The 20th Strokestown Poetry Festival will take place from Thursday, May 3rd to Monday, May 7th with a whole host of local and international poets set to take part.
The festival’s first director and one of its driving forces, Merrily Harpur, believes Strokestown is the perfect venue for this unique event.
“When in 1997 Pat Compton suggested a new festival for Strokestown, the idea of poetry leaped immediately to mind – because Strokestown is like a poem: small, compact but harmoniously-designed. Its geography, at the meeting of the east and west of the country, and its glorious jewel in the form of Strokestown Park House – the most atmospheric of venues for poetry – made it a natural place of pilgrimage for poets and writers from the outset,” she said.
Merrily added that the festival was founded upon certain principles, to which it remains true twenty years on.
“Firstly it would make the best contemporary poetry accessible to all – and thus all events in the festival were free; secondly it would enrich impoverished poets, offering large cash prizes in its competitions; thirdly it would cherish its attending poets, inviting them to read a selection from their work and not just their short-listed poem; and finally – and perhaps most importantly for the high reputation of the Strokestown prizes – there would be no filtering committee, all the judges would read all the poems”.
Fellow festival committee member, Margaret Hickey, recalled the year Seamus Heaney paid a visit to Strokestown.
“When Seamus Heaney came to the festival in 2006, he found himself, along with his wife Marie, joining in the cráic and the ceól, too, in Anthony Beirne’s”.
She described the list of “eminent guest poets and judges” who she said: “could stand as a list of the very finest poets in these islands”.
Margaret also paid tribute to those who have continued to support the festival over the past twenty years.
“There are more members of Aosdána who have fond allegiance to the Strokestown Poetry Festival than you could shake a stick at, and their loyal support, plus the generosity of Jim Callery, who allows access to Strokestown House so freely, add greatly to the success of this niche celebration of the finest in literature”.
So, as Strokestown prepares for the 20th edition of this wonderful festival of verse, Merrily, Margaret and the rest of the Strokestown Poetry Festival committee invite everyone to the town from May 3rd to 7th to see what all the fuss is about!