Éigse Michael Hartnett Poetry Awards

The Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2014

We are delighted to announce the return of this award which was established by Limerick County Council and is jointly funded by Limerick City & County Council and The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon to mark Michael Hartnett’s contribution to literature in English and Irish.

The Michael Hartnett Poetry Award is awarded in alternate years to books of poetry in the Irish and English language. The 2014 award of €4,000 will be made to the winning poet on the basis of a third, or subsequent, collection of poetry, published in the last two years. The 2014 award will be made for an English-language collection. This year’s adjudicators are Theo Dorgan and Moya Cannon.

The winning poet will be announced and presented with the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award at the Official Opening of Éigse Michael Hartnett Literary & Arts Festival 2014 on Thursday 10th April in Newcastle West, County Limerick.

The Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2000-2011

“Thinking in English, dreaming in Irish…”

This annual award was established by Limerick County Council in 2000 in tandem with the Éigse Michael Hartnett Festival initiative. It is jointly funded by Limerick County Council and The Arts Council to mark Michael Hartnett’s contribution to literature in English and Irish. The award of €6,500 is made to the winning poet on the basis of a third, or subsequent book of poetry, published in the previous two years.* Awarded in alternate years to books of poetry in the Irish and English language, the Michael Hartnett Annual Poetry Award also uniquely targets poets at mid career in their writing life with the specific aims of encouraging and supporting their writing endeavour.

Up to and including 2011 with poet Peter Sirr as this year’s recipient, eleven poets have been awarded the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award in its twelve year existence. The competition was not run in 2010 and *the criteria relating to poetry in Irish was adjusted in 2008 to apply to a first or second book published in the previous two years.

Hartnett Award Winners 2000 – 2011

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2000

Poet Sean Ó Leochain who lives in Athlone, Co. Westmeath, was the first recipient of the Hartnett Award for his seventh book of poetry Oiread na Fríde.

The adjudicating panel of Professor Declan Kiberd and poets Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Cathal Ó Searcaigh made the following statement on their selection: “in awarding this prize we recognise the subtlety and sophistication of this volume of poetry ‘Oiread na Fríde’. This is not just a poet writing with language: here the language realises itself through the poet who has a very distinct voice. He draws on the literary tradition at no cost to his individuality; he sees the past and present, not as opposed but as complimentary.

It is no accident that this outstanding volume is the outcome of decades of sustained devotion by Séan Ó Leocháin to his art and craft. We feel that Michael Hartnett, whose own work was insufficiently recognized during his lifetime, would have approved.”

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2001

Poet Julie O’Callaghan who lives in Kildare was awarded the prize for her third book of poetry No Can Do. The adjudicating panel of Dr. Tony Roche UCD and poets Bernard O’Donoghue and George Szirtes stated:

“No Can Do’ is the clearest, most poignant, most sustained voice.
The poems seem effortless and are immediately accessible and yet achieve great emotional weight, by the lightest of means. The freshness and wit of this poet’s original voice have gathered scope and gravity. With this book, Julie O’Callaghan becomes an important poet in the English language.”

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2002

Poet Gearóid Mac Lochlainn‘s who lives in Belfast was selected on the basis of his third volume of poetry Sruth Teangacha/Stream of Tongues. The adjudicating panel of Dr. Angela Bourke U.C.D., and poets, Maire Mhac an tSaoi and Gabriel Rosenstock stated:

“an exciting and accomplished work from the troubled streets of Belfast, miraculously in an assured Irish that conveys the cutting edge of urban life, the life of eighty percent of this island’s population. There are other voices here as well, to be savoured on the CD, voices of the poet himself in his search for soundings and song. This book is a joy and a bridge-builder extraordinaire.”

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2003

Poet Vona Groarke who lives in Co. Louth was awarded the prize for her third volume of poetry Flight. The adjudicating panel of poets Paula Meehan, Rita Ann Higgins and Matthew Sweeney stated:

“This is an assured collection building on the promise of earlier work and bodes well for the future. The work is formally accomplished, energised by uncertainties. The sharp eye, powerful music and restless intelligence distinguish her as a necessary voice. It is a privilege to encounter work of such freshness and wit.”

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2004

Poets Pádraig Ó Snodaigh and Seán Ó Curraoin were selected as joint recipients for their respective volumes Cronú and Cloch na Cainte The adjudicating panel of Éilis Ní Dhuibhne, Alan Titley NUI, Stephen Newman UL, stated:

“it was decided to award the prize to two poets who have contributed much to literature in Irish but whose poetry has not yet received as much recognition as it deserves.
Padraig Ó Snodaigh’s collection, Cronú, is remarkable for the power of its expression of deep emotion. Many of the poems in the book are love poems. He conveys feelings of longing, loss and anguish very effectively; what impresses especially is a sense of honesty and frankness. The best of this work is extraordinarily moving. In addition, his command of language is excellent and his mastery of poetic form and diction in many instances highly accomplished.

