I recently was a successful recipient of a bursary from Fermanagh District Council for the 26th Annual John Hewitt Summer School, held in Armagh. This year’s event featured a panoply of star names from Literature, Art and Public Life, including Baronness Williams, Dr. Paul Nolan, Pat McCabe, Carlo Gebler, Ian Sansom and William Shawcross.
My Poetry Workshop was taught by Eoghan Walls, a leading proponent of contemporary verse. He was keen to hear ourpieces and gave us the tools in which we may critically analyse our own work, understand the processes by which we write and provide constructive criticism of our peers’ work. Eoghan was invaluablein helping to see my work in thecontext of other writers, it was this,along with themanypoetry readings,that showed that Poetry is a church which is breathtakingly broad, that there is room for all types of writing, a cacophany of voices and content only limited by our imagination. I left the week feeling empowered in my work, strengthening my belief in my art and craft as a poet, knowingas well, there is still a vast audience out there for an oft-said uncommercial art form.
As well as the heady constellation of presentations, a lot of work was done in-between the sessions, where much discussion of what we experienced took place. The conversations were lively, stimulating and demanding;we learnt from each other how art communicates itself differently to people, based on what they bring to the table. Different perspectives are all valid and chimes with the overarching theme of this year’s event – Living Amond strangers: The Lost Meaning of Home; I was amongst strangers yes, bit soon they became acquaintances and friends and our School became our home away from home.
Our new home was painted in technicolour, such was the vibrancy of the experience; much like our favourite holiday destination, we wish we could make it permanent, live permanently in a literary and artistic utopia. However, I believe we can bring our holiday home and make it a permanent vaction; there is artistic talent enough here in Fermanagh to paint the whole place in a rainbow of artistic experience. It is up to us to give encouragement to fellow scribes, so that may find a home in our group, Fermanagh Writers. We have to reach out to the wider community with our events, key into the artistic andliterary heritage here, enable people to feel a part of the new heritage that we are establishing now for future generations to look back on be inspired; this must be our legacy.
My thanks to Diane Henshaw, Arts Officer, with Fermanagh District Council, for enabling me to take part in this year’s Summer School. Also to the John Hewitt Society for their hard work in organising an amazing Festival of Literature, Learning and Art A copy of my full report, that I submitted to the Council and to the Society is available to read, please let me know if you are interested.