28 April 2013

A weekend of poetry, history and theology on Achill Island

Looking across to Inishbiggle from Bullsmouth ... the Heinrich Böll Memorial Weekend visits Inishbiggle next Sunday for a lecture on the history of the Church of Ireland on the island (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

The ninth Annual Heinrich Böll Memorial Weekend 2013 takes place on Achill Island next weekend, from Friday 3 May to Sunday 6 May, and I have been invited to give two papers.

This year, the Heinrich Böll Memorial Weekend focuses on the work of American painter Robert Henri, who worked on Achill 100 years ago this year. The programme also includes a series of readings and a celebration of the contribution to literature of the Achill-born poet, John F Deane, marking his 70th birthday.

John F. Deane is a vital and generous presence in Irish poetry. New and Selected Poems gathers work from his five previous Carcanet collections, alongside a new sequence, Snow Falling on Chestnut Hill. Written with an inquiring intelligence, these poems of a dozen years meditate on the relevance of Christian spirituality to our troubled times.

Each of the 12 poems in the title sequence presents a movement of the spirit, from the author’s childhood in the west of Ireland, through the death of a wife, to the birth of a grandchild. Arranged in the manner of an orchestral symphony, each section takes its cue from a different piece of music, from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to Mozart’s Laudate Dominum. The sequence traces, phase by phase, the development of a Christian life.

John F Deane was born on Achill Island in 1943. He founded Poetry Ireland and The Poetry Ireland Review in 1979. He has published several collections of poetry and some fiction. He has won the O’Shaughnessy Award for Irish Poetry, the Marten Toonder Award for Literature, the Golden Key award in Serbia and the Laudomia Bonanni Prize in L’Aquila, Italy. He has been shortlisted for both the TS Eliot Prize and The Irish Times Poetry Now Award, and has been awarded residencies in Bavaria, Monaco and Paris. He is a member of Aosdána.

John F Deane’s recent poetry collections include Eye of the Hare (Carcanet 2011), and Snow falling on Chestnut Hill: New & Selected Poems Carcanet (October 2012). His latest fiction is a novel, Where No Storms Come (Blackstaff, 2010). He is the current editor of Poetry Ireland Review.

Keem Bay at the western edge of Achill Island (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

The weekend will be formally opened by the Revd Professor Enda McDonagh at the Cyril Gray Memorial Hall in Dugort, at 7.30 p.m. on Friday 3 May.

Before the opening, from 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon, there will be a documentary exhibition of reproductions of Robert Henri’s Achill portraits at Áras Forbairt Acla, Crumpaun, Keel. The American curator, Valerie Ann Leeds, will give an illustrated lecture on Robert Henri’s work in Achill, ‘Robert Henri, From New York to Corrymore.’

Mists on the lake at Corrymore (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

On Saturday morning, there is a guided walk with Eoin Halpin, visiting Corrymore House and Corrymore Lake, beginning at the Mayo County Council Waterworks.

The Heinrich Böll Cottage in Dugort will be open to members of the public on Saturday afternoon.

A poetry reading with Father Padraig J. Daly, Fiona Sampson, James Harpur and Harry Clifton in the Cyril Gray Hall, Dugort, will be followed by a creative writing seminar hosted by the poets Eva Bourke and Gerard Smyth.

Saturday’s programme also includes a lecture by visual artist René Böll, focusing on research work on Cillíní on Achill Island, and talks on Robert Henri by Tom McNamara, who has identified the children from Dooagh whose portraits were painted by Robert Henri, and the visual artist Deirdre Walsh, on the influence of Robert Henri as a teacher, as well as an exhibition of portraits by Claire Walsh.

Saint Thomas’s Church, Dugort ... Maurice Harmon will speak here on the Poetry of John F. Deane on Saturday evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

On Saturday evening, Maurice Harmon will speak in Saint Thomas’s Church, Dugort, on ‘Lonesome, between times – the Poetry of John F. Deane.’ This will be followed by a reading by John F. Deane.

Sunday morning’s programme includes a guided walk on Inishbiggle Island led by Sheila McHugh, during which I will give a lecture in Holy Trinity Church, Inishbiggle at 11 a.m. on ‘The history of the Church of Ireland on Inishbiggle.’ This will be followed by poetry readings by Paddy Bushe, Eva Bourke and Jan Wagner, introduced by Mechtild Manus, Director of the Goethe-Institut Irland.

Later on Sunday afternoon, I have been invited to speak at 4 p.m. on ‘The poet as theologian, the theologian as poet ... a theologian’s engagement with John F. Deane.’ This will be followed by poetry readings by Maurice Harmon, Harry Clifton, Gerard Smyth (poetry editor of The Irish Times), James Harpur, Padraig J. Daly and Jacques Rancourt in Bunnacurry School.

The weekend finishes on Monday morning (6 May), with a guided walk at the site of Bunnacurry Monastery, with poetry readings on site by Jacques Rancourt, John F Deane, Fiona Sampson, Jan Wagner and Paddy Bushe.

● Further details and to register: www.heinrichboellcottage.com , telephone 086 232 5516; email: hbollachill@anu.ie

The beach at Keel, Achill Island (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

1 comment:

louis hemmings said...

well, an interesting weekend for you. i had interactions with John F Deane in 1981 when i won the Padric Colum Poetry Ireland award. id be interested in reading your paper about his work sometime. . .see my piece "a poetry award was a good start" on my Cowbird page