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Paul Durcan (b. Oct. 16, 1944 - present)
...born in the Stella Maris Nursing Home, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin,the son of a barrister and later judge; raised at Dartmouth Sq., Dublin, and Turlough, Co. Mayo, where an aunt ran a pub. He studied law and economics at UCD to please his father. He had the first of several stays in mental institutions at the age of 19.
He moved to London in 1966 and commenced work at North Thames Gas Board, 1967, visiting the Tate Gallery at lunchtimes, in particular the paintings of Francis Bacon. He met his wife, Nessa, in 1968. He edited Two Rivers quarterly with Martin Green in 1969. Along with Brian Lynch, publisher, he issued Endsville in 1967; recorded poems for Harvard University and British Council in 1969. Edited Two Rivers (1969-71) and settled in Cork in 1970.
He commenced a degree course UCC, and grad. 1st class 1973. Staying on to study archaeology under M. J. OKelly, and medieval history. He was the winner of the Kavanagh Award in 1974; visited Brazil on British Council invitation; contributed a weekly column to The Cork Examiner, 1977-; was editor of the Cork Review in 1980; His marriage collapsed in 1984 and was reflected in poems of The Berlin Wall Café (1985) [breaking my neck to finish Raymond on the rooftops]; he left Cork and became Writer in Residence, UU Coleraine, 1984-86, and a father.
The winner of Cholmondeley Poetry Award (£2,000) of British Society of Authord and the Whitbread Prize, 1990. He was the TCD Writer in Residence in 1991; by then separated with daughters [the pure, orginal brokenness of our marriage]; he tavelled on reading tours in America and Russia; supported the Presidential campaign of Mary Robinson, was Writer in Residence at TCD in 1990; co-authored In the Days Before Rock n Roll with Van Morrison, on Morrisons album Enlightenment (1990); won the Whitbread Poetry Prize.
He has colloborated with artists and musicians such Mary Farl Powers and Micheál Ó Suilleabháin; was commissioned to write verse impressions of paintings in the collections of the National Gallery of Ireland, and the National Gallery, London, 1991, 1994 [commissioned 1993]; responded to the latest IRA atrocity with a litany-poem of the victims names (Omagh); issued Cries of an Irish Caveman in 2001, which was an expression of despondency about developments ; issued Paul Durcans Diary in 2003 and The Art of Life in 2004.
So, now you know everything and nothing about Paul Durcan. Until you read his poems.
Going Home to Mayo, Winter, 1949
by Paul Durcan
Leaving behind us the alien, foreign city of Dublin
My father drove through the night in an old Ford Anglia,
His five-year-old son in the seat beside him,
The rexine seat of red leatherette,
And a yellow moon peered in through the windscreen.
'Daddy, Daddy,' I cried, 'Pass out the moon,'
But no matter how hard he drove he could not pass out the moon.
Each town we passed through was another milestone
And their names were magic passwords into eternity:
Kilcock, Kinnegad, Strokestown, Elphin,
Tarmonbarry, Tulsk, Ballaghaderreen, Ballavarry;
Now we were in Mayo and the next stop was Turlough,
The village of Turlough in the heartland of Mayo,
And my father's mother's house, all oil-lamps and women,
And my bedroom over the public bar below,
And in the morning cattle-cries and cock-crows:
Life's seemingly seamless garment and gorgeously rent
By their screeches and bellowings. And in the evenings
I walked with my father in the high grass down by the river
Talking with him - an unheard of thing in the city
But home was not home and the moon could be no more outflanked
Than the daylight nightmare of Dublin city:
Back down along the canal we chugged into the city
And each lock-gate tolled our mutual doom;
And railings and palings and asphalt and traffic-lights,
And blocks after blocks of so-called 'new' tenements -
Thousands of crosses of lonelinesses planted
In the narrowing grave of the life of the father;
In the wide, wide cemetery of the boy's childhood.
"Cissy Youngs" - to Rosa Alice Branco
by Paul Durcan
That first year in Cork city - '71/72 -
I spent the afternoons from four to six
Sitting alone sipping pints of Smithwicks
In a public house on the Bandon Road,
Reading Bishop Berkeley's A Treatise
Concerning the Principles of Human
I, ex-footballer, ex-hurler,
Branded by the dominant males
Of the Irish tribe "a hippy,"
Rejoiced in the eighteenth-century,
I sat in the private lounge,
As distinct from the public bar,
Because the private lounge was nearly
Men in the public bar saluted me
Through the hatch.
Cissy Young's, all formica, banquette,
More anonymous, cosier by far
Than any salty, arty Kinsale bar.
That year in Cissy Young's reading Berkeley
Was a foundation year in my life as a writer
And, if I may meekly, profoundly trumpet,
My life as the virtuoso university teacher
I never became:
An attacking player on Berkeley's dream team.
Cissy Young's on the Bandon Road
Was my University of the Bermudas
Where I learnt the basics of my trade:
Learnt to think the hard way,
Learnt how to head the ball one way, looking
the other way;
Learnt the relationship between soul and body;
Learnt to communicate through the hatch;
Learnt how to introduce Libyan storytellers to
Cork insurance officials;
Learnt that reality is poetry, poetry reality;
Learnt the way of all things;
Learnt the existence of God -
That at five in the afternoon
On the Bandon Road in Cork City in Ireland
In the empty, private lounge of Cissy Young's
"To be is to be perceived."
80 Bandon Road,
Tel : + 353 21 4962773
For more Poetry Click the Poetry Index.
Wed, Feb 27, 2013
In this booklength poem, Durcan tells of a Christmas Day shared by two Irish bachelors, Paul and Frank: they bring each other gifts; they do not go to Mass; they have a meal; they sing a song or two-all the while reminiscing about old cemeteries, old loves ("Motoring down to Wesport/ And calling in on Mary McBride/ In the Old Rectory/ And taking the kids out for a spin/ All five of them") and the fate of being a poet ("Two men of no property/ Do men rate/ Who have no real estate?"). Durcan can't help but amuse...
It's a peculiar Irishness, perhaps, that permeates Durcan's poems, and may be the secret to his popularity.
FYI: Durcan's poem "The Goose in the Frost," written in tribute to Seamus Heaney's winning the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature, appears at the end. - excerpted editorial review
Click here for Christmas Day.
Having attended a public reading by Paul Durcan as he set out on the launch of this book, I could not wait to afterwards get my own; pompousness will not be found here - rather a revelation in the banal, perhaps as good as Christmas Day and Daddy, Daddy; but all (of his) books are so brilliantly diverse that you will never bore of Paul; go on, buy the book, you can thank me later. Edited and adapted from a review by James in Galway
Click here for Friends in Brazil.
Interested in Irish Poetry?Here's the easy way to collect them all (well, almost all, anyway).
Malachy McCourt says in his introduction, "With the republication of this book, the Irish recover under their roof of stars all the great poets and writers who have been falsely claimed by the saxon crown and its minions - even our reprobates."
Amazon states this is out of stock. They still have used copies for almost nothing (except shipping - chuckle). If you would like a new edition, it was available at Powell's. We can't promise it's still there. Click here for Powell's 1000 Years.
Click here for used at Amazon.