30 November 1967: Patrick Kavanagh died 50 years ago today

Catalpast

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30 November 1967: Patrick Kavanagh Poet, Author and Playwright died on this day. He was born  in Inniskeen County Monaghan. It would become the inspiration for much of his work and would ultimately become his final resting place.

He was born on 21 October 1904 & most of the first 35 years of his life were spent in the parish of Inniskeen and the countryside of County Monaghan. Kavanagh’s formal education ended after national school and he became an apprentice shoemaker to his father for a while. Kavanagh worked on the small family farm for twenty years and while there had his first work published. He was not a ‘natural’ at farming and his mind wandered over to what his lot was in this life. Kavanagh's first collection, Ploughman and Other Poems, was published in 1936. It is notable for its realistic portrayal of Irish country life. The Green Fool, a loosely autobiographical novel, was published in 1938.

In 1939, after a short time in London, Patrick Kavanagh joined his brother Peter in Dublin. The city would become his home until his death in 1967. Kavanagh claimed to feeling like an exile in Dublin where for many years he struggled to make a living as a writer. Yet Kavanagh became a ‘Dublin character’ and the city had an important influence on his poetry. He was not impressed with the Dublin literary scene and thought a lot of what was spoken ‘drivel’. But his heart took to the Baggot St area of Dublin and he made it his ‘village’ where was known to everyone and they knew him.

"he realized that the stimulating environment he had imagined was little different from the petty and ignorant world he had left. He soon saw through the literary masks many Dublin writers wore to affect an air of artistic sophistication. To him such men were dandies, journalists, and civil servants playing at art. His disgust was deepened by the fact that he was treated as the literate peasant he had been rather than as the highly talented poet he believed he was in the process of becoming".

John Nemo Patrick Kavanagh 1979

In 1942 he published his long poem The Great Hunger, which describes the privations and hardship of the rural life he knew well. Tarry Flynn, a semi-autobiographical novel, was published in 1948 and was banned for a time. His life drifted downwards though and he became a dishelvled figure along the banks of the Grand Canal and in the local pubs. In 1955 he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had a lung removed. It was while recovering from this that he rediscovered his poetic vision. He recalled: "As a poet I was born in or about 1955, the place of my birth being the banks of the Grand Canal". This proved a turning point and Kavanagh began receiving the acclaim that he had always felt he deserved. Between 1959 and 1962 Kavanagh spent more time in London, He gave lectures at UCD and in the United States he represented Ireland at literary symposiums, and became a judge of the Guinness Poetry Awards.

Kavanagh married his long-term companion Katherine Barry Moloney in April 1967 and they set up home together on the Waterloo Road in Dublin. Kavanagh fell ill at the first performance of Tarry Flynn. He died from an attack of bronchitis on 30 November 1967. He was buried in his native Inniskeen.

For most of his Life he had struggled with poverty both Material and of the Soul and with rejection by literary society and the wider world. It was only in the last two decades of his career that he really began to gain traction and recognition as one of Ireland’s finest poets of the 20th century.

There is a statue of Kavanagh beside Dublin's Grand Canal inspired by his poem "Lines written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin":

O commemorate me where there is water
canal water preferably, so stilly
greeny at the heart of summer. Brother
commemorate me thus beautifully.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Kavanagh#Writing_career
 


bob3344

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Have never been a huge poetry fan but Tarry Flynn is a great book.
 

Catalpast

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I only read The Green Fool and that is so long ago the memory is a bit hazy now.....
 

fat finger

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O stony grey soil of Monaghan
The laugh from my love you thieved;
You took the gay child of my passion
And gave me your clod-conceived.

You clogged the feet of my boyhood
And I believed that my stumble
Had the poise and stride of Apollo
And his voice my thick tongued mumble.

You told me the plough was immortal!
O green-life conquering plough!
The mandril stained, your coulter blunted
In the smooth lea-field of my brow.

You sang on steaming dunghills
A song of cowards' brood,
You perfumed my clothes with weasel itch,
You fed me on swinish food

You flung a ditch on my vision
Of beauty, love and truth.
O stony grey soil of Monaghan
You burgled my bank of youth!

Lost the long hours of pleasure
All the women that love young men.
O can I stilll stroke the monster's back
Or write with unpoisoned pen.

