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St Columba and the Poetic Imagination with James Harpur

This illustrated talk explores the extraordinary figure of St Columba (Columcille in Irish) in the poetic or mythic imagination. Born in 521, Columba left Ireland for the island of Iona and founded a monastery that helped to spread the Christian faith in what is now Scotland and northern England. More than an abbot and evangelist, Columba was a charismatic pastoral leader, political ‘fixer’, miracle-worker, healer, clairvoyant and poet.

During the first Covid lockdown James Harpur pored over the extraordinary stories about this saint and wrote a book of poems inspired by his life. In this talk James explores Columba not so much as a historical person but as the archetype of Poet, Pilgrim and Exile, three giant figures in Irish culture and imagination.

James Harpur’s The Oratory of Light, poems inspired by Iona and St Columba, with images by Paul   Colm in, is published by Wild Goose.

‘A deeply affecting collection … Harpur’s work is universally human at heart.’ Charlie Connelly, The New European

James Harpur lives in West Cork. He has published eight books of poetry and a debut novel, The Pathless Country. See his website:

Tickets: £10 for an invitation on Zoom



Thursday 09 June 2022


7:00 pm - 8:15 pm





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