Seán Ó Curraoin is a truly original voice in the field of contemporary Irish poetry. Writing a unique brand of prose-poem, he includes in this collection nature poems, humorous personal philosophy (in his Beairtle poems), and, above all, memoirs of youth. His loving and compassionate evocation of a childhood in Connemara is especially appealing. The mood of these poems is not so much nostalgic as humorous and often joyous, and his work has a spontaneity which has a liberating effect on the reader. This is a truly pleasurable collection of poems by a poet who is unafraid to express his own sense of the joy and absurdity of the complex world – urban and rural, Gaeltacht and Galltacht, cosmopolitan and parochial – in which he has lived.”

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2005

Poets Kerry Hardie and Sinead Morrissey were selected as joint recipients for their respective volumes The Sky Didn’t Fall and The State of the Prisons. Kerry lives in Kilkenny and Sinead in Belfast. The adjudicating panel of Medbh McGuckian, Niall MacMonagle and Eugene O’ Brien in selecting the winning volumes stated:

“In The Sky Didn’t Fall Kerry Hardie writes about the here and now, the everyday and the ordinary in an authentic lyric voice. She speaks of God in our secular age without unease or embarrassment. This deeply spiritual book is deceptively immediate and it yields its mystery and depth in each re-reading.
Sinead Morrissey’s The State of The Prisons is erudite and well crafted, and the book reflects the poet’s exceptional intelligent sensibility. The work ranges widely in place and time and handles different narratives with directness and assurance. Sinead Morrissey has a remarkable mastery of striking images.”

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2006

Poet Paddy Bushe who lives in Waterville Co. Kerry was awarded the prize for his third volume of poetry in Irish, Gile na Gile. The adjudicating panel of Roisin Ni Ghairbhi, Gabriel Fitzmaurice and Daithi O hOgain stated:

“Paddy Bushe is a poet of sophistication with an impressive breadth of vision. His work combines a keen sense of communal culture with striking personal feeling. His poetry evinces adroit use of language and structural craft. In Gile na Gile he shows how small episodes of everyday life can blossom into brief miracles. This winning volume enriches the discourse within the Irish language and everybody who likes poetry will feel indebted to Bushe.”

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2007

Poet Maurice Riordan from Cork originally and now living in the UK was awarded the prize for his volume The Holy Land by the adjudicating panel in of Michael Coady, Theo Dorgan and Gerard Smyth.

In selecting The Holy Land Michael Coady says, “This is a work of memorable artistic integrity that confirms the unique and ageless power of poetry to reach towards the very heart of human life, its light, its half-light and its dark. The craft that gives the work its form is both masterly and modest in its unobtrusiveness. With grace and with humility the poet seeks to unlock a world, outer and inner, allowing its music to emerge through the authentic evocation of human detail and of place. This is a work whose verities and mysteries are timeless. In essence it becomes an act of love”.

Theo Dorgan describes The Holy Land as “one of the most satisfying books I have read in some years. It is something of a departure for Maurice Riordan, a sustained meditation on the bond between father and son, and a considered and moving invocation of a home place. The poems are deftly handled, lyrical and restrained but made powerful and ultimately convincing by the evocation of unironised love. The lucid prose pieces balance the poems beautifully; he gives us one voice in two registers, and that voice carries an earned authority, a delight in language and its powers”.

In choosing The Holy Land Gerard Smyth says “this work is tightly controlled, elegiac in tone, a beautiful union of memory and language that is also memorable for its vivid observation. These poems are acts of recovery and remembrance that reach back, with tenderness and some yearning, to a landscape and its community. Brisk lyrics of haunted and haunting imagery complement the prose-idylls that set this collection apart and make it a worthy winner of this year’s Michael Hartnett Poetry Prize.”

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2008

Poet Áine Uí Fhoghlú was awarded the prize for her second volume of poetry in Irish An Liú sa Chuan. The adjudicating panel of Roisín Ni Ghairbhí, Alan Titley and Paddy Bushe stated:

“we chose this book not least because of its skill and complete assurance. The author shows a deep respect for tradition, while developing and using that tradition in a thoroughly modern way. Older forms of poetry are remoulded and reworked to express a contemporary sensibility, and her command of language and of style is always masterful. The imagery of the poems is often strikingly beautiful, and it would be difficult to discover a faulty rhythm or cadence. There is a wonderful variety in the subject matter of the poetry, and her human sympathy and understanding is always evident. The feelings expressed strike us deeply and we carry the best of them with us in our hearts. Hers is a voice that adds to the poetry of Ireland.”

