As expected, the 20th Strokestown International Poetry Festival was a memorable occasion, with more than 80 poets taking part over May Bank Holiday weekend.
Lots of poems and poets, plus street entertainment, films, book launches, pub poetry, local schoolchildren participating, sunshine – and visitors from as far afield as New Zealand and Texas.
The festival ran from Thursday, May 3rd through to Monday, May 7th, with a hectic schedule of poetry-themed events taking place in Strokestown Park House, the Percy French Hotel, local pubs and streets – and with poster poems placed all around the town, no-one passing through Strokestown could be in any doubt about the town’s poetry connections!
Music and poetry were also combined in a street performance by the Hermit Collective, a group of musicians, singer-songwriters, poets and artists from the west of Ireland who staged one of their pop-up shows on Saturday lunchtime.
Talented Armagh duo Finbar Magee and Breige Quinn were on hand throughout the weekend to add music and song to the festival.
Each of the shortlisted poets in the International Poetry Competition, judged by Moya Cannon and Harry Clifton, gave a reading of their work. The judges had a tough task in deciding a winner, but settled on Bristol man Matthew Barton for his moving poem ‘Chapel of Rest’.
In second place was Peter Keebleof London for ‘Passengers’ and third was Jo Burns of Germany for ‘Phaethon’.
The competition attracted more than 1,200 entries from all over the world. The winner receives €2,000 and a writer’s retreat in Anam Cara.
Their work, alongside that of the other shortlisted competitors, judges and other poets involved in the festival, appears in the Strokestown Poetry Anthology 2018, launched on Friday evening by Roscommon author Gerry Boland. The anthology is produced as a fundraiser.
Guest poets for the weekend included Tony ‘Longfella’ Walsh, who entertained schoolchildren in a street performance, ahead of his main gig in the Percy French Hotel on Friday evening.
Galway poet Rita Ann Higgins read to a sell-out audience in Strokestown Park House on Saturday afternoon.