1944- ; b. 16 Oct., Stella Maris Nursing Home, Earlsfort Tce., Dublin; son of [Justice] John Durcan, barrister and later judge on Western Circuit, with whom always a problematic relationship (his father being authoritarian and occasionally violent); related through his mother Sheilas family to the MacBrides and Gonnes - notably his grand-aunt Maud Gonne, whom he visited with his mother and siblings at Roebuck house in 1949 [The MacBride Dynasty]; raised at 57 Dartmouth Sq., Dublin, and Turlough, Co. Mayo, where an aunt ran a pub; suffered bone disease [myelitis] in teenage and hospitalised for some months; initially studied law and economics at UCD to please his father; encountered John Jordan [truth of the hearts affections]; gradually abandoned studies and was corralled by relatives in Donahoes Pub, Merrion Lane, and committed to St. John of Gods, the first of several forced sojourns in mental institutions, aetat. 19; afterwards sent to Harley St. and subjected to electro-shock and gas treatment; escaped from St. Patricks, Dublin, and lived uncertainly away from home in Duflin, socialising with Patrick Kavanagh, Brian Lynch, and others; moved to London in 1966 and commenced work at North Thames Gas Board, 1967, visiting Tate Gallery of Modern Art at lunchtimes, viewing in particular the paintings of Francis Bacon;
with Brian Lynch, issued Endsville (1967), under the New Writers Press imprint (fnd. Michael Smith); received positive review from Patrick Kavanagh; invited to accompany Kavanagh to their wedding to at behest of his wife Kathleen, and there met his own wife-to-be Nessa ONeill, 1968, with whom two dgs., Sarah and Síabhra, after a marriage at Browns St. George Hotel, London; recorded poems for Harvard University and British Council with Brian Lynch, 1969; with Martin, fnd. and ed. Two River Green (1969-71), a literary quarterly; returned to Ireland and settled in Cork, 1970; commenced a degree course in medieval history, and archaeology under M. J. OKelly at UCC; grad. 1973 (1st Class Hons.); contrib. to Magill, Choice, and Cyphers; his poetry was included in Padraic Fiacc, ed., The Wearing of the Black (1974); winner of Kavanagh Award, 1974 and issued O Westport in the Light of Asia Minor (1975); contrib. weekly column to Cork Examiner, 1977-; ed. of Cork Review, 1980; collapse of his marriage to Nessa, 1984 [the pure, orginal brokenness of our marriage]; moved from Cork to Dublin; issued The Berlin Wall Café (1985); appt. Writer in Residence at Univ. of Ulster, Coleraine, 1984-86; had a son, Michael John ONeill, with Jan[et] O'Neill, then a postgraduate student, b. 1988; visited Sao Paolo in Brazil on a British Council invitation;
received Cholmondeley Poetry Award (�2,000) of British Society of Author and the Whitbread Prize, 1990; TCD Writer in Residence, 1990; engaged in reading tours in America and Russia; co-authored In the Days Before Rock n Roll with Van Morrison, on Morrisons album Enlightenment (1990); supported successful Presidential campaign of Mary Robinson; colloborated with artists and musicians such Mary Farl Powers and Micheál Ó Suilleabháin; commissioned to write verse-impressions of paintings in the collections of the National Gallery of Ireland [NGI], resulting in Crazy About Women (1991), and another for National Gallery, London, in 1993 (Give Me Your Hand, 1994); issued Daddy, Daddy (1990), winner of Whitbread Poetry Prize; quoted by President-elect Mary Robinson on Irish emigrants robbed of choice in her victory speech, RDS, 9 Nov. 1990; elected to Aosdána; read at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, summer 1995; responded to the IRA atrocity with a litany-poem of the victims names (Omagh); issued Cries of an Irish Caveman (2001), an expression of despondency about recent developments int the so-called Celtic Tiger; received Cholmondley Award for Poetry, 2001;
issued Paul Durcans Diary (2003) and The Art of Life (2004) - shortlisted for Poetry Now Award, 2005; inaug. to Ireland Chair of Poetry with a lecture on Cronins Cantos: The Poet as Philosopher, 3 March 2005; subject of interview-programme, dir. Alan Gilsenan, in Arts Lives series (RTE, 8 May 2007, 10.15pm); issued a new collection, The Laughter of Mothers (2007); received Hon. D.Litt from TCD, 11 Dec. 2009; issued Life Is a Dream: 40 Years Reading Poems 1967-2007 (2009); Hon. D.Litt from UCD, 2011; issued new collection, The Praise in Which I Live and Move and Have My Being (2012), his twenty-second collection - reworking Acts. 12:28 [New Testament] and celebrating the resilience of ordinary people in the face of the banking scandal and the fall of the Celtic Tiger; read at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, 2012; Durcan lives on Cambridge [Rd.], Ringsend [Irishtown], Dublin; received Lifetime Achievement Irish Book Award, 2014; The Day of Surprise (2015) a new collection [12 March 2015].
