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Austin Clarke Biography

(1896–1974), The Vengeance of Fionn, The Sword of the West, Pilgrimage, The Plot Succeeds, Collected Plays

Irish poet and dramatist, born in Dublin, educated at University College, Dublin, where he became an English Assistant in 1917. His first volume of verse, a reworking of the legend of Diarmid and Grainne entitled The Vengeance of Fionn, appeared in 1917. Succeeding volumes included The Sword of the West (1921) and Pilgrimage (1929); these works made use of Irish myth and history from the medieval era, a period largely overlooked by Yeats and his followers. He lived in England as a literary journalist from 1921 to 1937, when he returned to Dublin, devoting himself until the early 1950s to his interest in verse-drama. The Plot Succeeds (1950), which characteristically incorporates comic elements, is recognized as the best of his many plays. Collected Plays appeared in 1963. The historical dimension dominant in his earlier poetry was supplanted by more immediate personal and cultural concerns in Night and Morning of 1938. Absorbed in theatrical activities, he produced no further collections until Ancient Lights of 1955, which initiated his work's satirical engagement with aspects of modern Irish life. Thereafter he wrote and published poetry prolifically until his death. Flight to Africa (1963) contains a number of his finest poems; The Horse Eaters (1960) and A Sermon on Swift (1968) are among his other distinguished late collections. His poetry is noted for its metrical and musical intricacies, which draw on the traditions of Gaelic verse, and the sensual precision of its imagery. He also wrote three novels, The Bright Temptation (1932), The Singing Men at Cashel (1936), and The Sun Dances at Easter (1952), each of which was banned by the Irish authorities, and two volumes of autobiography, Twice Round the Black Church (1962) and A Penny in the Clouds (1968). His Collected Poems appeared in 1974. Susan Halpern's Austin Clarke: His Life and Works was published in 1974.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Cheltenham Gloucestershire to Cockermouth Cumbria