Trans-Atlantic Anthologies celebrate Northern Ireland and American Poetry
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the National Endowment for the Arts (USA) launched two new contemporary poetry anthologies as part of Belfast Festival at Queens. Both books contain work from an emerging, new generation of poets. The anthology published in Belfast, New Voices, features the work of up-and-coming writers in the US, while the anthology published in the States, The New North, contains work from Northern Ireland.
Guests at the launch included Jon Peede, Director of Literature with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Harvey Hix, Editor of New Voices and respected critic and poet in his own right as well as 2007 Pulitzer Prize winning American poet, Natasha Tretheway. The Northern Ireland poets who participated are US-born Chris Agee, editor of The New North, Gearóid Mac Lochlainn and Alan Gillis, along with Dr Philip Hammond from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Explaining his role in the anthologies, Prof Harvey Hix, University of Wyoming, said “I don’t mean to sound grandiose about the project, but the exchange of the two anthologies is an important civic event, in addition to being an important literary event. Chris Agee’s anthology ‘The New North’ introduces me and other readers here in the U.S. to exciting writers from Northern Ireland, and I hope New Voices also introduces readers in Northern Ireland to the exciting young poets here in the States.
Such reciprocity is too often absent from the interactions of nations, and it is a fitting — and powerful — form of citizenship to begin to know one another through that most intimate form of expression, poetry.
“Any country, especially a large one, will tend to present itself to others in monolithic ways. I am grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to show another side of the United States — just how non-monolithic it is in its best self.
“I hope readers will see how many and various are the young poets in the U.S. They come from the full range of socio-economic backgrounds, have various racial identities and ethnic backgrounds, display the full range of human interests and concerns, and push at poetry’s limits on all side”’.
Dr Philip Hammond, Director of Arts Support with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and one of the organisers of the project, described the launch saying, “This event is the culmination of more than a year’s work, by both the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the NEA, in Washington. It brings together the work of new and emerging poets, the post Carson, Heaney, Longley and Muldoon generation. These anthologies recognise the contribution talented writers make to society, both here and in America, and are testament to the quality and portability of modern poetry. Both volumes are highly accessible and will help to expand the range of opportunities for people to enjoy the arts.”
He concluded, “I would like to thank Dana Gioia, the Chairman of the NE, for his commitment to this project, as a legacy of the ‘Rediscover Northern Ireland’ Smithsonian programme in 2007. Much credit also must go to Chris Agee, editor of Irish Pages and ‘The New North’ anthology. The Arts Council were delighted to welcoming Harvey Hix; Jon Peede, and Natasha Tretheway to Belfast and thank them for their involvement in this work.”