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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 25, 2010 @ 11:35 am

    Celebrating Ó Direáin

    Pól Ó Muirí

    Poet Máirtín Ó Direáin (1910-1988) was born 100 years ago. I was fortunate enough to hear the Inis Mór man read in Cumann Chluain Ard in west Belfast back in 1983/84. Ó Direáin had some poems on the A-Level Irish course and had come to Belfast at the invitation of our teacher. I don’t pretend that I understood everything he said that night – my Irish was not that good and his dialect was different to what we were used to. Nonetheless, it was obvious, even to this gauche teenager, that we were listening to someone of authority.

    To celebrate the centenary of his birth, a new book – Na Dánta: Máirtín Ó Direáin (Cló Iar-Chonnachta, edited by Eoghan Ó hAnluain) will be launched this Saturday (30th January) at 2pm in The Galway Arts Centre, Dominick Street, Galway, as part of the Merriman Winter School. The book includes contains all of the poems from Máirtín Ó Direáin: Dánta 1939 –1979 as well as some unpublished work. In addition, the book contains original art work by Inis Mór artist, Seán Ó Flaithearta, and Gael-Linn will also launch a re-mastered recording of Ó Direáin reading his own poetry.

    I should mention too that the winter school is dedicated to Ó Direáin with a series of talks and lectures in Irish on his work. Full details are available on the Merriman website.

    • Fred Johnston says:

      I met Ó Direáin in a lonely room at University College, Galway, many years ago and we discussed Irish-language literature. The university had somewhat belatedly given him a sort of residence there and, to me, he appeared lost. He remarked upon how so much very bad writing in Irish had appeared immediately after the language went through a sort of publishing renaissance, based in Dublin. I admired his poetry greatly, though I had read most of it in English, for my sins. I then sought to have him commemorated on a stamp, to be told by the relevant powers at the time that only the dead were commemorated on stamps and he was still alive. Eventually, through other agencies, a plaque to him appeared on the side of Galway’s main Post Office, where the poet had once worked. Galway has no sense of its literary heritage and apparently wants none, so it lacks plaques to such writers as Frank Harris and Antonin Artaud, the latter who stayed in The Imperial Hotel there. At any rate I was delighted and privileged to have spoken with Máirtín Ó Direáin, a poet whom I believe suffered a deep sense of exile from his native islands and recreated them through the force of this exile.

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