The Amergin Solstice Poetry Gathering

Celebrate the official start of Summer and head to breathtaking South West Kerry for The Amergin Solstice Poetry Gathering. This brand new literary event is the brainchild of Jane Clare who spoke with us ahead of the festival which takes place from 20 – 23 June.

Jane, what prompted you to set up The Amergin Solstice Poetry Gathering?

‘The inaugural Amergin Solstice Poetry Gathering explores the origins of our poetic tradition and its connection with Iveragh in south-west Kerry. It also has a focus on the link between creativity and mental wellbeing and will include a workshop on Poetry and Mental Wellness and an inaugural lecture by Prof. Brendan Kelly in memory of the work of psychiatrist Anthony Clare my late husband.

The festival is a combination of ideas that arose from a proposal of mine to the poet, Paddy Bushe and his wife Fiona de Buis, now respectively Artistic Director, and Chairperson of the Festival Committee, that I would help sponsor a poetry festival if they were willing to manage and devise the overall program.

We are calling it an Amergin festival because, according to the Leabhar Gabhála (Book of Invasions), as the Milesians landed in Iveragh, Amergin put his right foot on the ground and recited his poem to claim the country for his Goidelic (i.e. Gaelic) people. Here then was the beginning of Irish poetry.’

What kind of sessions can people look forward to at the festival?

‘The event will be opened by Olivia O’Leary with the launch of the publication of five new specially composed poems in response to Amergin ‘s Claim. The participating poets (Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paula Meehan, Harry Clifton, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Michael Longley) will read their work. They will also be participating in the three-day event of workshops, lectures, readings, music and local history.

There will be five poetry workshops in English and Irish along with a painting/drawing workshop on “Painting a Poem” (artist Helen Richmond). There’s also an art and photographic exhibition, live music and film screenings.’

For more details see festival programme.

What have been some of the joys and challenges of organising this festival?

‘The challenge in setting up a new festival, especially one that has a focus on poetic expression and the life of the mind at its heart, is to find a place and a time in an already crowded Summer schedule of well-established events. But, we believe we are offering something different and thought-provoking with an exceptional and varied line-up group of poets, artists and musicians.

For me personally, the impetus to create an event combining poetry with a memorial to my late husband arose when the tenth anniversary of his passing coincided with my return to academic life (a Masters in Poetry Studies in DCU in 2016/17). My husband had a particular interest in the complex relationship between artistic expression and psychological turbulence, well documented by Kay Redfield Jamison.  Words spoken and written were his trademark so it was a small step to enlist the enthusiasm and professional expertise of our friends Paddy and Fiona Bushe.

We have to plan each festival program far advance in order to qualify for Arts Council funding assistance. It has taken over a year for the Festival committee to be formed and get to work. They have been amazing, and now the outline schedule for  2019 is already under submission as required by the Arts Council.’

Main photo and below: Jane Clare and her late husband Dr Anthony Clare in Kerry

Above, right to left: Poet Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Poet Michael Longley, Eilish Butler and Willem Hulsegge who will be singing and playing their new composition based on The Song of Amergin at the inaugural Amergin Solstice Poetry Gathering

 

 

 


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