Cushendall-born poet Anne-Marie Fyfe, in addition to running running London’s favourite poetry venue, & chairing the UK-wide Poetry Society for many years, spends each spring touring the US with her husband, poet & musician, Cahal Dallat, originally from Ballycastle: (check out diary/events on www.annemarifeyfe.com & www.cahaldallat.com).
And each summer Anne-Marie & Cahal jointly teach a week-long residential poetry course in England, Spain or France … Until 2018 that was, & their decision to treat poetry-course attendees to some of Ireland’s most dramatic scenery & its most-poetic region!
The Londonderry Arms was the natural choice, as Cahal & Anne-Marie hosted the annual John Hewitt Glens Spring Festival here for many years, & recognised how impressed international poets, playwrights & novelists had been by the hotel’s old-world charm, Carnlough Bay’s views, & the Glens’ inspiring scenery. But the hotel had a place in Anne-Marie’s family history long before that, as her parents were the first to have their wedding reception there in September 1949, after current proprietor Denise O’Neill’s parents-in-law, Frank & Moira O’Neill bought the hotel in 1947.
Poets for the summer course came from far & wide, from Hamburg, in Germany, to Decatur, Illinois. Some had been on Anne-Marie and Cahal’s previous courses in Devon or Languedoc, or had attended Anne-Marie’s weekend workshops, or the regular poetry nights she hosts, at London’s Troubadour. So they knew to expect exciting/challenging/inventive writing-assignments, critical masterclasses, and plenty to enjoy ‘after work’, including readings, games, poetry-quizzes/challenges and music nights.
What they probably hadn’t expected was such a perfect coastal/harbour village as Carnlough, or the sublime Glens scenery that inspired poets Moira O’Neill, John Hewitt, Louis MacNeice, & Californian 1930s poet Robinson Jeffers.
The Seamus Heaney HomePlace, with a chance to see something of the Nobel-Prize-winning poet’s origins, & a different Mid-Ulster landscape, & write their own poetry responses to Heaney’s life & work on the journey back to Carnlough on Joe Cunning’s coach, was an additional bonus.
But none of them, Cahal adds, expected a creative-writing course to offer such comfortable accommodation, excellent meeting rooms & working spaces, great food, and all-round attentiveness as the Londonderry Arms provided through the week, a perfect example of a Glens welcome at its best.
This year’s Summer Poetry in the Glens of Antrim, Mon 26th-Sat 31st August 2019, is already fully booked (see www.coffeehousepoetry.org/classes).