Poets’ Corner

Joint Winners of
Michael Hartnett Poetry Award announced

Special to The Irish American Post

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Two of Ireland's new generation of Irish language poets have been announced as joint winners of the annual Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2015.

Marcus Mac Conghail for his first collection Ceol Baile and Caitríona ní Chléirchín for her second collection An Bhrídeach Sí, both published by Coiscéim were presented with their award on the opening night of Éigse Michael Hartnett in Newcastle West, County Limerick on April 16.

This annual award is jointly funded by Limerick City & County Council Arts Office and The Arts Council to mark Newcastle West native Michael Hartnett’s contribution to literature in English and Irish. The €4,000 annual prize is presented to the winning poet on the basis of a first or second book of poetry, published during the previous three years.

Previous winners of the prestigious award include Julie O'Callaghan, Vona Groarke, Kerry Hardie, Sinead Morrissey, Paddy Bushe, Maurice Riordan, Aine Ni Fhoghlu, James Harpur, Peter Sirr, Stiofán O'Cadhla, Mark Roper and Jo Slade.

Co. Monaghan native Caitríona Ní Chléirchín, whose winning collection is dedicated to her late mother, said her award success will inspire her to continue writing poetry in Irish and that she was "deeply honored."

"I have devoted my life to Irish-language poetry as a poet, lecturer and critic and I have a great love of and affinity with Michael Hartnett’s poetry, especially the collection Necklace of Wrens, and the poem ‘An muince dreolíní’. I was honored to have one of my poems featured in the collection I live in Michael Hartnett which was launched at Eigse Michael Hartnett 2013. Winning this award means an immense amount to me," said Ní Chléirchín

Marcus Mac Conghail, who was the instigator and editor of the poetry collection Línte Leictreacha produced for Electric Picnic in 2014, described his success as "an unexpected honor."

"I never met Michael Hartnett but growing up I remember the talk about his A Farewell to English. That artistic act left a great impression on me so to be a co-recipient of an award set up in his memory is hard to believe," added the Dublin-born poet, songwriter and singer.

The 2015 joint winners have been described by the judges as "two emerging poets with distinctive voices" whose poetry is "powerful, courageous, sassy and important."

"An Bhrídeach Sí, Caitríona’s second collection, showcases a poet with a mature confident voice. Her mastery of Irish and sense of being at home in both tradition and modernity is evident throughout the book, in poems set in the seventeenth century, poems framed by Gaelic mythology and in intensely personal lyrics. The poems are full of passion and also quiet reflection on life and love and death."

"Léiríonn An Bhrídeach Sí, an dara cnuasach de chuid Chaitríona Ní Chléirchín go bhfuil an file seo tagtha in inmhe. Tá Ní Chléirchín os cionn a buille sa teanga sna dánta soléite dodhearmadta seo a bhfuil an traidisiún agus an nuálaíocht ag obair as lámh a chéile iontu, bíodh sí ag plé le scéal ón seachtú haois déag, miotaseolaíocht na Gaeilge nó a saol féin. Tá paisean agus mothúcháin mhóra anseo anuas ar mhachnamh séimh ar an mbás agus ar an ngrá."

Commenting on Mac Conghail's work in their citation, the judges stated: "Marcus Mac Conghail's poetry is rooted in contemporary life and influenced by his own experience as a musician. His collection Ceol Baile, his first, includes energetic Beat riffs, quiet gently lyrics and good-humoured poetic snapshots. The poems are articulated in an Irish which merges a rich Gaeltacht idiom with a confident metropolitan twist.

"Tá filíocht Mharcuis Mhic Chonghail fréamhaithe sa cheol agus sa saol nua-aimseartha. Tá dánta fuinniúla Beat, liricí áille ciúine agus véarsaí dána dea-ghiúmaracha ina chnuasach Ceol Baile. Tá dúchas na Gaeltachta agus scóp na nua-Ghaeilge cathrach ag saibhriú a chéile ina chuid dánta," the judges concluded.

The Mayor of Limerick City and County Council Cllr Kevin Sheahan presented the joint winners. Both poets performed from their winning work, followed by a keynote address from award-winning author Joseph O'Connor who will speak on "Memories of an Evening with Michael Hartnett."

The three-day festival continued with internationally-acclaimed musician Martin Hayes in concert with David Power and a line-up which included poets Peter Fallon and Doireann Ni Ghriofa, Fishamble's Underneath by Pat Kinevane and award-winning novelist and short story writer Kevin Barry.

For more information:

Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2015 Winner Biographies:

Caitríona Ní Chléirchín is an Irish-language poet and critic originally from Gortmoney, Emyvale in Co. Monaghan. Her début collection Crithloinnir won the Oireachtas Prize for New Writers in 2010 and her second collection An Bhrídeach Sí published in 2014 has won the Michael Hartnett Prize 2015. 

She has published poetry in Comhar, Irish Pages, Cyphers, The Stinging Fly, Feasta,Blaiseadh Pinn, An t-Ultach and An Guth. She also writes reviews, academic and journalistic articles in The Irish Times, Comhar, Taighde agus Teagasc and others. She is also an Irish-language and literature lecturer at St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra and Queens University Belfast. 

Her doctorate was a pyschoanalytical body-centred reading of the Irish-language contemorary poetry of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Biddy Jenkinson. She was a lecturer in Irish-language poetry and language in UCD between 2005-2013 and also holds a masters in French Literature for the Université de Lyon.

Marcus Mac Conghail was the instigator and editor of the poetry collection Línte Leictreacha produced for last year’s Electric Picnic. Released late last year, he had a poem and a song on the album Amhrán do Phádraig which was produced to support Pádraig Schaler. In addition, he has a couple of new tracks on the forthcoming CD IMLÉ which will be launched at Féile na Bealtaine in Dingle this year where he will also perform. Most recently Marcus performed as part of the inaugural night of REIC, a bilingual spoken word/song/rap event.


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