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New Online Archive Celebrates Legendary Ulster Poet

The life and works of a legendary Belfast poet will be celebrated at the University of Ulster later this month with the launch of the John Hewitt Online Archive and the Ulster Poetry Project.

The initiative will see the digitization of sections of the John Hewitt Collection – an extensive personal archive which was bequeathed to the University of Ulster upon the poet’s death – and which is housed at the University’s library in Coleraine.  

John Hewitt is regarded as one of the most significant Ulster poets of the twentieth century.  His keen observation of Ulster life and landscape and his work as a literary critic and book collector made him a leading figure in Northern Irish writing.  As a champion of the vernacular poetry of Ulster he was a literary pioneer who preserved and celebrated dozens of poets and texts.   

A series of events to highlight the new online archive and to mark the launch of the associated Ulster Poetry Project will take place at the University’s Magee and Coleraine campuses next week.

On Wednesday 21 July  a free public talk exploring the work and poetry of this influential and multi-faceted Northern Irish poet and writer will take place at Magee.

Dr Frank Ferguson, from the School of English, History and Politics, will present the lecture. He said:  “The John Hewitt Collection comprises the poet’s extensive personal library and literary archive which he bequeathed to the University of Ulster.  We have been extremely fortunate to be chosen as the custodians of what is undoubtedly one of the most significant collections in the UK and Ireland of modern and contemporary Irish literature.   

“Containing over 5,000 books and journals, it includes rare volumes, journals,  notebooks of poems, a copy of John Hewitt’s unpublished autobiography, radio scripts from the 1940's and first editions of virtually every collection of Irish poetry since the 1950s.  There are also short stories, verse plays and reviews of books and art exhibitions.  The Collection reflects Hewitt's enormous activity and influence on the development of art and literature in Northern Ireland. 

“The University has already started digitizing the Collection and the first phase, including some of the books and rare 19th century Ulster texts, will soon be accessible online.  The digital online archive will provide a unique resource for anyone interested in Irish poetry, modern Irish culture, history and folklore.”  

The Ulster Poetry Project has been established as an ancillary strand to the Collection and will seek to continue Hewitt’s preservation and celebration of Ulster poetry.   

Future plans include developing his notebooks as an online resource, publishing the autobiography and other projects in keeping with Hewitt’s interests in history, culture, poetry and literature. 

Dr Frank Ferguson will present his public lecture entitled: Across the Roaring Hills: John Hewitt, Poet and Book Collector, at 7.30pm in Aberfoyle House, Magee campus, on Wednesday 21 July.   

The lecture will also be presented at 7.30pm in the Flowerfield Arts Centre, Coleraine, on Thursday 22 July as part of the University’s Talks and Tours programme of events. Admission is free and everyone is welcome. 

For further information on these talks please contact the Cultural Development Office on: 028 7137 5658 or n.pearce@ulster.ac.uk. 

For further information on the John Hewitt Online Archive please contact Dr Frank Ferguson on: 028 70323577 or email: f.ferguson@ulster.ac.uk.