DIB OCEL HAM OCIL FDA
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|Sundry early collections|
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Jesus, Break His Fall (Dublin: Raven Arts Press 1980 [rep. 1982]), 62pp. - with epigraph: What goes up when the rain comes down? Answer me that now! - Danny Melt in Stone Mad by Seamus Murphy. CONTENTS: The Drimoleague Blues ; Sally ; Granny Tree in the Sky ; That Propellor I Left in Bilbao ..... ; At The Request of Nobody ; Save Eden Quay ; Mr Goldsmith, My Fathers Friend ; The Daughter Finds Her Father Dead ; Send a Message To Mary But Dont Bother If You have An Important Programme to Watch On RTE Television 2 ; Mary Carey In Paris, June 1979 ; Hopping Round Knock Shrine In The Falling Rain: 1958 ; The Man Whose Name Was Tom-And-Ann ; Little Old Ladies Also Can Write Poems Such As This Poem Written in Widows Blood In A Rented Topstorey Room In Downtown Cork ; Tullynoe: Tete-a-Tete In The Parish Priests Parlour ; Charlies Mother ; On Buying A New Pair Of Chains For Her Husband ; The Collaring Of Manet By A Dublin Architect In The National Gallery ; At The Altar-Rails, Watching A Marriage Go Die ; Spitting the Pips Out - With The College Lecturer In Philosophy ; K.K.s Lament for G.G. ; The Bearded Nun ; The Anatomy of Divorce by Joe Commonwealth ; My 27 Psychiatrists ; And Death Will Have A Great Deal, If Not Total, Dominion ; En Famille, 1979 ; Madman ; Fuckmuseum, Constance ; Maimie ; Marriage, Deafness, and the Problem of Erosion ; Naked Girl in Boardroom of Financiers, South Mall, Cork ; Honeymoon Postcard ; Death in the Quadrangle ; Danny Boy ; A Connaught Doctor Dreams of An African Woman ; This Week the Court Is Sleeping in Loughrea ; Bartle and Lulu: Orifice 14 ; Munch ; Veronica Shee From The Town Of Tralee ; On Seeing Two Bus Conductors Kissing Each Other In The Middle Of The Street ; The Boy Who Was Conceived in The Leithreas ; Uncle Frederick ; A Funk in Obelisk ; For My Lord Tennyson I Shall Lay Down My Life ; The Hole, Spring, 1980 ; The Death By Heroin Of Sid Vicious .
Cover Photos: Margaret Ruddle. Title page verso acknowledges editors of Cyphers; Celebration (Veritas); The Gorey Detail; Irish Times; Magill; Poems Plain; Structure; The Writers (OBrien Press.) Raven Arts (Finglas) with business address at 34 N. Frederick St., Dublin. Recent books: Priorites by Bernard Smith; The Judas Cry by Conleth OConnor; Half Time by Jule Wieland; The Habit of Flesh by Dermot Bolger; Perpetual Star by Brian Lynch; Stalingad: the Street dictionary by Michael OLoughlins; Reductionist poem by Anthony Cronin; to be published shortly: Sensualities by Sydney Bernard Smith; Scurrilities by Sydney Bernard Smith; Journal by Arland Ussher. Published with assistance of An Chomhairle Ealaion (The Arts Council). Back cover matter: photo port; biog. notes; Arts Council Bursaries, 1976, and 1980-81.
Critics notices of first edn. of Jesus, Break His Fall: Now once again we have one of-these poet-prophets in Paul Durcan, with a fierce innocence of vision and an equally fierce denunciation of godlessness which, in its essence, is greed and comfortable complacency, and, overall, an engaging hilarity that is light years beyond any preaching. (Francis Stuart), The Cork Review.) This emphasis on individuality in our society frantic with its urge for anonymity is the glorious message of Durcanism. It is a vital message, expressed in a unique and vital poetry, and vibrant with an individual style. (John F. Deane, Irish Independent.) Durcans concerns are the small everyday contingencies; his verses are inhabited by lifes unsung nonentities. He perfers [sic] the ordinary to the lofty; his adroit perceptions unmask the quiet moments in human behaviour and human desperation. (Gerard Smith, The Irish Times.) He is like a scanner searching the Irish skies, and fixing on those points where all our contradictions are contained.... such a development in Irish poetry is enriching & liberating. (Sean Dunne, Sunday Tribune.)
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The Art of Life (London; Harvill Press [Random House] 2004), 118pp. [ded. To Patrick OBrien / sea light / and / Rosie Joyce / Kitty Amelia Joyce / and / Beatrice Drummond / night fishing.] CONTENTS: Golden Island Shopping Centre ; The Man with a Bit of Jizz in Him ; The Wilds of Discretion ; A Robin in Autumn Chatting at Dawn ; Achill Island Man ; The Far Side of the Island ; Leave the Curtains Open ; Ireland 2001 ; Ireland 2002 ; Vi ; Sandymount Strand Dog Songs ; HEADLINES ; The Celtic Tiger ; The Annual Mass of the Knights of Columbanus ; Canon James O. Hannay Pays a Return Visit to the Old Rectory, Westport, County Mayo, 8 October 2000 ; The Carnalurgan Milkman ; The New Presbytery, Westport, County Mayo ; Asylum Seeker ; The Westport Ethiopian ; The 2003 World Snooker Championship ; The Beautiful Game ; Sleeping Nude ; Women are Brutally Practical People ; The Wisdom of Ex-Wives ; Dancing with Leo ; Admission ; Rosie Joyce ; The Proud Cry of the Young Father ; The 12 OClock Mass, Roundstone, County Galway, 28 July 2002 ; Michael Hartnett, the Poet King ; [***] Beatrice Monti della Corte von Rezzori ; Alitalia Flight 295 Dublin-Milan ; Santa Maddalena ; The Art of Life ; Report to Rezzori ; Aldeburgh October Storm ; The Old Man and the Conference ; A Poet in Poland ; The Holy Cross, Warsaw ; Tarnowo Podgorne ; Wild Sports of Japan ; The Incontinence of Fame ; Civilisations ; 6.30 a.m., 13 January 2004, Hokkaido Prefecture ; The Jerusalem-Tokyo Fault Line ; Raftery in Tokyo ; On the Road to the Airport ; The Journey Home from Japan ; Checkout Girl ; Facing Extinction .
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Christmas Day (London: The Harvill Press [1996), 85 ; t.p. Christmas Day, with A Goose in the Frost; [Christmas Day!, pp.1-78, in XIV sects.; A Goose in the Frost pp.79-, 1p. Notes, p.88];. Epigraph to Christmas Day: For kindness it is that ever calls forth kindness
The Last Shuttle to Rio (ded to Patrick Early) - a poem from Greetings to Our Friends in Brazil: One Hundred Poems (1999) - as attached.
Breaking News - Paul Durcan, commemorates the death of Seamus Heaney - RTE FM2 online, or see snippet on Heaney > Commentary > infra.
