Patrick Kavanagh Weekend & Poetry Awards 2017
Patrick Kavanagh with a touch of Seamus Heaney – Rural Landscapes and more.
From Friday evening last until Sunday evening, the Patrick Kavanagh Centre in Inniskeen hosted an array of internationally acclaimed writers and scholars who delivered learned and occasionally provocative lectures to a packed centre. These weighty contributions were lightened by some sparkling music, dramatic monologues guided walks and coach tours.
This being the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death, poetry was central to the experience, from Friday night’s announcement of this year’s Patrick Kavanagh poetry award winner to Sunday evening’s announcement of the young award winners, local and national.
On Friday evening, Sean Walsh and his Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Group was a perfect start and on display was a three dimensional art piece inspired by Kavanagh’s poem ‘Spraying the Potatoes’. This was the work of first year students from Inver College, Carrickmacross under the guidance of the Art Department teachers, Margaret Reburn and Karen McArdle. Matt Kearney, retired farmer and local historian presented a copy of his book ‘Ireland’s Long and Complex History’ to the Minister.
The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was present and she had the opportunity to mingle informally with the audience before she delivered the opening address. She congratulated the students and their teachers and commented that her Department’s Creative Ireland project was well served by the exhibition. She told the audience that her Department had made almost €200,00 available for the refurbishment of the Centre and funding from Monaghan Co. Council will be available to make the Centre, opened in 1994, the equal of any interpretative centre in Europe. The Minister stayed on for the evening, among the audience.
The keynote speech was delivered by Professor Diarmaid Ferriter, ‘Irishmen, as a rule make poor lovers’- Sex and Society in Patrick Kavanagh’s Ireland. There was a lively and wide interchange of opinion in the question and answer section that followed.
The retiring President of the Patrick Kavanagh Society, Brian Lynch, novelist and poet, then announced the winner of the 2017 Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award, Ruth Timmins from Curracloe, Co. Wexford. Dublin born, Ruth, then recited from her collection to an appreciate audience. The Poetry Award this year is sponsored by the Institute of Education, Leeson Street, Dublin.
Dr. Una Agnew launched a three CD collection, ‘An alternative Biography of Patrick Kavanagh’ titled ‘Love’s Doorway to Life’, produced by Eist Recording Services, Dublin. Scripted and narrated by Dr. Una Agnew and Art Agnew, it gives a deep but accessible insight in the poet and his life in Inniskeen and Dublin. It is on sale in the Centre and people were snapping it up as early Christmas presents and for car journey listening.
The evening ended with a special music and voice presentation from ‘The Time Travelers’, Joe and Paula McHugh from America enthralled an avid audience with a celebration of the Irish in rural and early frontier America; folk music, storylore, farmers, miners, dust bowl refugees, it was all there. It was classic and the McHughs stayed for the weekend and were available for conservation and story swopping. The Centre is indebted to Brian and Marie Dooley for not only offering hospitality but instinctively knowing how well they would fit in to the Weekend.
On Saturday morning, Larry McDermott conducted a sizeable gathering on his walking tour of Carrickmacross. In ‘The Hiring Fair’ chapter of ‘The Green Fool’ Kavanagh writes in detail about the town.
Further readings were heard from poets, Ruth Timmins, Victoria Kennefick and Emily Holt. There was an especially poignant moment when Olwen Neary of Carrickmacross read from her late father’s Valentine Neary, poetry collection.
Dr. Juliana Adelman then gave a lecture on Farming and Food in the Free State – the Kavanagh Experience in Monaghan. There was great audience participation following and Dr. Adelman asked people to record their experiences to add to an invaluable local archive.
After lunch the hall filled quickly for Dr. Una Agnew’s Kavanagh Heaney inaugural lecture. Titled: From Shancoduff to Mossbawn – Lines of Convergence and Divergence. Dr. Agnew ranged far and wide on the comparisons and contrasts between two Irish, essentially rural poets and the landscapes that originally inspired them.
The afternoon ended with an illustrated talk on the physical landscape of townlands that inspired Kavanagh by Dr. Susan Hegarty. She examined the ancient geology which existed long before the drumlins and continued to examine the landscape to the present day. That ended the afternoon session.
The commemorative Mass for Patrick Kavanagh and deceased family was celebrated by Fr.Tom Lalor from Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow whose Kavanagh story and how it shaped his own life as a priest was appreciated by a large congregation. Emily Holt a poet from California read the reflection – ‘Ploughman’ by Patrick Kavanagh. We thank Fr. Martin Treanor, P.P for his support.
It was back to the Centre then for The Lyric Theatre, Belfast and a presentation of a Dramatic Reading of Seamus Heaney’s ‘Station Island’. This was a powerful piece of verse theatre as we were led by Seamus O’Hara through Heaney’s pilgrimage in Lough Derg and the ghosts he encountered. Past school teachers, writers like Carleton, Joyce and Kavanagh, acquaintances who died during the troubles in the North and ordinary neighbours. It was a riveting experience for an appreciative audience.
The evening ended on a lighter note with contributions from the audience encouraged by Brian Dooley.
Sunday dawned dark and damp but did not deter the coach load of Kavanagh fans which took the tour. We were joined by Kane Kavanagh Baer, grandnephew of Patrick Kavanagh who attended the weekend. The tour took in Kavanagh’s home at Mucker, the school the family attended at Kednaminsha, a view of the field of ‘Spraying the Potatoes’, Shancoduff and the triangular field and Billy Brenan’s Barn. At Magoney we stopped at Dooley’s to view the model of a stone henge which has been constructed. There is a memorable re-enacting there on May eve every year. It was then on to the Featherna Bush mentioned in Shancoduff and into Crossmaglen. This was the coffee and tea stop. We were entertained in The Cross Square Hotel by the lovely voice of Grace Fitzpatrick who sang Ur Chill an Chreagain the beautiful Armagh Aisling by Art Mc Chuthaigh. Incidentally ‘Kavanagh, has written his own tribute poem ‘Art McCooey’
We travelled on to Dundalk Town Hall. Here Peter Murphy who was present at the time, spoke to us about Patrick Kavanagh’s collapse on the night that ‘Tarry Flynn’ was staged to a packed audience in 1967. Sadly he did not recover from the illness and died some days later.
Back in Inniskeen a crowd was gathering for the Graveside Commemoration led by Paddy Martin, the local piper. Kane Kavanagh Baer laid the wreath and there were readings from Kavanagh’s work by Brian Lynch, Andrew Quinn nephew of the poet, Dr. Una Agnew, Noel Monahan, Monica Sharpley and Chris O’Donoghue. Peter Murphy presided over the solemn occasion.
Paddy Cullivan of The Late Late Show and Callan’s Kicks , took the stage. His show ‘Two Satirical Paddys’ was a refreshing contrast to other weekend offerings. His musical rap of ‘Stoney Grey Soil’ electrified the audience. He went through a series of Kavanagh’s writings in song and verse and audience participation heightened the mood.
The final event of the weekend, and for many, the most important was the announcement of the School’s Poetry Awards.