An evening of Irish arts; Dubliner: Poet-playwright Paula Meehan leads the list of guests at the 22nd annual performance of Irish singing, dancing and poetry.


Paula Meehan, one of Ireland's best-known poets and playwrights, will be the featured speaker tomorrow at the 22nd annual "Irish Evening," featuring Irish music and poetry and sponsored by the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo).

Meehan, 45, who lives and works in Dublin, will be introduced by Sean O'Huiginn, Irish ambassador to the United States.

A concert of traditional Irish music will be presented by members of the band Celtic Thunder. Four champion step dancers and singers Dominick Murray and Grace Griffith will also perform.

The author of four collections of poetry, Meehan has also written plays for children and adults. She has led writing workshops in Dublin prisons and has written a well-received play, "Cell," about the life of female inmates.

HoCoPoLitSo President Ellen Kennedy said Meehan was recommended by fellow Irish writer Eavan Boland, who describes her as "a poet who marshals the details and meaning of her time and place in such a way that she becomes an essential voice."

Educated at Trinity College in Dublin, Meehan received a master's in fine arts from Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash. In 1998, she received the Butler Award for Poetry from the Irish-American Cultural Institute. Two of Meehan's four collections of poems are available in the United States -- "The Man Who Was Marked by Winter" and "Pillow Talk," both published in 1994.

HoCoPoLitSo's "Irish Evening" sells out every year and has become one of the most popular cultural events in the region.

Catherine McLoughlin-Hayes, chairwoman of the event, said, "Each year, we've been sold out and we've had to turn away about 100 people. We have the best of the best of the Irish writers and poets, and combined with the music, it's a really wonderful night."

The evening has become a tradition for many Howard residents, she adds. "The same people have been coming back for 22 years, if you can believe that. I find that people are reluctant about poetry in the beginning, until they realize there is so much more to it."

A number of longtime "Irish Evening" favorites will perform at this year's event and 12-time WAMMIE (Washington Area Music Association) Award winner Grace Griffith will join the group as a guest vocalist.

The list of Irish writers who have been guests of "Irish Evening" over the years includes Seamus Heaney, Edna O'Brien, Michael Longley, Colm Toibin and Eavan Boland.

Since 1974, HoCoPoLitSo has brought poets and writers to adult and high school audiences.

"Irish Evening" is at 8 p.m. tomorrow Friday at Jim Rouse Theatre, 5460 Trumpeter Road, Columbia. Tickets are $23 and can be purchased by telephone between 10 a.m. and 7: 30 p.m. by calling 410-730-1802 , press 2.

Books, tapes and refreshments will be available in the lobby, beginning at 7: 15 p.m. Information: HoCoPoLitSo, 410-730-7524 or 301-596-6183.

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