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[Q.auth,] interview with Paul Durcan, in Cork Examiner (18 June 1979), q.p., notes that the epigraph for A Snail in My Prime is taken from Francis Bacon, whom Durcan most admires, quoting: I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail, leaving a trail of the human presence and memory trace of past events as the snail leaves its slime. Referring to Bacons Study of a Dog (1952), Durcan adds: I was not only a Dog, I was Van Gogh as well. The title poem, set in the Boyne Valley and embodying the surrender to feminity, contains the lines: At dawn, at the midwinter solstice, / We creep into the corbelled vault / Of the family tomb. Down in dark / Death is a revealing of light / When a snail inherits the sky, / Inherits his own wavy lines; / When a snail comes full circle / Into the completion of his partial self. Durcan identifies Francis Stuart as a key to his development, unlocking a network of harmonic connections.
Seamus Heaney: Heaney begins a review of the Collected Poems of Patrick Kavanagh (2005) by quoting Durcan: On the one hand, there is the first sentence of Patrick Kavanaghs Authors Note to the old 1964 Collected Poems: I have never been much regarded by the English critics, a sentence he could fairly repeat if he were still alive. On the other, there is Paul Durcan who speaks for the Irish crowd when he declares that he doesnt read Patrick Kavanagh, he believes in him. He continues: [...] his later comic poems where he endeavours to play a true note on a slack string look back to the come all ye ballads of his country background, while sounding all the while like an early warning of subversions to come from the school of New York and the beats of San Francisco - and also, of course, from his believer Durcan. (Guardian, 1 Jan. 2005 - available online; accessed 23.03.2012.)
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Derek Mahon, Orpheus Ascending: The Poetry of Paul Durcan, in Irish Review, 1 (1986), pp.15-19; rep. in Journalism, 1996, pp.115-18 [though without the pastiche]: notes that Durcan is not a surrealist but a cubist, one transfixed with the simultaneity of disparate experience, all sides of the question, the newspaper headline, the lemon and the guitar - a man with eyes in the back of his head.; obscurely aware that he is temperamentally suited to the role of sacrificial victim (p.116); One critic has remarke that this new collection elevates self-pity to a condition of heroic intensity. I would go further and say that the heroism transcends self-pity. (p.117); But where durcan sees an empty tomb I see Orpheus ascending into the light, an exemplary sufferer, a hero of art, to resolve his despair in song, inspired by a lost Muse. (p.118); characterises the collection as the renunciation of a sometimes too facile fluenchy for the taut strings of a perfected artistry. Emerging into the light, he has given us his best book yet. (p.118; End). Note that original includes a pastiche of a Durcan poem.
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Seamus Heaney: [ ] Take a poet in Ireland like Paul Durcan, who seems to be connected up with the times: of course he is, but hes refusing the terms. In Durcans case, what is dream refusal can be taken for social comment. (Richard Kearney, Interview with Seamus Heaney: Between North and South: Poetic Detours, in States of Mind: Dialogues with Contemporary Thinkers on the European Mind (Manchester UP 1995, p.107; for further, see under Heaney, Quotations, infra.)
Joe Jackson, interview with Paul Durcan, Conferring with the Linesman, in Hot Press (Christmas 1987): quotes Durcan: dark world of repression in the fifties; we were educated to believe that women were, on the one hand, untouchable and pure and on the other hand, that they were the source of all evil; The whole point about art is to rescue the feelings of the individual from things like what the Nazi philosohy stood for, which was the obliteration of the individual. So, every time you touch an individual watith a poem, a song, even a magazine article, you are changing the world. Also, There is a genuine piety at work there as well as the humour. I do believe in that line by Kavanagh, satire is unfruitful prayer / Only wild shoots of pity there. (p.45.)
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Harry Clifton, In the work of Paul Durcan, we have a realisation of Patrick Kavanaghs idea of Comedy, or the Comic Vision, as Abundance of Life. Kavanagh may have outlined the blueprint for such a vision but Durcan has filled in the spaces. (See Clifton, Available Air: Irish Contemporary Poetry 1975-1985, in Krino, 7, 1989, pp.21-22.)
Edna Longley, The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe 1994): It [is] therefore Durcan who resumes the full range of his predecessors [Patrick Kavanagh] social anger (which declined into a narrower, paroanoid focus on literary Dublin), and re-connects it with queer and terrible things in the unconscious. (p.214.) Durcans visionary radicalism criticises a particular status quo (p.182.) Durcans furious fantasies assail verbal pieties which mask materialism, sexism, the commodification of relationahisp and of art, authoritiarianism, the Church, and the violent subject of Nationalism. (p.214.) The hypocrisy, cruelty, indifference and evasion diagnosed by Durcans socially explicit poems[,] condition the schizophrenia in his strange dark visions. (pp.214-15.) Durcan seems to base his authority, which has a metropolitian cast, on a dissident, post-sixties mutation of his familys involvement with the institutions of the state. (p.220.)
Edna Longley reviews Greeting to our Friends in Brazil (Harvill), in The Irish Times ( 20 March 1999): If you want densely-textured lyric or honed epiphany or mille-feuilles allusiveness, you are in the wrong shop; aims at Whitmanesque saturation; bulging with characters and conversations. The title [poem] seeks to [disturb] and defamiliarise some may think - in my view, wrongly - that the heterogeneity is now so far advanced that Durcan should button his lip. Remarks that the collection includes a sequence on Kavanagh and another of Durcans subtle dialogues with Seamus Heaney; notes that the poems may exclude people outside the obsessive Catholic / Nationalist romance and buries Republican and Loyalist violence in the same unequivocal grave. Omagh incorporates includes three litanies, with concluding statement: I cannot forgive you. Finally, he is one of the few contemporary poets who make poetry matter.
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Fintan OToole, In the Light of Things as They Are: Paul Durcans Ireland, in The Kilfenora Teaboy: A Study of Paul Durcan, ed. Colm Tóibín (Dublin: New Island Books, 1996), [The poems] allude to a world that is more real than invented. It is the world of the burgeoning middle class Ireland whose culture is displaced and whose history can only be measured by the succession of cars. (p.31.)
