On meeting Michael Hartnett
I met Michael Hartnett for the first time during an award ceremony in the town Hall Dundalk in the early 1990s. The occasion was the presentation of Prizes for the Patrick Kavanagh Memorial Poetry competition and Michael Hartnett was thejudge. As one of the prize winners I had arrived early and soon found myself drawn to this man who seemed to be the centre of attraction. After exchanging greetings I asked him if he was the judge to which he replied that he was and he had to judge the shortlist of thirty from a total entry of over five hundred and twenty seven.
“And who is this lady, your wife I presume” he said turning his attention to my wife.
“Thrust an Irishman not to introduce his wife. Giving her what she has often since described as the warmest shake hands ever.
“How much did they give you for the prize?” he enquired and when I told him that I got twenty five pounds he said that it wouldn’t even keep him in drink for the night.
“Did you ever write a book?” I asked him only to be told that he had just published his twenty third book. Our conversation was interrupted by the MC calling Michael to the rostrum and asking him to read one of his own poems. Michael declined saying that he was going to leave this particular evening to the amateurs.
As each prize winner was called out we had to read our poem and then accept the certificate from the limerick poet. When it came to my turn to receive my certificate and shake hands with Michael Hartnett he winked at me and in a low voice said,
” You counted syllables boy and you have an extra syllable in the last line, that’s the way to do it” Naturally I didn’t know whether this was a compliment or a criticism But it certainly gave me something about on the way home
Another uproarious evening’s entertainment awaits on Friday 19 November at the Armagh City Hotel when an assortment of new odes will be aired for the first time. Some of these will join the long list of much sought after Bard classics. The range of topics at the finals is wide and includes issues such as the recession, wedding invitations, shopping, overeating, dieting, football and returning from the dead. The organisers have stated that this will be the most competitive bard night yet with the quality of poems of the highest standard. Can Liam McNally be the first to win the event for a third time in a row? Will Jimmy Rafferty win for a record fourth time? Could Henry McGraths ‘Recession’ generate the greatest turn over of laughs or will a newcomer put on an irresistible performance?
The lineup for the 2010 Bard finals is as follows.