Thursday, November 30, 2017

On the 50th anniversary of Patrick Kavanagh's Death

Patrick Kavanagh died on this day fifty years ago - 30th November 1967 - and I cannot let the day pass without paying my respects to him and pausing to reflect on one of my all-time favourite poets. For now, I'm just going to post one of his poems below, 'Innocence' and I am hopeful of finding a quiet moment to write more in the coming days about Kavanagh and his poetry and, specifically, about my memories of curating the programme of events for his centenary year, thirteen years ago, in 2004.

Patrick Kavanagh saving the hay in 1934 with his sister, Josie and brother Peter

As I move through a different phase of life now, with two small boys of my own and the wisdom of experience, Kavanagh's words remain radiant as ever. The poet's confidence in stating that 'love's doorway to life / is the same doorway everywhere' still resonates, as does his celebration of the everyday, the simple things and 'the placeless Heaven that's under all our noses'. Kavanagh urges us to pay attention; he said that 'to get to know even a small field is a lifetime's exploration'. The subject of 'Innocence' is the little field his mother purchased for him in 1926, which is still visible under Rocksavage Fort in Inniskeen. The reluctant farmer preferred to use the hedges as shelving for his books! 

Nobody is laughing at Patrick's 'hungry hills' now. To those of you who have yet to visit Kavanagh Country, I would urge you to do so as soon as you can and, especially, to call into his former parish church, which is now the Patrick Kavanagh Rural and Literary Resource Centre. And if you are fortunate enough to encounter the very wonderful Rosaleen Kearney - Kavanagh expert and all-round exceptional human being - please give her my very best.

They laughed at one I loved—
The triangular hill that hung
Under the Big Forth. They said
That I was bounded by the whitethorn hedges
Of the little farm and did not know the world.
But I knew that love's doorway to life
Is the same doorway everywhere.
Ashamed of what I loved
I flung her from me and called her a ditch
Although she was smiling at me with violets.
But now I am back in her briary arms
The dew of an Indian Summer morning lies
On bleached potato-stalks—
What age am I?
I do not know what age I am,
I am no mortal age;
I know nothing of women,
Nothing of cities,
I cannot die
Unless I walk outside these whitethorn hedges.

Patrick Kavanagh

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