Ireland's most prestigious poetry festival is set to start with a bang – and a laugh – at the Percy French Hotel in Strokestown, Co. Roscommon, on the night of Friday 29 April and will run over the Bank Holiday weekend.
The young people short-listed in the schools' competitions will strut their stuff at 6.30 pm, there will be a concert by the Strokestown Singers, and the festival will be officially opened by Declan O'Brien – you can listen to him on RTÉ Radio's Liveline that morning.
Wits from all over Ireland and the UK will read their humorous poems and Declan will award them prizes, before everyone enjoys the official opening reception courtesy of Hanly's Spar supermarket.
The festival's star attraction this year is a performance – in the appropriately 18th century setting of Strokestown Park House – by Martin Dyar of his witty and brilliant one-man show, ‘Tom Loves A Lord’.
Martin Dyar is one of Ireland's finest young poets and the recipient of the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award in 2009, the Raftery Award in 2006, and the Strokestown International Poetry Award in 2001.
The show includes music from Anna Louise Costello and has already received rave reviews in Galway and Dublin. Tickets are free but seating is limited, so those attending the poetry readings will have first choice.
Other highlights of the festival include readings by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, professor of English Literature at TCD, and Ndrek Gjini an Albanian poet living in Galway. The Galway group, Bicycles with Umbrellas, will launch their anthology with readings and a glass of wine.
There will be readings from 25 different poets from Ireland, England, Scotland and America, books on sale, a tour of Strokestown Park's famous gardens – and music from two of Ireland's most exciting traditional musicians, John Carty and Patsy Hanly.
The most nerve-wracking moment for poets short-listed in the competitions happen when the winners of the huge prizes are announced. Each reads his or her poem, before the distinguished judges award prize-money totalling €15,000. Come and see which one wins!
Irish speakers will have the opportunity of hearing some of the finest contemporary Irish and Scots Gaelic poetry. Poets from all over Ireland will compete for all the Strokestown/Colmcille Irish/Gaelic Language Poetry Prizes on the Saturday night at 7pm, and however good or bad your Irish you'll enjoy the drama of the evening.
If you prefer your poetry with a pint there is Strokestown's famous pub poetry competition, with sometimes scurrilous, always interesting poetry from local poets.
The full programme is available from Strokestown Festival Office, Bawn Street, Strokestown. You can also telephone 071-9633 759, and/or look at the website www.strokestownpoetry.org.