About the Festival

20th - 23rd June 2018

The festival will take place in Waterville, at the tip of the Iveragh peninsula in Kerry, in Tech Amergin, a community education and arts centre. We are calling it The Amergin Solstice Poetry Gathering and it will run from the evening of 20th June to 23rd June, traditionally St. John’s Eve Bonfire Night. Poetry in Irish will be well represented at the festival, Éigse na Gréine being its subtitle.

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We are calling it an Amergin festival because, according to the Leabhar Gabhála (Book of Invasions), as the Milesians landed here 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. There are a number of places/monuments locally associated with the myth, and we will have a field trip to some of these. There will be a significant Galician input into the festival, as it is from Galicia that the Milesians travelled to Ireland. Manuel Rivas, the celebrated poet and novelist, and Carlos Nunez, the great Galician piper and composer, both of whom are familiar with the legend, have agreed to participate.

Five Ireland Professors of Poetry (Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paula Meehan, Harry Clifton, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Michael Longley) have agreed to write a poem in response to Amergin, poems which will be read as part of the opening. They will also give their own individual readings during the festival. A collection of their Amergin poems will be published, both a limited letterpress edition and an affordable digital edition.

The festival is the brainchild of Jane Clare and is possible only because of her generosity. Her husband Anthony Clare and herself had planned to retire to their house here, a plan that was thwarted by his untimely death. As it is in part a memorial to him, we have decided that mental wellbeing and poetry will be an integral aspect of the festival. One session, consisting of a lecture about Anthony ( Prof. Brendan Kelly), a short play (Peter Marinker, co-founder of the Godot Company will present a monologue featuring Spike Milligan addressing Anthony Clare) and readings, will be devoted to his memory.

We will have at least five poetry workshops, including one in Irish (Cathal Ó Searcaigh), two in English (Pat Boran and James Harpur), one focusing on poetry and mental wellbeing (Leanne O’Sullivan) and a painting/drawing workshop on “Painting a Poem” (artist Helen Richmond). The poetry workshop leaders will also have their own public reading.

As well as poetry, we will have a visual art exhibition (painting, sculpture, calligraphy) with an Amergin/Leabhar Gabhála theme. We hope that the Iveragh Camera Club will have an exhibition in projected form.

Eilish Butler has put Amergin’s poem to music, based on research into medieval material, and this will be presented at the opening. The wonderful fiddle/viola player and composer Máire Breatnach has agreed to be musician-in-residence during the festival, and readings will be enhanced by her interspersed contributions.

We will also have a showing of Dónal Ó Céilleachair’s widely praised short film, Ailiu Iath n-hErend, which is built around Amergin’s poem being read in its original medieval text.

Holger Lőnze, now resident in Iveragh, has created a wonderful large-scale outdoor bronze piece based on the Amergin story, which was commissioned as part of the percentage for arts scheme in relation to public works, the last such commission in the country. The monument will be celebrated with words and music.

As well as those already mentioned, we will have readings by Marie Heaney, Bernard O’Donoghue, Kerry Hardie, Mick Delap, Theo Dorgan, Tony Curtis and others not yet confirmed. The calligrapher Tim O’Neill will talk about poetry in early manuscripts, and Paddy Bushe will speak on Amergin and the Milesian story.

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