Poetry, theatre and music honour Patrick Kavanagh centenary year


The centenary of the birth of the poet Patrick Kavanagh was honoured in Dublin's City Hall yesterday.

"The City Hall is usually dominated by politics, but today it's dominated by something else starting with 'P'," said the Lord Mayor, Mr Michael Conaghan.

The 'P' in question was poetry, and the date in question, the 21st, was chosen for the commemoration because nobody was quite sure when Kavanagh was born.

From 1 p.m. onwards people gathered for two hours of theatre, readings, music and map-reading. As each person arrived they were handed a map of the hall to help them navigate their way from entertainment to entertainment.

In the first half-hour there were several events happening simultaneously. Upstate Theatre Company performed scenes from The Green Fool in one corner; Castleblayney Players performed Tarry Flynn in another; Gene Carroll, in yet another corner, told stories from Inniskeen. In the middle of all this, brothers John and Tommy McArdle worked the room, inviting people to "request a poem", which the brothers read aloud with gusto.

"The rural poems are the most popular," said Tommy. "Shancoduff, Spraying the Potatoes and Stony Grey Soil."

"I came along today because I had a great English teacher in the Bower in Athlone, Josephine Maloney, who loved Kavanagh," said Margaret Hassett. "She refused to teach us any Kavanagh until we had read The Green Fool, and then we were all hooked."

A number of writers and actors read their favourite Kavanagh poem. Among them was Darragh O'Malley, son of Hilda O'Malley who had inspired one of Kavanagh's most famous poems, Raglan Road.

"My mother asked him one day could he not write about anything except potatoes and grey soil, and he gave her a look and said 'I'll surprise ye yet'," said O'Malley.

"As a Monaghan person, it's great to be celebrating anything, anywhere," quipped the actor and writer Ardal O'Hanlon, who read Pegasus. "As a struggling writer myself, I like the idealism in it - and the trademark gallows humour."

Music was supplied by the Cullen Harpers of Farney Castle. The MC for the proceedings was Father Tom Stack.

Other people who participated in the celebrations were broadcaster Mary Kennedy, who read In Memory of My Mother; Monaghan-born writer Pat McCabe, who read Advent; actor Mick Lally, who read The Christmas Mummers; and poet Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, who read Epic. Poet Paul Durcan paid the tribute.

"Today Inniskeen has come to Dublin," said Emily Cullen, curator of the Kavanagh centenary celebrations.

But not everyone was convinced that was so. Eyeing the four harpists on stage in their long dresses, one bystander muttered: "What did Kavanagh ever have to do with harps? It's more like Bunratty."