Patrick Kavanagh


Stan Smith (Ed.)

This is the first comprehensive account of the writer’s work in all its aspects, situated in the context of his life and times. This book provides a variety of viewpoints by established scholars on the work of the poet, to present a rounded picture of his achievements. Covering both prose and verse, these essays place his writings in the social and cultural contexts of the workaday Ireland.

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This volume offers a comprehensive account by a range of established scholars of the richness and variety of Patrick Kavanagh’s work both in prose and verse, and situates his writings in the social and cultural contexts of the workaday Ireland which emerged from the heroics of nationalist insurrection and civil war. The distinguished scholars who contribute to this account bring a diverse range of approaches and perspectives to offer a fuller understanding of his work.

Patrick Kavanagh has for long represented an alternative vision of Irish poetry to the high melodrama and attitudinising of W. B. Yeats. Low key and apparently equable in tone, though often revealing a sly acerbic wit, Kavanagh’s verse has represented a domestic, though not domesticated, alternative to the high-falutin’ rhetoric of the Yeatsian mode, pitching itself to the quotidian world of de Valera’s ‘Catholic Republic’, famously extolling the virtues of the ‘parochial’ in contrast to the siren call of the cosmopolitan and metropolitan, like Joyce finding its inspiration in the streets and alleys of a middle and lower class Dublin and the stony acres, literal and metaphoric, of a sparse rural economy, and, like Flann O’Brien, preferring the bicycle as a mode of poetic transport to the high horse of the ‘last Romantics’. It confirms Seamus Heaney’s claim that Kavanagh ‘gave single-handed permission for Irish poets to trust and cultivate their native ground and experience.’

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction: ‘Important Places, Times’ ~ Stan Smith
  2. Life and Work: The Poetics of Sincerity ~ Elmer Kennedy-Andrews
  3. Kavanagh’s Poetics and Prose: Against Formulae ~ Alex Davis
  4. The Moment of Kavanagh’s Weekly Gerry Smyth
  5. Kavanagh and the Irish Pastoral Tradition ~ Oona Frawley
  6. The Great Hunger and Mother Ireland ~ Edward Larrissey
  7. An ‘Unmeasured Womb’: A Soul for Sale and the 1937 Irish Constitution ~ Michael Murphy
  8. The Later Poetry and its Critical Reception ~ John Goodby
  9. ‘In Blinking Blankness’: The Last Poems ~ John Goodby
  10. ‘The Door and What Came Through It’: Aspects of Influence ~ Bruce Stewart

About the Editor

Stan Smith is Research Professor in Literary Studies at Nottingham Trent University and is the Editor of the Visions and Revisions Series.