Updated: Sep 29
When asked to name an Irish poet the names that spring to mind will probably be the Nobel Laureates: W. B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney. The farmer, turned poet, essayist, and journalist Patrick Kavanagh hasn’t found the same worldwide fame, even though he too was writing in the twentieth century.
The Patrick Kavanagh Centre is a renovated church in the village of Inniskeen to the east of County Monaghan, a little over fifty miles from Dublin. Kavanagh is buried in the adjoining churchyard in a grave so unassuming I walked past it several times before noticing the small wooden cross which bears his name.
I visited the centre on a dull April morning and was warmly welcomed by the manager, Darren, who gave me more of an insight into this lesser known Irish poet who is revered amongst his peers. Artefacts of Kavanagh’s life in Monaghan are on display and touch screens reveal snippets of his life, beginning as a child, farming the “stony, grey soil”; then leaving Ireland at the age of thirty-five and heading for London, where he worked as a journalist.
Articles from newspapers on display reveal his thoughts on love letters and his knowledge of another Irish writer, the author of Gulliver’s Travels, Dean Swift. There is also a reminder that Kavanagh, like Yeats and Heaney, has been quoted by an American President. In his case: Barak Obama.
Kavanagh did spend a little time in New York, but he settled in Dublin and his autobiography and poetry found an audience although he was always poor, dying before he could spend a bursary given to him by the British Arts Council.
In his poem Lines Written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin he asks to be commemorated
“where there is water,
Canal , preferably, so stilly
Greeny at the heart of summer.”
His wish has been granted. A statue of him seated by the canal in Dublin is beautifully located and only a few yards from Raglan Road, which is the name of one of his most famous poems.
It was set to music and has been performed by many artists including Ed Sheeran and can easily be found on You Tube. However, it is not my favourite of Kavanagh’s poems. I prefer the Canal Bank poems as they are more uplifting, and gave me the idea for a seat to be left by water, preferably the sea, when I pass on.
Commemorated in Dublin, Kavanagh is fully celebrated in Inniskeen. The local pub proudly displays his portrait, and next to a church with a fine tower (once the site of a medieval monastery) is a garden where a “jukebox’ plays his poetry when the handle is turned.
A plough reminds visitors of Kavanagh’s manual labour in the fields and benches display lines from his poetry.
Sitting by the rushing water of the River Fane, listening to the juke box emote Kavanagh’s words is restful and I think he would have been somewhat overcome by the regard the locals have for him.
With April showers threatening I headed to the cosy Raglan Road Café situated next to the centre where I enjoyed a delicious homemade chocolate cupcake and a pot of Earl Grey tea.
I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Inniskeen and I truly hope there will be a festival in Kavanagh’s honour, which I will attend to learn more about the man and his work. A big thank you to Darren in the centre, the ladies in the café and to the young lads who were on their Easter holidays and wanted me to take their photo. Here you are lads, I’ve included you in my blog as promised! Keep up the great work of promoting the village and its famous native poet.
Please check out my other blogs of Irish writers and their families.
During her lifetime Maria Edgeworth outsold Jane Austen, but has fallen into obscurity. Read about this little known author by clicking on the link.
Oscar Wilde had two half-sisters who met a tragic end. Read about their terrible plight by clicking on the link below.
Scotland too has a rich history of writers as I discovered when visiting Edinburgh. Click on the link to find out more.