Twenty years ago last month saw the death of Michael Hartnett, who was one of the greatest Irish poets of the late 20th century.
Born in County Limerick in 1941, he was raised by his grandmother in the town of Newcastle West, discovering his flair for poetry at quite an early age.
In common with many other poets, Hartnett’s work covered many difficult subjects, including such titles as “The Killing of Dreams”, “Celtic Sacrifice” and “The Wounded Otter”. In “Sibelius in Silence” he wrote:
‘Alcohol’s a cunning beast.
It fools the doctor and the priest,
It fools the clever and the sane –
But not the liver or the brain.’
To me as an ornithologist, however, his most enjoyable work was about how he received his gift of poetry, “A Necklace of Wrens”, read here in Irish (with English language subtitles) by the man himself:
His life and work are commemorated each April at Éigse Michael Hartnett, a literary and arts festival held in Newcastle West.
Submitted by Allen Moore, Mannin Branch Celtic League Secretary (9th November 2019)