Doing the decent thing

 

The fog predictably closed Cork airport, so poet Bernard O'Donoghue had to be driven from Shannon to UCC in order to deliver his contribution to the university's annual series of lectures celebrating the life and work of WB Yeats.

The 45-minute delay and the parking regulations at and around UCC led to early exits from the Boole lecture theatre, although not before O'Donoghue had begun, mesmerically, to read a selection of poems chosen as examples of his examination of Yeats the love-poet.

And not before the Co Cork-born, Oxford-based O'Donoghue remembered that he first heard this poetry in a recording by Cyril Cusack when spending a year at Presentation Brothers College in Cork city. There he had "fallen under the spell" of teacher Dan Donovan, with the result that he changed his career plan and went on to study English rather than engineering.

Participating in the annual UCC-ESB International WB Yeats series, O'Donoghue was succeeding his Oxford colleague, historian and Yeats biographer RF Foster, as well as publishing historian Warwick Gould of the University of London. Their papers were available in a stylish office edition and UCC's librarian, John FitzGerald, hinted at an eventual six-lecture commercial publication.

"Literature has to do the decent thing", said O'Donoghue, quoting Yeats. Although this lecture series is not associated with Cork 2005, writers among his audience were heard to ponder the absence of poet John Montague from any strand of the literary programme of 2005, a surprise given Montague's international eminence and local availability.