Tess and the rest turn heads at Hewitt summer school

Tess Gallagher at the Market Place Theatre in Armagh last week
Tess Gallagher at the Market Place Theatre in Armagh last week

THE Portuguese professor, the folk singer, the Christian poet labelled `too Christian for his own good’, and the GAA boss – it sounds like either a joke or a strange dream.

Yet this was just a snippet of what I encountered last week at the John Hewitt Society International Summer School in Armagh.

Perhaps the most dream-like things came out of the mouth of Tess Gallagher – the US poet and widow of writer Raymond Carver. After settling in my seat to hear her read poems old and new, I was taken aback to hear her tell the room, `You may have read the interview I did with Brian Campbell...’ – referring to my feature with her a fortnight ago.

In that interview Tess spoke about working with acclaimed director Alejandro Iñárritu on the film Birdman, which concerns a Hollywood star trying to revive his career with a stage adaptation of a Carver short story. I met Tess outside the Market Place and after she thanked me for doing the interview she then casually added, `I emailed it to Alejandro’. I will now begin rumours that the follow-up to Birdman is called Bri-man.

While the talks were going on – with Mary Costello a real highlight, reading from her novel Academy Street – singer Paul Brady was spotted setting up for his gig later that evening.

Another memorable talk was from John F Deane, reading from his faith and poetry memoir Give Dust a Tongue. His lecture was titled Too Christian For His Own Good as a wry riposte to a Dublin journalist’s review of the book.

As I was waiting to interview Deane in the Armagh City Hotel, who sat down at the table across from me but Armagh GAA boss Kieran McGeeney. Small world.

The Portuguese professor was Paulo de Medeiros, whose lecture took in the EU migrant crisis, savage capitalism and the crisis in Greece. But he had a word of praise for Ireland: “I’m in awe at the strength, resilience and the humour of the Irish people throughout all of the troubles.”