Éigse Michael Hartnett

The eleventh Éigse Michael Hartnett arts and literary festival takes place in Newcastle West from 22 to 24 April. The line-up is impressive for a short festival, including poetry readings, lectures, puppet and music shows (brochure available here). Special guests include Jorie Graham, Fintan O’Toole and Mark Patrick Hederman.

Picture from the Éigse Michael Hartnett websiteMicheal Hartnett was the poet laureate of the area, born in Croom and raised in Newcastle.

Lovable yet separate, operating within his own field of force. I’ll never forget reading his first short hypnotic poems in the early sixties; they had a kind of Orphic throb, as if a new Lorca had emerged from Newcastle West. In fact, Michael shared Lorca’s ability to combine avant-garde daring with native tradition; he took the boldest of technical and emotional risks, living in and through and for his poetry to the end. Séamus Heaney

Newcastle West Community Council have, in advance of the festival this year, commissioned a public sculpture to commemorate Michael, for display in Newcastle.

Local businesses are running a literary trail, displaying some of his works in their shop windows. This example is Death of an Irishwoman, written for his grandmother Bridget Halpin.

Death of an Irishwoman
Ignorant, in the sense
she ate monotonous food
and thought the world was flat,
and pagan, in the sense
she knew the things that moved
all night were neither dogs or cats
but hobgoblin and darkfaced men
she nevertheless had fierce pride.
But sentenced in the end
to eat thin diminishing porridge
in a stone-cold kitchen
she clenched her brittle hands
around a world
she could not understand.
I loved her from the day she died.

She was a summer dance at the crossroads.
She was a card game where a nose was broken.
She was a song that nobody sings.
She was a house ransacked by soldiers.
She was a language seldom spoken.
She was a child’s purse, full of useless things.

© Michael Hartnett

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