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Gerald Dawe, The Suburban Night [... &c.], in Elmer Andrews, ed., Contemporary Irish Poetry: A Collection of Critical Essays (London: Macmillan 1996): [in Durcans poetry] [w]omen represent and embody freedom, rebelling against the feeble conspiracies of male fantasies by living in much closer harmony with their true selves. (p.183).
Arminta Wallace, Its the body Speaking [interview article], in The Irish Times (18 Feb. 1999): The problem, really, is where to begin [ ] how else to describe a conversation with Paul Durcan than as a roller-coaster ride [ ]. Quotes Durcan: I went to Brazil in 1975 under the auspices of the British Council for a months tour, a series of readings [ ] In one place I read there had never been a poetry reading, ever. People came out of curiosity, and it was a very strange experience for all concerned. On that occasion, particularly, I felt I was really from another planet. [ ] I met a lot of nuns and priest there, almost all Irish, and to me they were heroes and heroines of the kind of people sang and talked about in the 1960s. Although I got the feeling that the Pope has, for some reason I just cant figure out, alienated the vast masses of people in South America - some of them outstanding theologians whom youd think, even out of cold Realpolitik, the Church would wish to keep - the brightest and the best. One of the things that astonished me was that ther are so many Presbyterians there. An awful lot of people have left the Catholic Church [ ] [&c.] See also Battersby, [review article,] in The Irish Times (5 May 1993), criticises Durcan for performance and ventriloquism. [Query: possible confusion between Wallace and Battersby as author of the interview (18 Feb. 1999), supra.]
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Declan McCormack, A Brush with Death on Bondi Beach [ ] the bard of the broken hearted, Sunday Independent (21 Oct. 2001): Durcans poetry lends itself to parody [offers an example; and cf. D Mahon, in Irish Review, supra]. Durcan recounts that he lives alone in Ringsend since breaking up with Cita, the fortysomething country-woman who stole my heart and on whose affection I ruminate; confesses himself a news and sport junkie and a consumer of frozen dinners; alone, and not liking it: Humans need companionship. Apart from nuns or priests who chose that life; also, Poetry is about trying [ ] to find [ ] the [ ] right ... - here McCormack interjects woman and Durcan assents: Well, yes. Durcan compares the national revulsion against Sept. 11th with the Irish toleration of IRA spectaculars with a certain glee and speaks of our own cold theoreticians of terror. Speaks of the genesis of the current collection in troglodytic ululations [interviewer] composed after the break-up with Cita, most of which were rubbish until he hit on the image of self as cow / bull / lost heifer which unlocked the code. Article reprints On Giving a Poetry Recital to an Empty Hall [ded. to Theo Dorgan] (p.17; with half page photo.)
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Bernard ODonoghue, review of Cries of an Irish Caveman: New Poems (Harvill) in The Irish Times (17 Nov. 2001), Weekend, p.9: Paul Durcans basic style has something in common with the prose narratives of Samuel Beckett - a kind of blithe, colloquial garrulity. The humour is up front; with Beckett, the challenge then is to see what (if anything) lies behind it, in the way of philosophy or a message for the times. This problem in Durcans case has generally been more acute; occasionally his work attains sudden and powerful compassion (as in Jesus, break his fall), but often the reader has to go with the facetious verbal flow. Quotes: O let there be an end to politically-correct, sectarian, / nouveau-riche, low-skies-infested Ireland!, and queries, How is the irony working here, if it is? and remarks: [ ] the apparent pharisaism of this induces some anxiety. Cites sections and titles, Give Him Bondi, Sonia and Donal and Tracey and Patrick, Early Christian Ireland Wedding Cry, Christmas Day, Aunt Gerrys Favourite Married Nephew Seamus, The Bunacurry Scurry, The Black Cow of the Family, The Girl from Golden, The Days before Milking Parlours and Mobile Phones. Cites an Irish proverb lurking under Early Christian Ireland Wedding Cry, viz., má phosann tú an bean an tsléibhe, pósann tú an sliabh echoed in to the marriage of place - the mountain / to the lake [cf. sense of place]. Concludes, all of which is to say that this is an extreme version of the usual Durcan mix, infuriating and haunting by turns [ . &c.].
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[Shirley Kelly,] Being a poet is not a viable position [interview-article], in Books Ireland (Dec. 2003): gives account of Paul Durcans Diary on the Pat Kenny Show (RTÉ), now published in book-form, and quotes Durcans remarks: I have been asked many times over the years, especially by people who genuinely do not like what I write: Why is it that you present prose as poetry? In my defence, I say that I have spent most of my life truing to write poetry, I have given it a lot of thought through the years, and I am preoccupied with metric structure, as Im sure anyone who writes poetry is. Everything Ive ever published in verse has had to obey rules of metre; if somebody doesnt hear that, the I wonder did I get it right. Durcan suggests that modern poetry has simply lost its way: The movement in modern poetry, as in modern art, was towards the breakdown of traditional forms, an exploration of the prose line as the basis of poetry. I asometimes ask myself in anything has chnages since the days of Ezra Pound, who was such a great innovator. / Pound believed that poetry was the most efficient form of communication. A lot of what has been written since then is literarlly not memorabel, not just because it doesnt appear to have any rhyme or sturcture, but also because theres no feeling. Its as if the writer continues to turn on the switch even though the fuse has gone.; speaks of poetry in Don Delillo and John Ford; With Friel and OCasey before him, what youre getting is the essence of the common language. Those plays are coming from snatches of conversation heard on the top of a bus, or whatever, And thats why people can connect with them. Growing up in Ireland in the fifties was a bit like living behind an iron curtain, with the Catholic hierarchy taking the place of the Kremlin, just another group of old men controlling the country. There was a fierce atmosphere of control, orthodoxy, conformity at all costs. It was in this context that I came to love radio and film; they were windows on to another world. It was a priest, a very intelligent priest, who told me that Elvis was incarnate evil, but it was a priest as well who introduce me to the great American writer Alastair Cook, by reading his reports in the Manchester Guardian during English class. Then I listened to Cooks Letter from America on Radio 4, which has been running for about sixty years now and is still broadcast weekly, even though Cook must be well into his nineties now. / To me, Cook is the is the maestro of the essay. Its a form that Ive admired for a long time but I never had the opportunity ot try it until I met Marian Richardson, series producer at RTÉ, and we got to talking about it. We came up with the idea of a ten-minute essay on Pat Kennys show; he was enthusiastic, and thats how it happened. (p.297.)