His name in these lonely verses
Or mention the dark fields where
The first gay flight of my lyric
Got caught in a peasant's prayer.

Mullahinsa, Drummeril, Black Shanco-
Wherever I turn I see
In the stony grey soil of Monaghan
Dead loves that were born for me.
 

statsman

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For a man who wrote relatively little, he's a deeply uneven poet. At his best, there's a lyric economy and particularity that has to be admired; at his worst, his work is clumsy.


The latter:
I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday -
You meet me and you say:
'Don't forget to see about the cattle - '
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.
The former:

Upon a headland by a whinny hedge
A hare sits looking down a leaf-lapped furrow
There's an old plough upside-down on a weedy ridge
And someone is shouldering home a saddle-harrow.
Out of that childhood country what fools climb
To fight with tyrants Love and Life and Time?
 

Boss Croker

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Sport was a recurring motif in his life but not in his poetry. This is an interesting look at his interest in GAA and other sports …

Patrick Kavanagh: A far better Poet than a Footballer http://******/2AfT5fQ
 

DJP

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It's something I very rarely think of but I don't think I will ever forget my first day in Honours English in 5th Year being the first person asked to read and to have to read some of Stony Grey Soil. How depressing!
 

A Voice

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EPIC

I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided : who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man's land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.

I heard the Duffys shouting "Damn your soul"
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel -
"Here is the march along these iron stones."

That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was most important ? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer's ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said : I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.
1938
 

The Field Marshal

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Behans description "The phukker from Mucker" sums it all up.
 

Boss Croker

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EPIC

I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided : who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man's land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.

I heard the Duffys shouting "Damn your soul"
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel -
"Here is the march along these iron stones."

That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was most important ? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer's ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said : I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.
1938
In my view, his best poem.
 

Boss Croker

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It's something I very rarely think of but I don't think I will ever forget my first day in Honours English in 5th Year being the first person asked to read and to have to read some of Stony Grey Soil. How depressing!
This says more about you than it does of Kavanagh.
 

Ardillaun

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Some of the kids on Haddington Rd were terrified of him as he strode along talking loudly to himself.

The poetry often seems unfinished and has an uncompromising ugliness at times but I keep returning to it.
 

Morgellons

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Something for the season that starts tomorrow. I really like this poem.

Advent
We have tested and tasted too much, lover –
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child’s soul, we’ll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we’ll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning –
We’ll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we’ll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won’t we be rich, my love and I, and please
God we shall not ask for reason’s payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God’s breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour –
And Christ comes with a January flower.
 

Spirit Of Newgrange

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Where the potato-gatherers like mechanised scarecrows move
 

RasherHash

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For a man who wrote relatively little, he's a deeply uneven poet. At his best, there's a lyric economy and particularity that has to be admired; at his worst, his work is clumsy.


The latter:


The former:
I even like the bad stuff.
 

RasherHash

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It's something I very rarely think of but I don't think I will ever forget my first day in Honours English in 5th Year being the first person asked to read and to have to read some of Stony Grey Soil. How depressing!
I can see when you're a young pupil forced to read you find it depressing but I can appreciate it's wonderful lyrical sentiment.

I think it has a beauty that transends the clods and hardships, it's like he, as a person lived his life, but spiritually or philosophically he soared above the come day, go-day realities.
 

Nedz Newt

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Tangential political connection - he wrote Raglan Road for Hilda Moriarty, later Hilda O'Malley, who married Donogh O'Malley, FF Education minister in the 60s.

Separately, if you can get hold of Anthony Cronin's book, Dead as Doornails, it's a great read about those times.
 

Round tower

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Watching the news this evening how bad the grave looked, a wooden cross and a couple of stones on the grave, may be that is the way he wanted it, i would have expected a headstone and some of his poetry written on it as a epitaph.
 

greagh

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Tangential political connection - he wrote Raglan Road for Hilda Moriarty, later Hilda O'Malley, who married Donogh O'Malley, FF Education minister in the 60s.

Separately, if you can get hold of Anthony Cronin's book, Dead as Doornails, it's a great read about those times.
A great dark poem about unrequited love, which brought out one of the greatest vocal performances from Luke Kelly.
 


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