Thursday, January 08, 2009

Shug's Favourite Poets Number 1: Patrick Kavanagh

Strange to say I am attracted to poets’ lives rather than their work. This is because I am a shallow fellow. My reviewing career was short but splendid – in Northlight magazine, anyone remember it?-and I am glad, because apart from giving my paltry tuppence worth to friends whose work I come across, I do not actually enjoy reading much poetry. There are exceptions, of course, but I often wonder if I am missing anything by this general neglect. I am very easily confused these days and last year’s TS Elliot Shortlist just about finished me off.

Nevertheless I have my favourites and I am going to inflict some of these upon you now and then. The first is Patrick Kavanagh, who, I lately discovered, is also Russell Crowe’s favourite poet. This is only one of many things that Russell Crowe and I have in common.

Kavanagh was born of country stock in Ireland and lived in London and Dublin. His work reflected the realities of life in rural Ireland and often fell foul of libel and censorship laws. His life was colourful, his output patchy, but after legal and health problems in the 1950s (he lost a libel case against a Dublin paper which had profiled him as an alcoholic sponger, then had a lung removed) his poetry went through a renaissance and he wrote many beautiful shorter lyrics, some on a favourite seat near the Grand Canal in Dublin, where his statue still commemorates him. He died aged 63, a bad age for poets, same age as Philip Larkin.

O commemorate me where there is water,
Canal water, preferably, so stilly
Greeny at the heart of summer. Brother
Commemorate me thus beautifully
Where by a lock niagarously roars
The falls for those who sit in the tremendous silence
Of mid-July. No one will speak in prose
Who finds his way to these Parnassian islands.
A swan goes by head low with many apologies,
Fantastic light looks through the eyes of bridges -
And look! a barge comes bringing from Athy
And other far-flung towns mythologies.
O commemorate me with no hero-courageous
Tomb - just a canal-bank seat for the passer-by.

-Patrick Kavanagh


the broken down barman said...

glad he got what he wanted in the end. he can now always be in his favourite place.
suppose that might mean hes made it to heaven??

Jim Murdoch said...

I checked the dates but it was four years earlier that Beckett famously sat on a bench by the same canal awaiting news of the passing of his mother. Maybe one day they'll do a bench sculpture of him unless there's one already and I'm unaware of it.

Rachel Fox said...

I like the content and tone of this piece - irreverent, cheeky, charming, straight-talking, independent! I think you should have a column in some literary journal. It could be called something like 'the rest of you talk bollocks' or something catchy like that.

Sorlil said...

I really like the sculpture, a lovely commemoration. I'm afraid I've never read Kavanagh but I like the poem you've posted, I wrote a pretty duff poem on the same subject a few years ago!

Frances said...

What wonderful poetry - another name to add to the 'must read' list.

I too am fascinated by poets lives and trail round after a poetry school tutor doing the 'Keats lived here' thing. With notable exceptions of course I am not sure that all poets lives are as interesting as their work.

shug said...

Cheers BDB. When they asked him if he wanted the last rites, he replied "if you want". I think he was hedging his bets.

Jim-I knew he admired beckett and was hugely complimentary about some of his plays. Don't know if they met.

rachel-what compliments. I once did a Diary thingie for Scotland on Sunday but it was just while someone else was on holiday. I do really fancy something like that, though.

Rachel Fox said...

One of the reasons the post made me laugh was that now I know what you sound like I hear your voice when I read your writing and somehow that makes it particularly effective. So maybe you should do short funny pieces for radio or something. I bet they'd love you on Radio Scotland. Just think of the glamour!

hope said...

And Shug's personality is so much more likable than Russell Crowe's. :)

Should Rachel and I begin some sort of petition for a radio show?

the broken down barman said...

well they say there are no athiests in a foxhole, shug. maybe its only when we finally reach full enlightenment we realise there is a god? face it, though, when yer really shittin it, you'll probably beg anyone for help................

shug said...

Thanks Marion- you don't write duff poems as well do you?

Rooney-I'm sure you're right. None of the ones I'm going to talk abot were boring, though. Well maybe one.

Stooshie said...

We can expect you on TeleG sometime soon then?

Colin Will said...

I had forgotten Northlight until you mentioned it. It was one of a number of good small mags from the 1980's and 1990's, like Spectrum, Object Permanence and the original Northwords. There were definitely many more outlets for poetry then than now.

Stooshie said...

Spectrum? They published anyone.

Colin Will said...

True Stooshie. I can think of of a few.

shug said...

I hope you know that Stooshie edited Spectrum (along with Gerry Cambridge). He now does missionary work amongst English alcoholics, a much more rewarding role.

Colin Will said...

Yes, Shug, I know Stooshie - we share a publisher - and he published both of us in Spectrum.

Rachel Fox said...

I'm surprised the Scottish alcoholics can spare him.

shug said...

Indeed the Scottish alcoholics tried everything in their power to get him to stay because he was their inspiration.