Painting Meets Poetry

A forthcoming afternoon poetry reading at the Ulster Museum, featuring Michael Longley, is inspired by artist John Luke and poet John Hewitt

From the 1930s to the 1970s, the poet John Hewitt and the painter John Luke created an image of Northern Ireland as a region with a uniquely modern identity. Affectionately known as ‘Ulster’s Craftsman Poet’ and ‘Ulster’s Craftsman Painter’, the story of their friendship is also, in many ways, the story of literature and the visual arts in Ulster.

Now the John Hewitt Society and National Museums Northern Ireland have launched a special series of literary events that will bring together contemporary poets inspired by both artists at the Ulster Museum to read from their work against the backdrop of the museum's current Northern Rhythm: The Art of John Luke, 1906-1975 exhibition.

The first poetry reading took place in late January, featuring Sinéad Morrissey and emerging poet Andy Eaton, a PhD student at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen's University. The second will take place on Saturday February 9, and will feature much-loved Belfast poet Michael Longley and Queen's PhD student, Emma Must. This event is free.

This reading will be followed by a screening of the film above, produced by Culture Northern Ireland in association with the John Hewitt Society, which features a selection of renowned poets such as Seamus Heaney and Moyra Donaldson reading their favourite John Hewitt poems.

From 1930 to 1957, John Hewitt held various positions at the Ulster Museum, formerly the Belfast Museum & Arts Gallery, and was also secretary of the Ulster Artists' Society. Hewitt and Luke were, therefore, not only great personal friends, but also solid professional aquaintances, who helped and encouraged one another in their respective creative endeavours. The main image above is a portrait of Hewitt by Luke.

'The John Hewitt Society is delighted that in Northern Rhythm, the wonderful new John Luke retrospective at the Ulster Museum, the significance of the personal and professional relationship between John Luke, John Hewitt and the Ulster Museum is highlighted not only in the exhibition but in the accompanying book by Joseph McBrinn,' said Paul Mc Avinchey of the John Hewitt Society.

'We were delighted, too, to be invited to mark that relationship by hosting two poetry readings to coincide with the exhibiton, and that two of Nortrhern Ireland's foremost poets have agreed to take part.'

The forthcoming Michael Longley poetry reading is free but advance booking is essential and some tickets are still available to pre-book via the Ulster Museum box office on 028 9044 0000, or by emailing ulstermuseumreception@nmni.com.