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Patrick Kavanagh Biography

(1905–67), The Irish Statesman, Ploughman and Other Poems, The Green Fool, Tarry Flynn, The Great Hunger

Irish poet, born near Iniskeen, County Monaghan; he left school at 14 and worked on farms in his native locality. In 1929 his poetry attracted the attention of George ‘A E’ Russell and began appearing in The Irish Statesman, which Russell edited. Ploughman and Other Poems (1936), Kavanagh's first collection of verse, drew in some measure on the idealized rural idioms of the Irish Revival, but frequently displayed a refreshing individuality of tone and a keen sense of realism in its imagery. The Green Fool, a memorably lyrical prose autobiography, was published in 1938, but was withdrawn after a libel action arising from unintentionally offensive references to Oliver St John Gogarty. It has similarities with Tarry Flynn (1948), a novel derived from Kavanagh's experiences as a young man of his native community. In 1939 he moved to Dublin, working as a journalist and film critic, and published The Great Hunger, generally regarded as his most important work, in 1942. Lough Derg of 1942, published in 1978 with a foreword by Paul Durcan, is an ambitious but unfinished long poem, as is ‘Why Sorrow?’, also composed in 1942; both contain incisive critiques of institutionalized religion. Among his other publications are the volumes of poetry A Soul for Sale (1947) and Come Dance with Kitty Stobling (1960). The latter contained some of his finest lyrics, chosen from ‘The Canal Bank Poems’, an exuberantly affirmative body of work produced during his convalescence from cancer in the mid-1950s. A Collected Poems was produced in 1964, followed by Collected Pruse (sic) of 1967, which included selections from Kavanagh's Weekly, a periodical produced in collaboration with his brother, Peter Kavanagh, in 1952. Much of Kavanagh's later poetry is written with a headlong conversational spontaneity which lapses at times into doggerel, a recurrent tendency in the satires arising from his frequently antagonistic relations with many other Irish writers. With Flann O'Brien and Brendan Behan, he was a dominant literary presence in Dublin throughout the 1950s. In forging new possibilities for a realist poetry of Irish rural experience Kavanagh gave confidence to many younger writers, amongst whom Seamus Heaney is pre-eminent. Complete Poems was published in 1984, edited by Peter Kavanagh, whose Sacred Keeper (1986) is a biography.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Tama Janowitz Biography to P(atrick) J(oseph Gregory) Kavanagh Biography