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Catriona Clutterbuck, review of The Art of Life, in The Irish Times (30th Oct. 2004), Weekend: ‘In a score of books since the late 1960s, Paul Durcan has been concerned with the damage done to Ireland and the Western world by a prevailing scepticism and fear of free human nature. Ironically, Durcans impassioned poetry has displayed a related doubt about the potential for good in the natures of those he holds to account for such negativity. Durcan has become an essential voice because his work has steadily nudged both scepticisms - the one he attacks and the one he embodies - closer towards an attitude of faith. […] The comic spirit that has sustained Durcan from the beginning, turned dark in his elegiac 2001 collection, Cries of an Irish Caveman. That book focused on the stripped and drowning ego of the isolated male tasting the Eucharist of the nothingness of life. In this latest collection, the swarming everythingness of life flows back to occupy that scoured space. Now, Although I am globally sad I am locally glad / To be about to drive down that corkscrew road. (The Far Side of the Island. Now, he knows himself not afraid in the night / To be a back-seat passenger in a white Honda Civic / Or to be alone in water at my lifes conclusion, because In this same bathtub many have soaked / And all were chosen. (Santa Maddalena.) [ ] In the opening poem of The Art of Life, Durcan declares himself to be a middle-aged male who is 19 years pregnant with the Golden Island of the Ireland he wants to bring into being. He must have conceived, therefore, in the mid-1980s - a period many consider a nadir of patriarchal social regression in recent history, here and elsewhere. Out of such dark is born the present volume, which revisits and injects light into some of his most famous and bitterly-tinged satires from that time. […] Throughout this book, new life is evident the more Durcan focuses on old life, be it of the body or the body politic. The strongest resistance to despair comes from unlikely sources inside the system, bearers of the clichés of tradition and backwardness: the aged, the religious, the family male, the military. To these are given the songs of a people solidly in place, who acknowledge the cold but who cannot understand those who refuse the available warmth. In availing of that warmth, these poems generate it. In the voice of A Robin in Autumn Chatting at Dawn returning from his visit to the precipice: With my hands behind my back and my best breast out, / My telescope folded up in my wings, my tricorn gleaming, / I emerge on the bridge of my fuchsia, / whistling: / All hands on deck! Hy Brasil, ho!
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John Knowles, interview with Paul Durcan, in Fortnight [Belfast] (April/May 2005), pp.21-22: The ability to absorb himself in places and events, is also something that marks his work. He says hes relished the chance to spend more than a few days in Belfast and has hugely enjoyed just walking around the streets. His residence in Queens has coincided though with numerous public statements from Sinn Féin and the IRA following the Robert McCartney murder. Here something of the black anger that can characterise his poetry becomes apparent. Hes been reading all the newspapers and finds the various statements depressing beyond words. Every day Sinn Féin and the IRA have come out with a new batch of lies. I say lies advisedly, he says. Obviously theyve murdered a lot of people over the years, but theyre in the business of murdering language. Almost every day theres a new set of lies ... Words have become devalued. If there was a Nobel, Prize for propaganda, he adds, Sinn Féin would have long ago won that prize. Theyre out on their own ... ahead of all the other political parties, but recent pronouncements, he suggests, are beyond propaganda, are nothing more than barefaced lying. (See full text - as attached.)
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Anthony J. Jordan, The Yeats Gonne MacBride Triangle (Westport 2000), includes an account of Durcans response to the allegations of marital abuse and sexual assault on Eileen Wilson in Maud Gonnes evidence before the divorce court in Belgium: In the autumn of 1991, the poet, Paul Durcan, who is directly related to both the Gonnes and the MacBrides, made an intervention, when he gave a lengthy interview to Mary Dalton for the Fall issue of the Irish Literary Supplement, published in the USA . Eileen Wilson who married Joseph MacBride had five children, one of whom is Paul Durcans mother. Paul spent much of his childhood at Mallow Cottage, near Westport , where Eileen Wilson lived with her daughter. after the death of her husband in 1938. Durcan described it as a place that was Eden to me. / It is clear from the interview and his poetry, that he dearly loved Eileen Wilson. Eileen was the daughter of Thomas Gonne, outside of marriage, and thus Mauds half sister. Durcan says that it was Nancy Cardozo in her 1979 biography of Maud Gonne, who related the story that one night in  Paris John MacBride assaulted my grandmother ... No evidence was produced in the book, although it was presented as a scholarly book. He said that since then, the story had occurred in several books - again never with any evidence. He then expressed his shock to read in Professor Norman Jeffares life of Yeats, the story of the sexual assault of my grandmother, without any substantiation whatsoever. Durcan adverts to I lie possibility that the, story may be true but no evidence has been offered by anybody. He then states, it may well be - this is speculation on my part .. that the source of all the pain Ive been talking about in the last while, inay be in the letters from Maud Gonne to Yeats. Durcan said that the people in the Yeats-Maud Gonne Industry, would not have published this story about my grandmother, Eileen, until she was dead. He also added 1 think that the person who has been unquestionably defamed, from the day almost of his execution in 1916, is John MacBride himself. (End; pp.9-10; see further under Seán MacBride, as infra.)
