Eleanor Hooker

Prestigious poetry award for Tipp's Eleanor

'Poet with a unique voice'

THE winner of the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2022 is Tipperary poet Eleanor Hooker, who has been lauded as a "poet with a unique voice that refuses to apologise". Her winning collection, Of Ochre and Ash, (Dedalus Press 2021), has been described as "compelling" and "memorable" by this year’s judges, poets Kerry Hardie and Peter Sirr.

"Many excellent books were submitted for the Michael Hartnett Annual Poetry Award this year, but we both kept circling back to Eleanor Hooker’s third collection, Of Ochre and Ash," the judges said, announcing the winner.

"Family, place and memory are among her concerns, but it’s the imaginative brio, admirable adventurousness, and a real way with language, image, metaphor and form that make this a compelling collection.

"She is a poet with a unique voice that refuses to apologise," they continued.

Responding to the announcement of her win, Eleanor Hooker, said: "It’s difficult to articulate just how much this means to me, how validating it is that these two great poets and writers have chosen my work for this incredibly prestigious award. It’s a tremendous honour."

Ms Hooker will be presented with the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award on the opening night of Éigse Michael Hartnett which takes place in Newcastle West, Co Limerick from October 6 to 9. This year the value of the award has doubled to €8,000 and is supported by the Arts Council and by Limerick City and County Council.

An admirer of the late poet Michael Hartnett, Ms Hooker said: "Michael Hartnett faced down his fears and made of them poems of exquisite lyrical elegance. He wrote with courage of his most dark and raw moments, without artifice or pretence. The desire for such authenticity and truthfulness has inspired much of my own writing. He died too young, but to continue to read his poems is to remember that ‘eras do not end when great poets die/for poetry is not whole’

For Eleanor Hooker, ‘Poems are a safe place to put vulnerable, breakable things’.

Born in south Tipperary, Ms Hooker initially trained as a nurse and midwife. She lived for several years in the UK and holds an MA (Hons) from the University of Northumbria. She also has an MA in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin and is currently studying for a PhD.

She lives in Dromineer with her husband Peter. They have two sons. She is a founder member of the Dromineer Nenagh Literary Festival and is helm of the Lough Derg RNLI lifeboat.

Meanwhile, the programme for this year’s Éigse Michael Hartnett Literary and Arts Festival has been released. Promising an exciting opening night, with The Hit Machine Drummers and Lantern Parade, the programme includes readings, music, song, film, exhibitions, launches and a bus tour of Hartnett country.

Among this year’s guests are Gerry Stembridge, Kerry Hardie, Peter Sirr, Mary Costello, Catríona Crowe, Mark Patrick Hederman, Peter Browne and Gabriel Fitzmaurice as well as local writers Keith McCoy and Tom Moloney. A fourth day has been added to this year’s festival, intended as a family and community oriented fun day.