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