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Eve Patten, Critical Perspective on Paul Durcan, in Contemporary Writers (British Council 2008): One of modern Irelands most distinctive poets, Paul Durcan is renowned as both an outspoken critic of his native country, and as a chronicler of its emergence from the repressions of the 1950s to the contradictions of the present day. His work is aggressively satirical, dedicated to exposing a range of Irish ills: the hypocrisies of the church, the obfuscating bureaucracy of state and the smug bourgeois affectations of Dublins chattering classes. But he has a capacity too for lyricism and intense personal romanticism, as a poet of love, eroticism, and loss. His striking metaphors and dislocating images, meanwhile, result in a poetry which is extraordinarily visual and frequently, surreal. Celebrated for his dramatic and incantatory reading style he is, above all, a risk taker, unorthodox in his use of prayer forms, ballads, and free-flowing dramatic monologues, and relentlessly iconoclastic in his treatment of contemporary life and events. [See full text in RICORSO Library, Criticism / Reviews - as attached,, or go directly online.]
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Christina Hunt Mahony on Going Home to Mayo by Winter 1949 by Paul Durcan, in Irish University Review: A Journal of Irish Studies [Special Irish Poetry Issue, guest ed. Peter Denman] (Sept. 2009): Going Home to Mayo, Winter, 1949 does not bear one of Durcans zany trademark titles. It contains no delicious departures from reality like birds emerging from eyebrows (Dun Chaoin). It is not relieved by the comedy of naked security guards dancing through Bewleys. Although Durcan has disdained the term surreal as applied to these departures from realism because it does not define his intentions or process, the point at which the real and the highly imagined collide is a successful and idiosyncratic feature of many of his poems. [...] / Going Home to Mayo shares none of this tendency, except in the way it visualizes a class of a childrens book illustration and text - the anthropomorphized moon peering into the car, the warm glow issuing from the house upon arrival in Mayo, the childish recitation of names playing connect-the-dots across the country - Kilcock, Kinnegad, Strokestown, Elphin Tarmonbarry, Tulsk, Ballaghaderreen, Ballavary. [...] Journeying is an intrinsic part of this poem and of Durcans life and art - a peripatesis, conveying the negative features of rootlessness and loss and glossed with the uplifting air of a hopeful quest. After many such journeys home to the country the next destination for the poet was London, as it was for so many others, but then he went everywhere. No matter how many journeys, or the exoticism of the places he has visited and written about since - Russia and the old Soviet satellites, Brazil, Germany, and Western Canada - Durcan, our best and most authentic poetic witness of Dublin life and its changing parameters, still returns to Mayo, both in his poetry and in his life. / Rejection of the father or fathers, or the nation as defined by the father, is a recurring literary motif and one which never seems to become shopworn or to lose its relevance. In the latter case it seems that as long as there are nations this disassociation or rebellion will continue to compel. In Ireland the business of throwing out colonialist rubrics is replaced within a generation or two by the necessity to reject the paternalism of the newly-emergent nation. In Durcans case the rectitude of his father and the fathers world is a rich source of angst, treated with whimsical anomie, anger, humour, and often resulting in a crushing state of depression and a need for valid redefinition. (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, Criticism > Reviews, via index, or as attached.)
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O Westport in the Light of Asia Minor (1975) contains the title poem, as well as Ness[a] and Hymn to Nessa, et al. The title poem first appeared in The Dublin Magazine (Autumn 1971), pp.81-82, ending: The Judge said - They must be spared this mans irrational fear. / OBlack Day and Fire outside my window / I will go out tonight and the first mansion in the / Town of Westport that I come to / I will take it downbrick by brick until they take me / away saying: Tell that to the Taoiseach. / So help me Anthony. And then maybe Ill help you / with stories of Rough Love in Jericho.
Teresas Bar (Dublin: Gallery Press 1976) includes The difficulty that is marriage; She Mends an Ancient Wireless; he Daughers Singing to Their Father; On a June Afternoon in Saint Stephens Green [And I thought, had I the choice I had been a woman / Instead I am strung up on a cloud called mind. / Even were I to walk naked my body were a cumbersome coat. / O fortunate soul, walking on her hips through the Green]; Phoenix Park Vespers; A Day in the Life of Immanuel Kent [?sic] [Home then to Wifey, the Box and the Six-Pack, / The two brats and the possibility of copulation]; Wife Who smashed Television gets Jail [the television itself could be said to be the basic unit of the family]; Goodbye Tipperary; [Irish tolerance of everything except women and freedom of conscience].
Jesus, Break His Fall (1980) includes Hopping Round Knock Shrine in the Falling Rain, 1958 [to get the ear of his Mother was a more practical step].
Ireland 1977: I have not met God, I have not read / David Gascoyne, James Joyce, or Patrick Kavanagh: / I believe in them. Of the song of him with the world for his care / I am content to know the air. (q.source; quoted in Edna Longley, Poetic Forms and Social Malformations, in The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe 1994, p.21.)
Ireland 1990: Yet I have no choice but to leave, to leave, / And yet there is nowhere I more yearn to live / Than in my own wild countryside / Backside to the wind. (Quoted by Mary Robinson, president of Ireland, in her victory speech ( Nov. 1990; see Fergus Finlay, Fergus Finlay, Mary Robinson: A President with a Purpose, Dublin: OBrien Press 1990, p.9.)
So lonely: Ive become so lonely, I could die - he writes, / The native who is an exile in his native land: / do you hear me whispering to you across the Golden Vale? / Do you hear me bawaling to you across the hearthrug? (cited in Longley, op. cit, 1994, p.220.)
|From coves below the cliffs of the years|
I have dipped into Ulysses,
A Vagrant, Tarry Flynn -
But for no more than ten minutes or a page;
For no more than to keep in touch
With minds kindred in their romance with silence.
I have not met God, I have not read
David Gascoyne, James Joyce, or Patrick Kavannagh:
I believe in them.
Of the song of him with the world in his care
I am content to know the air.
—Quoted by Peter Quinn on Facebook, 26.11.2-17.
