“Éigse Michael Hartnett Committee and Limerick City and County Council Arts Office organise in partnership the Éigse Michael Hartnett 3 day Literary and Arts Festival every year in Newcastle West, Co. Limerick, recognised as the gateway to the south west of Ireland. Located just 45 minutes drive from Limerick city and just a mere hour from Killarney. A bustling attractive town, easy to wander around and browse in its many fine boutiques and chic shoe shops which have dressed many a bride and her mother. Éigse Michael Hartnett Arts & Literary Festival is County Limerick’s prestigious festival hosted in the town of Newcastle West each April. As the town’s shops dress their windows with poetry for the Éigse festival, the streets, the library, all become ad hoc performance spaces. Leading Irish and international poets, writers and thinkers jostle with musicians, dancers, singers and storytellers. The breadth of the programme creates an ambiance of warmth and conviviality that lends itself to lively gatherings and easy conversations for the visitor and locals.
It takes place in various venues around the town and Michael Hartnett’s ‘people’ gather to celebrate and remember the poet and the man. In listening to readings, attending art installations, in the schools, Desmond Complex, the Library, the Red Door Gallery or drinking a few pints with old friends in quiet nooks and crannies of The Square and Maiden Street, a remarkable and beautiful dynamic occurs: the making plural of what is most often a lone pursuit, the reading and appreciation of poetry, perhaps particularly so, the poetry of Michael Hartnett. The idea of ‘a people’ is, of course, central in Hartnett’s poetry. Who he wrote to and for, is a concern which runs throughout his poems, at times prompting affirmation,
My dead father shouts
From his eternal Labour:
“These are your people!”
at times descending to maudlin discontent:
Dying in exile.
To die without a people
is the real death.
He wrote a body of work which he was proud of, expressing the essence of his people, people like Bridget Halpin, John Kelly the blacksmith and his son Sean, John Cussen, Des Healy, Ned O’Dwyer, in such a way as to bring him ease.
These poems, and his parallel documenting of his process, are examples of what makes Hartnett such a great poet. It ensures that we, as readers and lovers of his poetry, become his ‘people’ too and so we gather annually at a weekend in April weekend in his native town to honour his achievements and his memory.
So over every year over 3 days, the visiting writers, poets, musicians and public alike are invited to do justice to that epithet; remember and celebrate, laugh when Dermot Bolger tells Hartnett’s cheesegrater joke, say a silent prayer when a sad remembrance is shared, give all of our intellects to each debate. Most importantly let’s do so with love. That’s what he deserves. There is no ‘real death’ for Michael Hartnett.
We’ll see ye up town!!”
Limerick Arts Office