Another Successful Poetry Festival – the Highlights!
As expected, the 20th Strokestown International Poetry Festival was a memorable occasion, with more than 80 poets taking part over May Bank Holiday weekend. Lots of poems and poets, plus street entertainment, films, book launches, pub poetry, local schoolchildren participating, sunshine – and visitors from as far afield as New Zealand and Texas!
The festival ran from Thursday, May 3rd through to Monday, May 7th, with a hectic schedule of poetry-themed events taking place in Strokestown Park House, the Percy French Hotel, local pubs and streets – and with poster poems placed all around the town, no-one passing through Strokestown could be in any doubt about the town’s poetry connections!
Guest poets for the weekend included Tony ‘Longfella’ Walsh, who entertained schoolchildren in a street performance, ahead of his main gig in the Percy French Hotel on Friday evening.
Jane Clarke and Lemn Sissay took the stage on Saturday evening in front of a packed audience, with music by Danny Diamond.
Galway poet Rita Ann Higgins read to a sell-out audience in Strokestown Park House on Saturday afternoon.
Music and poetry were also combined in a street performance by the Hermit Collective, a group of musicians, singer-songwriters, poets and artists from the west of Ireland who staged one of their pop-up shows on Saturday lunchtime. Talented Armagh duo Finbar Magee and Breige Quinn were on hand throughout the weekend to add music and song to the festival.
Each of the shortlisted poets in the International Poetry Competition, judged by Moya Cannon and Harry Clifton, gave a reading of their work. The judges had a tough task in deciding a winner, but settled on Bristol man Matthew Barton for his moving poem ‘Chapel of Rest’. In second place was Peter Keeble of London for ‘Passengers’ and third was Jo Burns of Germany for ‘Phaethon’. The competition attracted more than 1,200 entries from all over the world. The winner receives €2000 and a writer’s retreat in Anam Cara.
Their work, alongside that of the other shortlisted competitors, judges and other poets involved in the festival, appears in the Strokestown Poetry Anthology 2018, launched on Friday evening by Roscommon author Gerry Boland. The anthology is produced as a fundraiser, and copies are now available to buy online.
An evening of comic verse resulted in Peter Goulding of Dublin, winning the Percy French Prize 2018 with his poem ‘My Enemy’. Judge Margaret Hickey also launched her book ‘Ireland’s Green Larder’ at the festival.
The Roscommon Poets’ Prize was announced on Monday as local writers gathered in the Percy French Hotel to hear winner Jennifer Creedon of Ballyleague read her poem ‘Dawn on the N63’. Judge Mary Turley McGrath chose Susan Graham of Foxford for second place with ‘St Colman’s Abbey, Inishbofin’, and Frankie Simon of Boyle was third with ‘So What’.
Also on Bank Holiday Monday, there was a new event, a Recitation Competition, when participants were invited to prove their recall of a favourite poem from memory. Anni Wilton Jones took a well-deserved first prize.
This year’s Schools’ Poetry Competitions were hotly contested, with each of the 16 shortlisted poets attending on Friday afternoon to read their work to an appreciative audience in the Percy French Hotel. Clodagh Gill of Clooncagh National School, Strokestown, won the Primary School Competition with ‘Making Us Strange’, and Alannah Healy of the Convent of Mercy, Roscommon, won the Senior Schools Competition for ‘Long Trip for the Milk’. The judge was Pete Mullineaux.
The annual Irish Language competition, Duais de hÍde 2018, was won by Mícheál Ó Ruairc, with Seosamh Ó Murchú second, and Proinsias Mac a’ Bhaird third. The judge was Pádraig Mac Fhearghusa.
Bhí breis agus céad fiche file istigh ar an gcomórtas Gaeilge seo, Duais de hÍde, atá urraithe ag Conradh na Gaeilge.
Tarlaíonn gur garmhac é Pádhraic Ó Finneadha ar chlé, a bhí ar an ngearrliosta, leis an bhfile pobail Pádhraic Learaí Ó Finneadha, agus b¹é seo a chéad uair ag cur isteach ar chomórtas scríbhneoireachta ar bith. Cad eile a bheadh ag
déanamh tinnis don gharraíodóir líofa seo as Conamara ina dhán ŒRian Daonna¹ ach an dochar atá á dhéanamh ag an duine don éiceolaíocht, don dúlra!
File agus údar aitheanta é Mícheál Ó Ruairc, buaiteoir Dhuais de hÍde 2018, a mbeidh cnuasach nua filíochta dá chuid, ŒTreaspásóir¹, á fhoilsiú ag Arlen House ar ball.
Sa dara háit, bhí Seosamh Ó Murchú, Loch Garman agus Co. Átha Cliath, lena dhán coscrach ŒUaigneas¹. Bhí Proinsias Mac an Bhaird as Árainn Mhór, Tír Chonaill, sa tríú háit le dán osréalach dar teideal ŒTost an Éisc¹, agus ar an ngearrliosta chomh maith bhí Ciarán Ó Coigligh, Duibhlinn, Peadar Ó hUallaigh, Corca Dhuibhne, agus Cluain Meala ó dhúchas, agus Pádhraic Ó Finneadha, Conamara, mar a luadh cheana.
Colmán Ó Raghallaigh, cathaoirleach Choiste Dúiche Mhaigh Eo de Chonradh na Gaeilge a bhronn Duais de hÍde thar ceann an Chonartha. Ghabh sé buíochas le coiste Strokestown International Poetry Festival as an tacaíocht agus as an ardán a chuireann siad ar fáil do scríbhneoireacht na Gaeilge, agus bhí sé ag súil go dtabharfadh eagrais
stáit na Gaeilge tacaíocht don bhFéile litríochta seo anois dá réir.
A special competition to mark the festival’s 20th anniversary, 20:20, was won by Aileen Shirra of Scotland with a poem entitled ‘Home Birth’. Twenty of the shortlisted poems were printed on large posters and displayed around the town for the festival. The judge was poet Noelle Lynskey.
An evening of festival reminiscences marking the 20th event was led by James Harpur, with a special presentation to founder Merrily Harpur. Two of the original organisers, Shane Lynskey and Pat Compton, who are still active members of the organising committee, were also commended.
This year’s Pub Poetry Competition was won by Mary Padian from The Sportsman’s Inn, second Helen Good from The Hayloft and thrd Anni Wilton Jones representing McHughs.
Not only were there poster poems displayed all around Strokestown, but there was the inaugural Best Dressed Window Competition for local businesses – of course, with a literary theme. First prize was taken by Ivy Rose Florist, followed by Helen Kerins for Donal’s, and third was Healthy Beings. The judge was Wiltrud Dull from Portumna.
It was a busy, well-supported festival, and plans are already underway for next year’s event – make a note of the dates: May 2nd – 6th 2019.
Strokestown International Poetry Festival wishes to acknowledge the help and support of the Arts Council of Ireland, the Arts Office of Roscommon County Council, and the sponsorship of all the individuals, organisations and local businesses listed in the programme.