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My Bride of Aherlow: Or was it that in my black book sack / I carried too many years? / And that the hairs of my head were grey / And gelled in too many tears? [ ] O marry me how in my grave, in my grave, / My bride of Aherlow! [ &c.; 4 stanzas.] (The Irish Times [Weekend], 16 June 2001).
The Piètas Over includes the line: It is time for you to get down off my knees / And learn to walk on your own two feet.
No. 13 East 1928 McKennas Barber Shop [ded. to Síabhra MacBride Walsh], in The Irish Times, 25 Nov. 2000): I stop out of the pelting rain; / The barber murmurs a damp day. / I cite the east wind. He inclines fractionally - / With the east wind, sir, the rain is usually dry. [ ].
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|Two poems ...|
Let the Hierarchy Go Play Croquet in Honolulu: I was playing for the Over 50s / In a football game against the Under 50s / In the park on the quays / When the referee broke the news / That the priest with two children had told the archbishop / To take a running jump for himself, [ ] (The Irish Times, 17 Dec. 2005, Weekend, p.10; see full text, attached.)
�Bernie� [i.m. Dermot Bolgers wife]: A blackbird on a wire above the tree-line: / We can see her but we cannot hear her. / What is she doing so far away up there? All we ask is to hear her song again. / She holds her head high above the tree-line Over moors of bog cotton and golden furze [ ] —Irish Independent (30 May 2010) - ; see full text, attached.)
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Pure women: We were educated to believe that women were, on the one hand, untouchable and pure, and on the other, that they were the source of all evil. (Conferring with the Linesman, interview, Hot Press [Christmas issue] Dec. 1987.)
Free women: In contrast [to men] women represent and embody freedom, rebelling against the feeble conspiracies of male fantasies by living in much closer harmony with their true selves. (Quoted by Gerald Dawe, The Suburban Night, in Contemporary Irish Poetry, 1992, ed. Elmer Andrews, p.183 [Chap. 9]).
Crazy About Women (1991), Preface: Since 1980 I have regarded painting and cinema - the experience of looking at pictures wherever I happen to find them [ ] as essential to by practice as a writer. Art begins in formal improvisation and the biggest influence in matters of form on my own improvised life, has been the cinema and - within the terms of the cinema - photography, painting, music and not the written word.
|They Say the Butterfly Is the Hardest Stroke|
From coves below the cliffs of the years
—from The Days of Surprise; quoted on Facebook by Peter Quinn (31.05.2015.)
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|The Laughing Receptionist in the GPs Surgery|
| When I nip into the GPs surgery|
To pick up a repeat prescription
For anti-depressants and sleeping pills
I find the fair-haired receptionist
On her elbows with laughter,
For no reason other than that this April day
Is all sunlight and blue skies,
Street lined with limes of new green leaf,
Tiny gardens jungles of white magnolia.
She announces: Today is the day
For buying a villa on the seafront:
I know I must win the Lottery -
But how can I win the Lottery
When I do not even remember
To buy a Lottery ticket?
And even then, in any case,
I forget to check the results!
She is weeping with laughter.
I wade out into the street
And not caring if YOU are watching me
I pluck a blue tulip from a front garden,
Wade back in and present it to her.
I, too, am weeping with laughter
As I let myself out of the surgery and -
Dear Mrs Double Parking – I do not give a farthing
What you think – its spring!
Given on Facebook by Eunice Yeates (19.04.2017).
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Peter Fallon & Seán Golden, eds., Soft Day, A Miscellany Of Contemporary Irish Writing (Notre Dame / Wolfhound 1980), selects The Difficulty that is Marriage; The Weeping Headstones of the Isaac Becketts; The Kilfenora Teaboy.
Andrew Carpenter & Peter Fallon, eds., The Writers: A Sense of Place (Dublin: OBrien Press 1980), selects The Drimoleague Blues, with photo-port., p.32.
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3: selects from O Westport in the Light of Asia Minor, Dún Choain; from Teresas Bar, The Baker; from Jesus, Break His Fall, The Death by Heroin of Sid Vicious; from The Berlin Wall Café, The Marriage Contract, Bewleys Oriental Cafe, Westmoreland St.; BIOG, 1435 [dates as supra].
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Patrick Crotty, ed., Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1995), selects The Hat Factory ; Tullynoe: Tête-à-Tête in the Parish Priests Parlour ; The Hauliers Wife Meets Jesus on the Road Near Moone ; Around the Corner from Francis Bacon ; from Six Nuns Die in Convent Inferno, 1 ; The Late Mr Charles Lynch Digresses ; The Levite and His Concubine at Gibeah .
Bangor Heritage Centre - Aspects Celebration of Irish Writing [festival title] (28th Sept.-2 Oct. 1994): His first collection published in 1967 but it wasnt until 1985 with The Berlin Wall Café that he came to prominence; since then [ ] one of the best-known and most popular writers in Ireland; his readings inevitably sell out almost immediately [&c]. (See brochure.)
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Kith & Kin: Paul Durcan is related to Seán MacBride [q.v.], whose uncle Joseph MacBride (b. of John MacBride, d.1916) married Eileen Wilson [illeg. dg. of Thomas Gonne and half-sister of Maud Gonne], and was Durcans maternal grandmother, living with her dg. at Mallow Cottage, Westport after the death of her husband. Durcans son Michael (b.1987) lives in Portstewart, Co. Derry, with his mother, Jan ONeill.
Oh, Willie! The allegedly sexual abuse of Eileen Wilson by John McBride caused Durcan distress in view of the happy regard in which Eileen held MacBride. Durcan made a direct intervention in an interview for the Irish Literary Supplement (Fall 1991). See also Anthony J. Jordan, Willie Yeats and the Gonne-MacBrides, Westport Books 1997 and further under MacBride, infra).
