2022 Seán Hewitt – Portal for Derek Jarman

headshot of poet Sean Hewitt

  • headshot of poet Sean Hewitt

In late 2021, Manchester Literature Festival and Manchester Art Gallery co-commissioned poet Seán Hewitt to create new work in response to the Derek Jarman PROTEST! exhibition at the Gallery. Seán performed ‘Portal’ and ‘The Slur of the Heart’ for the first time at an intimate event at Manchester Art Gallery on 3 April 2022 as part of MLF’s Spring 2022 programme. He also discussed art, activism, nature, writing, language and the profound effect Derek’s paintings, films and books have had on him as a writer in a moving conversation with host Greg Thorpe.

You can read the text of Sean’s new poems above and watch short films of him performing ‘Portal’ and ‘The Slur of the Heart’ below and on the MLF Vimeo Channel The films were recorded and edited by Modify Productions and capture Seán performing inside the Derek Jarman PROTEST! exhibition after hours.

Seán Hewitt was born in Warrington in 1990. His debut poetry collection, Tongues of Fire, was awarded the 2021 Laurel Prize and was a Guardian, Spectator and Irish Times Book of the Year. Max Porter describes him as ‘an exquisitely calm and insightful lyric poet, reverential in nature and gorgeously wise in the field of human drama’ whilst Fiona Benson describes his poems as ‘beyond-gorgeous, beyond-glorious, blood-felt, feral, luminous.’ His forthcoming memoir,  All Down Darkness Wide, is a fearless and tender exploration of love, heartbreak, queer identity, masculinity, mental health and coming-of-age. Seán lectures in English literature at Trinity College Dublin.

Derek Jarman PROTEST! ran from 2 December 2021 – 10 April 2022 and was a major retrospective of the work of one of the most influential figures in 20th century British culture. The exhibition focused on the diverse strands of Derek’s practice as a painter, film maker, writer, set-designer, gardener and political activist. 

Manchester Literature Festival and Manchester Art Gallery would like to thank Seán Hewitt, Amanda Wilkinson Gallery, James McKay, Basilisk Communications, Keith Collins Will Trust & Arts Council Collection.