One of the country’s favourite poets, Patrick Kavanagh, was born in Inniskeen, County Monaghan on 21 October 1904. He worked on his father’s farm and as a shoemaker, while he began writing poetry, and had his first work published in the Dundalk Democrat in 1928.
He submitted work to the Irish Statesman but it was initially rejected by the editor George (AE) Russell, a leader of the Irish Literary Revival, who encouraged him to continue writing. Kavanagh was inspired by this and walked to Dublin to meet Russell, who gave him books to read, and eventually published some of his work.
In 1938 Kavanagh’s novel The Green Fool, which was loosely based on his own life in the country and his aspiration in becoming a writer, brought him international recognition. A year later he settled in Dublin, and in 1942 wrote The Great Hunger that described the tough, day-to-day demands of rural life. This long poem which set out the everyday struggles of peasant life was as odds with those who espoused the noble, simple life, and it raised the hackles of the establishment. So much so that all copies of The Horizon magazine, in which it was published, were seized on orders of the Minister for Justice. The poem is considered by many to be his finest work and the NY Times Book Review said that it was ‘a great work’.
He lived at 62 Pembroke Road, liked to have a drink in The Waterloo pub and referred to the neighbourhood as ‘Baggotonia’. Close by, is Raglan Road, which is the name of his most popular poem. It was later put to music, firstly, by the Dubliners, and since by Van Morrison, Sinead O’Connor, Mark Knopfler, Billy Bragg, Roger Daltrey and many others. His Lines written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin are heartfelt and inspired his statue, one of the city’s favourites.
O commemorate me where there is water
canal water preferably, so stilly
greeny at the heart of summer. Brother
commemorate me thus beautifully.