Last month, the Office of the Northern Ireland Executive in Brussels was delighted to bring together two female poets from North and South of the island of Ireland to showcase their poetry to an enthusiastic Brussels audience. In collaboration with The Irish Embassy in Brussels and with the support of The Arts Council NI, ONIEB welcomed Niamh Mcnally and Jane Clarke to the office for an unforgettable evening of poetry.
Director of ONIEB, Aodhán Connolly, welcomed guests before introducing Niamh, who shared a range of poetry from her diverse portfolio. Kevin Conmy, Irish Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, then introduced Jane, who impressed the audience with poems from her poetry collections. The floor was then opened to the audience, with guests having the opportunity to engage in an insightful Q&A with the poets on many aspects of their work and their creative process. All the guests were moved by each of the poets’ contributions, before having the opportunity to meet the poets while enjoying refreshments served after the event. The following day Niamh and Jane travelled to The Hague for a similar reading in the Irish Embassy to the Netherlands, where their poetry was enjoyed by an equally attentive audience. Both evenings were a resounding success, and were successful in showcasing some of the talent Northern Ireland and Ireland have to offer!
Niamh McNally is a Belfast-based poet. She completed her MA in Ulster University where she co-created and was a poetry editor for The Paperclip; a student-led, literary publication. Niamh is a workshop facilitator in The Seamus Heaney Homeplace and has been published in, The Tulsa Review, Tír na nÓg, Capsule Stories, The Galway Review, Snowflake Magazine, Aôthen Magazine, and HOWL: New Irish Writing. Her poetry has featured on the BBC and in two climate crisis films, ‘It Seems’ and ‘Defining Hope’. Niamh’s poem ‘If Stone Could Speak’ was showcased by Bushmills as promotion for The Causeway Collection and her first solo publication ‘New Impressions’ was published by The John Hewitt Society for the Look North Festival 2023. Niamh is currently a poet-in-residence for Herstory, Ireland and her debut collection ‘If Stone Could Speak’, will be released in 2024 by The Hedgehog Poetry Press. Most recently, she performed at the One Young World Summit in Belfast.
Jane Clarke is an Irish poet from Roscommon. She is the author of three poetry collections and two poetry booklets. Her three collections were published by Bloodaxe Books, The River in 2015, When the Tree Falls in 2019 and A Change in the Air in 2023.All the Way Home, a sequence of poems responding to a First World War family archive in the Mary Evans Picture Library, London was published by Smith|Doorstop in 2019. Coracle, a limited edition booklet of ten poems responding to biodiversity loss and restoration was commissioned and published by MoLI, Museum of Literature Ireland in 2023. Jane’s third full-length collection A Change in the Air is on the shortlist for the T S Eliot Poetry Prize 2023. A Change in the Air was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection 2023 and longlisted for the Laurel Prize 2023 for nature & ecopoetry. Jane received the Ireland Chair of Poetry Travel Award 2022. In 2016 she received the Hennessy Literary Award for Emerging Poetry with three poems from The River. She also won the inaugural Listowel Writers’ Week Poem of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2016.
Jane and Niamh’s poetry touch on similar subjects, with both poets being known for their eco-poetry, and the affinity to the natural world communicated through their work. During the Q&A, they reflected on the value of spoken and written word in raising awareness in the face of the climate crisis. The audience were also moved by Niamh’s explorations of life growing up as a ‘peace-baby’ in Northern Ireland, and her reflections on the lack of social cohesion and the need for societal and political change. The Office of the Northern Ireland Executive in Brussels would like to give a warm thanks to the Arts Council NI, The Irish Embassy in Brussels, Niamh and Jane, and to all the guests for helping to make such a wonderful event possible.
To keep up with future events follow @BrusselsNI on X, or @Brussels_ni on Instagram. You can also find Niamh on X and Instagram @Niamhymcnally, as well as jane @jane_janeclarke