Éigse Michael Hartnett Literary & Arts Festival
In academic circles when poetic legacies, such as that of Michael Hartnett, are thrashed out and explored there is always, of necessity, a legacy But. But… he passed away in mid-sentence; his potential was unfulfilled etc., etc. We leave such debates to the growing academic interest in Hartnett; but for those of us who love Michael Hartnett the debate has already been won. His core work, what we see in his numerous collections, his brilliant work as a translator, and his lyrical evocation of a Maiden Street upbringing (‘we were such golden children never to be dust’) and his other mischievous local interventions, are timeless and will stand the test of time – no ifs, ands or buts.
So, for us true believers, Hartnett’s legacy, as one of the central figures in modern Irish poetry, is assured. Éigse Michael Hartnett, a festival hosted throughout the town, in the schools, library, Red Door Gallery, hospital and pubs is a celebration of that legacy. The breadth and diversity of the programme creates an ambiance of warmth and conviviality that lends itself to lively gatherings, easy conversation and spirited debate.
Hartnett’s legacy, as one of the central figures in modern Irish poetry, is assured.
While his memory is still fresh among us, however, the pace of change is relentless. The Newcastle West he wrote so roguishly about has faded into the past, living on only in memory and in his verse. Many of the central characters in these sagas, such as Peg Devine or John Bourke, Billy the Barber or Ned O’Dwyer are no longer readily remembered by the young people of the town. Each year, however, they are recalled, and remembered in Éigse Michael Hartnett.
Prophets are never recognised in their own countries. Until, that is, they make themselves irremovable landmarks on our landscapes and streetscapes. The once-banished artist returns as a statue in our most cherished square, an Éigse literary and arts festival to honour him in perpetuity. Hartnett deserves all these accolades. He had what great poets have, an inescapable honesty, an acerbic wit, (which many Festival goers can attest to), but above all he had a talent for telling us challenging truths. Emerson might have had him in mind when, in his famous definition of friendship, he states, ‘Better be a nettle in the side of your friend than his echo’.
On behalf of Limerick City and County Council I would like to welcome all our participants and visitors to Éigse Michael Hartnett Literary & Arts Festival and wish every one of you an enjoyable and stimulating visit.
Sheila Deegan, Limerick Arts Officer
Organising Committee: John Cussen, Vincent Hanley, Anne Lenihan-Keane, Rachel Lenihan, Vicki Nash & Norma Prendiville