Bootboy Bishop?: Durcans satirical poem on Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was the occasion of several rebukes in the newspapers from Breda O’Brien (Irish Times columnis) and others in August 2008 - turning mainly on his account of the Dublin diocesan archbishop as a Northside bootboy doing the dirty-work for his Party Secretary, the Pope. Martin has been involved in the controversial appointment of parish priests. See O’Brien, Flawed archbishop unscathed by poet’s lazy attack, in The Irish Times (23 Aug. 2008). He previously affronted clerical authority with Cardinal Dies of Heart Attack in Dublin Brothel and other poems.
Van Morrison: Durcan co-wrote and jointly sang the lyrics for "In the Days Before Rock and Roll" with Van Morrison, whom he eulogised in a Magill article of May 1988 [as supra].
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Tony Deane-Drummond was one of the architects of the modern SAS, which received the acclaim he desired for it in January 1959 after it won the battle of the Green Mountain in Oman. The A and D squadrons of his command, 22 SAS Regiment seized the 7,000ft Jebel Akhdar, stronghold of the rebels Suleiman bin Hamyar and his brother Talib, who with their wives, slaves, carpets, and other possessions operated from caves and tunnels in the craggy heights to oppose Britain's ally, the Sultan. Around 120 men surprised rebel forces of about 500 by climbing a pathless, sheer face, unnoticed. The SAS lost three men, the rebels more than 50. The mountain's capture prompted politicians to see the SAS's value as a tool of post-imperial policy, and military chiefs to appreciate its adaptability.
Deane-Drummond received the DSO and the personal congratulations of Minister of Defence Duncan Sandys. The regiment was told by Air Vice-Marshal Maurice Heath: "You have taken part in what is really an epic battle... your action has done a great deal to restore British prestige in the Persian Gulf, which has been slipping rapidly since the last war and was accelerated by Suez... Now all the sheikhs around the Gulf can breathe more freely."
Deane-Drummond's preoccupation was "to show that the regular Army needed a Regular SAS Regiment... we had to make a case for what was a genuine corps d'élite – without ever mentioning this phrase".
The Oman assignment was a stroke of luck, coming immediately after 22 Regiment had drawn plaudits as "the most successful unit in the army" in Malaya. There its men had parachuted into a jungle-covered swamp in February 1958 and hunted down "Baby-Killer" Ah-Hoi, a particularly ruthless Communist insurgent.
Had his men been left idle, Deane-Drummond would have been obliged to drastically reduce their numbers. The idea of small parties operating behind enemy lines had originated in operations in the Western Desert in 1941-42. In Malaya, by 1950 and later, Deane-Drummond explained, "A regiment of soldiers was gradually built up in which the old Second World War techniques in the resistance movement were used in reverse... it was a desperate job in which a page was taken out of the communists' own tactics and adopted for use by the SAS."
Deane-Drummond, who had first enlisted with the Royal Signals in 1937, had had three astonishing escapes during a Second World War career in which he won the Military Cross twice. He was with the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1939, and after Dunkirk was chosen as one of six officers leading 28 men to be dropped by parachute to carry out Operation Colossus in February 1941. This was the breach of a 993-mile Italian aqueduct diverting river water to supply the ports of Bari, Brindisi and Taranto, after which the saboteurs would be picked up by submarine at the coast 70 miles away. The salute from Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes to the men as they left RAF Mildenhall gave the clue that they were not seriously expected to return. "Damned pity," he was heard to mutter.
Although the mission succeeded, all the men were captured. Deane-Drummond was awarded the MC and became one of only two Allied POWs known to have escaped from Italy before the 1943 Armistice with the Allies. On his first break-out he got to Milan and Como before being caught because of his dirty boots. On his second, having feigned illness to get out of high-security detention, he crept along a 70ft-high crumbling ledge in pitch darkness to reach neutral Switzerland.
The Bar to Deane-Drummond's MC came for the part he played in September 1944 after Operation Market Garden, the battle over the bridge at Arnhem, which the Allies failed to hold against unexpectedly fierce German opposition. Deane-Drummond took command of 20 survivors, and after keeping up sniper action until ammunition ran out and night fell, spread the men to separate houses.
The house he found himself in was, alas, being turned into a German strong-point. Before escaping this time he endured 13 days and nights standing in a 12-inch deep cupboard, with his mouth eventually so parched as his water-bottle ran out that he could no longer eat the bread and lard he had with him. He had to urinate down a hole in the floor. At last the room, all that time full of Germans, was left empty, and he fled.
Dutch families assisted him, including a Baroness Heemstra, who brought him Krug champagne and whose teenage daughter's beauty he noticed: this was the future film star Audrey Hepburn.
Deane-Drummond was appointed to Staff College in 1945, but the following year went to Palestine as Brigade Major, 3rd Parachute Brigade. He was in temporary command on the night of 22 July 1946 when the King David Hotel was bombed. His troops searched Jerusalem, and arrested two men after a toe was noticed to twitch in a mortuary. A staff job at the War Office followed, then spells in the US, and as an instructor at Sandhurst.
He received a two-inch fracture to the skull from a stone thrown through a windscreen during disturbances in Cyprus in 1956. While recuperating he won the Royal Aero Club's Silver Medal for glider-flying, and was the 1957 British Gliding Champion, before taking command of 22 SAS in November.
After the SAS, he took command of 44 Parachute Brigade Group (TA), and learned to fly a helicopter.
He was Major-General, GOC 3rd Division from 1966-68, and Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Operations) from 1968-70, before being made CB and retiring from the Army in 1971, when he became director of the Paper and Paper Products Industry Training Board. His books include an autobiography, Arrows of Fortune (1993).
Deane-Drummond was brought up by his mother, who divorced his philandering father when the boy was nine, with two sisters, one older and one younger, at Little Barrington Oxfordshire. He attended Marlborough College, and then the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.
Anthony John Deane-Drummond, soldier: born Oxfordshire, 23 June 1917, married 1944, Mary Evangeline Boyd (died 2002; four daughters); CB 1970; DSO 1960; MC 1942, and Bar, 1945; died Warwickshire 4 December 2012.Reuse content