Warm Welcome for New Edition of “John Hewitt Selected Poems”

25th November, 2022

The John Hewitt Society is delighted to announce the publication by Blackstaff Press, Belfast, of a new edition of John Hewitt’s Selected Poems, edited by the acclaimed poets, Michael Longley and Frank Ormsby.

Michael Longley, Frank Ormsby and Arts Council Chair Liam Hannaway seated together having a conversation.
Pictured: Michael Longley, Frank Ormsby and Arts Council Chair Liam Hannaway

Born in North Belfast, John Hewitt was perhaps the most significant Belfast poet to emerge before the 1960s generation of Northern Irish poets that included Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon and Michael Longley. His influence on the Arts in Northern Ireland at the time was significant.

In the words of Edna Longley: “His cross-sectarian ideal of Regionalism energised writers, painters and general cultural activity during the post-war period. It recovered ancestral voices and provided some of the basis for a second take-off in the 1960s”.

On Thursday 24 November the editors of this new edition of Hewitt’s Selected Poems, which is now on sale, will read at a special event to mark the publication and the naming of a room named after John Hewitt in the Harrison Boutique Hotel Belfast, a building once associated with the renowned Belfast poet.

Tony Kennedy, Chair of The John Hewitt Society, said:

“Many of those who attend the annual John Hewitt International Summer School in Armagh or Look North - The North Belfast Festival have asked where they can read and appreciate Hewitt’s poetry. Blackstaff Press are to be commended for responding to these requests by producing the new edition of John Hewitt’s Selected Poems.

“In Frank Ormsby’s words, John Hewitt’s “best poems embody the constants and variables of the human condition”. Michael Longley describes him as a poet who “held out the creative hand rather than the clenched fist [and] made himself heard in a land of bellowers without raising his voice”. These attributes are as necessary today as they have ever been and a new generation will now have the chance to read the poetry for themselves.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“This book of Selected Poems of John Hewitt introduced a whole new generation to the work of this important poet when it was first published back in 2007, the centenary of the poet’s birth.

“It is excellent to welcome this reissue of the book in 2022, again guided by two distinguished poets in Michael Longley and Frank Ormsby, as the enduring power of Hewitt’s distinctive idiom is proved again, 35 years after the author’s death.

“How fitting it is that the John Hewitt Society is promoting this event and how wonderful that The Harrison Chambers is dedicating a room to the poet and to Roberta Black (1904-1975), his social activist spouse, in their boutique hotel on 45 Malone Road, on the site where they spent the first months of their married life. Congratulations everyone.”