From the Archives: Caroline Walsh profiles the up-and-coming Dermot Bolger in 1985
Dermot Bolger in 1988. “I need to put down the world I know with dignity, but also with integrity. If I use the word ‘drat’, the integrity goes out the window and there is nothing left, and you can’t put bets each way in novels.”
Dermot Bolger turns 55 on February 6th, but back in 1985 he was young enough to be profiled as one of six promising writers to watch. From The Irish Times on Tuesday, July 23rd, 1985: Not all authors of promise are especially young, some of them, particularly women, having taken up writing after 30. CAROLINE WALSH profiles half a dozen novelists, poets and short story writers who look as if their best work still lies in the future.
WHEN he was a schoolboy at St Canice’s National School and later Beneavin College in Finglas, Dublin, as far as Dermot Bolger was concerned writers seemed to always take as their subject matter either people who lived over a hundred years ago or else inhabited far-off worlds down the country.
Consciously or unconsciously, when he wrote his novel, “Nightshift”, published this year by Brandon, it was the antithesis of all that. Set in the bleak world of contemporary Dublin, its protagonist – a teenager working nights in a factory, living in a caravan and trying to make a go of it with his child bride – is very much of the world around us: a part of the hidden Ireland that gets less hidden every day.
Born in Finglas in the bedroom that he sleeps in to this day, 26-year-old Bolger made a conscious decision not to go to university. “I saw no point in it. I felt it would alienate me from the experience I wanted to write about – namely, the world I grew up in.
“Before “Nightshift “ there were three collections of poetry – “The Habit of Flesh”, “Finglas Lilies” and “No Waiting America”. Bolger isn’t bothered about switching genres. “I use every trick in my armoury to put down what I actually want to say.”
A new collection of poems will be published in the autumn by Dolmen, while “A new Primer for Irish Schools”, written with Michael O’Loughlin, which has just recently been published, is fundamentally a satirical reworking of many of the poems through which they were both taught history at school in the 1960s and ’70s.
Bolger is also founder and principal editor of the Raven Arts Press. Shortly they will publish a new novel by Francis Stuart called “Faillandia” which, according to Bolger, deals with the “spiritual, political and psychic climate of Ireland today” rather than harking back to an Ireland that is gone.
“The world of Anglo-Irish literature aptly described the time in which it was set, but that world has been shattered. A new Ireland has emerged, which a new literature is needed to describe,” is how he puts it. And, if that world is one of unwanted pregnancies and despair in suburban wastelands, this is a writer who will take it all on. He will also describe it in its own language and make no bones about so doing. “I need to put down the world I know with dignity, but also with integrity. If I use the word ‘drat’, the integrity goes out the window and there is nothing left, and you can’t put bets each way in novels.”