Welsh Poet, Gillian Clarke visits Carlow College for Public Poetry Reading

Carlow College, St. Patrick’s kicked off its celebrations of ten years of its Annual Literary Awards this week with a visit by the prestigious Welsh poet, Gillian Clarke.

Ms Clarke, the former National Poet of Wales, visited the College on Monday to deliver a Masterclass to creative writing students in the College, providing a unique experience for students to learn from an internationally acclaimed writer.

The Masterclass was then followed by a free Public Poetry Reading in the College’s Cobden Hall on Monday evening, where Ms Clarke read a selection of her published poetry, covering such topics as the Bosnian war which has suddenly become relevant again, the Good Friday Agreement, which highlighted the relationship between Ireland and the UK and the importance of friendship, interspersed with poems of rural life, family, and finishing with her version of an ancient Welsh poem which consists of laments for young men lost in battle. The original dated from the sixth century, Clarke noted the regrettable persistence of this theme.

Speaking of the visit, Lecturer in English, Dr Derek Coyle said, ‘Listening to Gillian Clarke read her work illustrated the American poet Ezra Pound’s maxim that poetry is always news. Poetry captures something vital at the heart of human experience and conveys it like a pearl across the generations. Clarke’s opening poem combined the Good Friday agreement with the experience of an old ewe giving birth on her farm, and so she wove a tale of political hope with that of new life, as she masterfully connected an ancient farming experience with a contemporary political agreement.’

Ms Clarke’s visit was the first of a series of events planned to celebrate a decade of the Carlow College Annual Literary Awards. Established in 2012, the awards were designed to celebrate the literary talent of Carlow College students from first years to fourth years across the entire portfolio of undergraduate courses. The decade celebrations were planned following a generous bequest to the College by poet and priest, the late Fr Michael McCarthy. Fr Michael was a student of the college in the 1960s and he returned to the College as first writer-in-residence in 2017. His final publication, part memoir, part poetry collection, ‘Like a Tree Cut Back’ (2021) has been published and recounts his time in Carlow College, St Patrick’s.

As Dr Coyle has said: ‘Carlow College, St Patrick’s is delighted to make its contribution to the creative life of Carlow and the south-east. Ireland has a proud tradition of creative writing excellence in poetry and prose, and we as a college community are happy to help foster this tradition within the next generation.’

Full details of Ten Years On: Celebrating a Decade of the Carlow College Annual Literary Awards 2012 – 2022 and the programme of events, including booking details, is available from www.carlowcollege.ie/literary-awards

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