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Friday, 23rd June
6pm reception for 6.30pm reading
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Join us to celebrate Stewart Parker, one of Ireland’s most accomplished dramatists and one-time Edinburgh resident! With us to remember Parker and his work are celebrated novelist Bernard MacLaverty and Parker’s biographer, Marilynn Richtarik.
Stewart Parker was born in Belfast in 1941, and was a member of a group of young writers that included Seamus Heaney and Bernard MacLaverty in the early 1960s at Queen’s University in Belfast. After marrying Kate Ireland in August 1964, he moved to the United States, where he spent most of the next five years teaching at Hamilton College and Cornell University in upstate New York and following the cultural upheavals of the late 1960s, among them the African-American civil rights movement and protests against the Vietnam War.
Meanwhile, a civil rights movement had gotten underway in Northern Ireland, too, and Parker returned to the city of his birth in August 1969 because he believed he could never be more than an observer in the US. He arrived, coincidentally, on the heels of British troops sent to quell sectarian disturbances there. From that point on, the Troubles decisively shaped his writing agenda. Having begun publishing as a poet, Parker tried a number of genres in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including experimental prose, radio drama, educational pieces for BBC Schools Northern Ireland, and journalism.
Parker’s lyrical novel Hopdance was largely drafted in the early 1970s but remained unpublished in his lifetime- it is finally available to the public and that’s worth celebrating.
In a great tradition of Irish autobiographical fiction that includes James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Seamus Deane’s Reading in the Dark, Parker’s poignant novel centres on the amputation of his left leg when he was a 19-year- old university student. Masterful vignettes present the callow protagonist’s life before, during and after this ordeal.
Although he died tragically young, at just 47, he left behind an astonishing literary legacy, most notably with his theatre writing – he authored twentieth-century stage classics such as Spokesong (1975), Nightshade (1980), Northern Star (1984), and Pentecost (1987).
Marilynn Richtarik, a Professor of English at Georgia State University in Atlanta, is based in Belfast this spring as a US Fulbright Scholar. The author of Stewart Parker: A Life edited Hopdance.
‘This posthumous novel of a favourite son of Belfast, who put into words what so many of us love – and sometimes hate – about it, is as essential as they come’- Connal Parr, Culture Northern Ireland
‘In editing Hopdance, Richtarik has ‘added to the body of Irish literature from notable 20th -century writers’ – Sarah Gilmartin, Irish Times