“Roghnaigh an coiste measúnóireachta an leabhar seo as a cheardúlacht agus as a chuid fileatachta. Is é a chuaigh i bhfeidhm orthu an tuiscint ghlinn ghlé don traidisiún ar leith amháin, agus an síneadh a bhaintear as an traidisiún sin ar an leith eile. Is minic athnuachan ar mhúnlaí filíochta anseo arb annamh dóibh, agus is léir máistreacht neamhchoitianta ar an bhfriotal ó thús go deireadh. Tá an fhilíocht ann breac le híomhánna aoibhne, agus ní mór ná go bhféadfá a rá nach bhfuil ball lag ar bith ann. Cuireadh suntas chomh maith in éagsúlacht an ábhair a léiríonn bá fhairsing agus tuiscint leathan. Nochtar mothúcháin anseo a théann go smior, agus sonann an chuid is fearr díobh sa chroí siar amach. Guth í a chuireann le héigse na hÉireann.”

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2009

Poet James Harpur who lives in Cork was awarded the prize for his third volume of poetry The Dark Age. The adjudicating panel of Moya Cannon, Peter Denman and Richard Tillinghast stated:

“James Harpur’s ‘The Dark Age’ is a book of serious, well wrought poems. They build into a collection in which imaginative shifts carry the reader into areas which are often left unexplored. These poems demonstrate a mastery both of the short form and of the more sustained poetic narrative. The handling of technique is most impressive throughout. The sequences of short poems in Part Two vary the sonnet structure inventively yet content is never sacrificed to form. Harpur has dared,’ continued the judges, ‘to delve seriously into themes which are too often left unvisited in the 21st century. The poetry makes a long journey into interior darkness yet there is not a hint of self-indulgence. The use of characters from early religious and biblical narratives allows areas of complex feeling to be given dramatic utterance. One is conscious of a genuine spiritual pressure behind work which is surprisingly fresh and pertinent. ‘Perhaps the real triumph of this book is that, notwithstanding the dark and challenging subject matter, it consistently engages the reader on both an intellectual and an emotional level. The poems act upon the reader, as real poetry should.”

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2010

No Prize Awarded

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2011

Poet Peter Sirr was born in Waterford and now lives in Dublin.  His eighth collection ‘The Thing Is’ was selected by poets James Harpur, Thomas McCarthy and Mary O’Malley as the 2011 winner of the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award. In their citation the judges describe ‘The Thing Is’ as a “book of great poetic power, a complex and illuminating work of art. Peter Sirr has created a marvellous narrative in poetry, a work of great technical skill in verse-craft that is lifted beyond mere craft by the power of reflective waiting. Page after page, as the hours spent within poetry go by, a sense of heightened autobiography is achieved and a new level of making poems is arrived at. Throughout the collection, Peter Sirr uses language with precision and the finely tuned ear for the precise weight of each phrase and word that has become the hallmark of his fine poems.”

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2012

Poet Stiofán Ó Cadhla and his collection An Creideamhach Déanach emerged as the winning poet and title by distinguished adjudicating panel, of the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2012. The collection, the poet’s first, contains both older and more recent poems and this was reflected in the judges’ citation when  they describe An Creideamhach Déanach ‘as a weighty, considered book, assembled over many years, and has a quality of achievement that is rare in a first collection.’

Speaking after the announcement this week, Stiofán said his first reaction was one of surprise, followed ‘by a degree of contentment’. ‘It is unexpected and I am grateful for the thoughtfulness and acknowledgement entailed by such a decent prize in honour of such a great individual,’ he said. ‘I have the greatest respect for Michael Hartnett and a well-thumbed (in reasonable condition) copy of Adharca Broic is evidence of that. Hartnett had a genuine poetic gift and was intellectually courageous.”  He continued: “Ireland can be a difficult country to be honest in at times. Michael Hartnett was heroic in a way; he was brilliantly honest and willing to buck the trend. He wrote ‘A Farewell to English’ in 1975, two years after Ireland entered the EEC. We need a more reverse modernism like that.”

Dr. Stiofán Ó Cadhla was born in Ring, Co. Waterford and raised both there and in Bishopstown, Cork. He is a Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Folklore in University College Cork. He has written many articles and books on various aspects of traditional culture and folklore including an analysis of the prose of poet Seán Ó Ríordáin, The Holy Well Tradition and his most recent, a series of essays on folklore called An tSlat Feithleoige: Ealaiona an Dúchais 1800 – 2000 Stiofán, although now living in Cork with his wife and three children, retains his strong link with the Ring of his childhood. He is not the first Ring man to win the Hartnett award. In 2008, Aine Uí Fhoghlu won the prize for her second collection of poems in Irish. Last year’s winner was another Waterford-born man, Peter Sirr, writing in English. Stiofán also maintains links with Galbally, Co. Limerick where his parents and grandparents came from.

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2013

No Prize awarded