Become well-versed in Dublin poetry with new 'map'

At the launch of the Dublin: One City One Book festival programme, at the statue of Patrick Kavanagh in Dublin, were Theo Dorgan, Dermot Bolger, Paula Meehan, Brendan Kennelly and Gabriel Rosenstock. Picture: Jason Clarke
At the launch of the Dublin: One City One Book festival programme, at the statue of Patrick Kavanagh in Dublin, were Theo Dorgan, Dermot Bolger, Paula Meehan, Brendan Kennelly and Gabriel Rosenstock. Picture: Jason Clarke

A ‘map’ tells the story of the city’s poems, songs and characters, says Richard Fitzpatrick.

POETRY takes centre-stage for the One City, One Book Festival in Dublin this April, for which Pat Boran and Gerard Smyth have compiled If Ever You Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song. The collection, which contains sections entitled Northside, Southside and Liffeyside, offers a remarkable picture of Dublin’s character and characters.

Inevitably, it has entries from the likes of WB Yeats, James Joyce and Paul Durcan, and must-haves, such as Patrick Kavanagh’s ‘Lines Written on a Seat on the Grand Canal,’ but the unusual entries catch the eye, such as Ailbhe Darcy’s ‘He Tells Me I have a Strange Relationship,’ ‘Belts’, by Rudyard Kipling, and ‘The Twang Man,’ by The Dubliners.

“It’s a map of the city through the eyes of hundreds of people,” says Theo Dorgan. “It’s a magical thing to have, if you’re living in the city, if you’re visiting the city, because there are so many different ways of looking at the place. I’d love to see somebody do a similar job for Cork. There are lots of songs in it, as well; this is the other thing — Phil Lynott, ballads, John Sheahan, of The Dubliners.

“It says something that it’s number one in Hodges Figgis bookstore, and it’s only just been launched. It gives the lie to this middlebrow, cultural defensiveness that says, ‘Oh, people aren’t really interested in poetry.’ Nonsense. Not everybody has to love everything in the world, but look at the way people reach for a verse for ‘in memoriam’ in the Irish Examiner or the Evening Echo. And if you can’t sing — like me, who genuinely can’t sing — you better have a recitation ready.”

Dorgan, who is a knacky poet, to paraphrase a line from one of his poems, has lived in Dublin for 25 years.

He has a couple of poems in the collection, including ‘Croke Park,’ which is a hosanna to our “national theatre”. He will also feature in some of the One City, One Book Festival events, among them a night of celebration of Séamus Heaney, who, incidentally, has several poems in If Ever You Go.

That celebration will be at the National Concert Hall on April 23, and will also feature Paul Muldoon, Michael Longley and some of the lads from Planxty — Paul Brady, Dónal Lunny and Liam O’Flynn — on the bill.

“Here’s an incident of how fine Séamus Heaney’s instincts were, how capacious the mind was,” says Dorgan.

“Now you’d never think of Derry as a hurling county, right? Apart from drilling and parading with hurleys, you wonder if they ever saw a hurley from one end of the year to the other.

“He was in Harvard and he rang me — he needed something, and I said I’d get it for him. ‘The book is out,’ he says. ‘Any reviews yet?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’ and I mentioned a review I got in some Northern magazine, a bit of a hatchet job. His response was, ‘Ach, that wee skitter. I had the heel of the hurl in the mouth one time, too.’ Now, you know that the heel of the hurley in the mouth, as you’re going up for a high ball, is a particularly nasty foul, and it’s almost impossible to prove, to spot it.

“How well a fella from Derry, almost entirely a footballing county, would put it that way to someone he knew was passionate about hurling?”

Further information on One City, One Book Festival: www.dublinonecityonebook.ie

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