Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Green Stuff

Inniskeen Road: July Evening

The bicycles go by in twos and threes -
There's a dance in Billy Brennan's barn to-night,
And there's the half-talk code of mysteries
And the wink-and-elbow language of delight.
Half-past eight and there is not a spot
Upon a mile of road, no shadow thrown
That might turn out a man or woman, not
A footfall tapping secrecies of stone.
I have what every poet hates in spite
Of all the solemn talk of contemplation.
Oh, Alexander Selkirk knew the plight
Of being king and government and nation.
A road, a mile of kingdom, I am king
Of banks and stones and every blooming thing.

I was very remiss yesterday in not wishing people a very happy St. Patricks Day. This is even more shameful when I mumble with a red face that the green stuff flows rather strongly through my veins. I hope to make it up today by sharing some poetry by a favourite Irish poet, Patrick Kavanagh.

Kavanagh was born in 1907 in the small village of Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan, and his poetry strikes a note with me because Inniskeen is also where my grandfather was born. Kavanagh's love for his tiny home village is evident in his work, although his poetry is by no means trite or sentimental. In fact, he prided himself on the directness of his words, often coming into conflict with the Anglo-Irish literary establishment because of his refusal to romanticise rural life in Ireland. Critics witheringly referred to him as "that Monaghan boy"; a social stigma he struggled with throughout his career.

Despite these setbacks and despite severe illness (he had a lung removed in 1954), Kavanagh continued to write, and, more importantly, continued to write in the same unpretentious fashion. What I respect about Kavanagh is that he in turn appreciated his own beginnings. He left Inniskeen for Dublin when he was in his twenties, but his words never belittle or bemoan his country upbringing. In his directness and humour there is warmth, affection and true regard.

"I dabbled in verse and it became my life."- Patrick Kavanagh
 Photo by me :)

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