained but deeply felt, the voice assured, meaning is revealed slowly like an uncovering of essence, something essential and elemental.

“There is a playfulness and joy in language that at times produces a magical quality:light bounces and refracts, musical intonations interweave with the lyric voice. What is achieved is a virtuoso performance.”

 

 

“I  am delighted to receive the Michael Hartnett Award,” Ms O’Malley said.

 

 

Previous winners of the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award, which is awarded in alternate years for collections in Irish and English,  include Sinead Morrissey, Vona Groarke, Julie Callaghan, Maurice Riordan, Peter Sirr, James Harpur, Jo Slade, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Paddy Bushe, Aine Ni Fhoghlú and Mark Roper.

The Michael Hartnett Poetry Award is supported by the Limerick Culture and Arts Office and by the Arts Council. This year’s judges were Jo Slade and James Harpur. Eigse Michael Hartnett is the literary and arts festival established in the wake of poet Michael Hartnett’s death in 1999 and has continued every year since. This year’s Eigse begins on Thursday, April 12 and runs until Saturday, April 14.