Gathering focus for Cork Literary Review

Caitlin Doyle Her contribution is entitled ‘Hungry Hills: Coming of Age as an Irish American poet’.

Edited by poet, Eugene O’Connell, the Cork Literary Review, volume 15, is themed around The Gathering, with an emphasis on Irish identity as well as new voices from the diaspora.

Among established poets from Ireland’s literati, such as Séamus Heaney, Gerard Smyth, Bernard O’Donoghue, Gabriel Fitzmaurice, William Wall and Matthew Sweeney, one of the new voices is that of Irish-American Caitlin Doyle, an emerging poet who has published widely in America. Her astute prose contribution to the book is entitled ‘Hungry Hills: Coming of Age as an Irish American poet’.

As a wide-eyed young girl growing up in New York, she listened to her father’s stories about the ‘hooleys’ he attended in Dublin and the tradition of the ‘noble call’, where people were invited to recite poems, sing or play musical instruments. But she counters the sense of joie de vivre at these social gatherings with the grim years in Ireland when literature was censored.

“I wondered how the love of words that defined the hooley tradition could exist in tandem with the fear of words that drove the country’s prohibitive attitude to so many books. The contradiction piqued my curiosity about literature,” writes Doyle.

When she embarked on her literary journey, Doyle observes that “making one’s way in America as a young poet isn’t so different from the situation that (Patrick) Kavanagh describes in ‘Shancoduff’. A poet in the beginning stages occupies a kind of ‘hungry hills’ in the economic landscape of the United States.”

Another interesting voice from the diaspora is that of Tim Dwyer, a psychologist and writer living in New York. In ‘The Rocky Road to New York’, he writes of his parents emigrating to the Big Apple a few years after World War II.

“My parents’ generation saw New York from the eyes of permanent visitors. In that time before fairly affordable jet flights, when they left Ireland by ship, they were prepared to never see their parents or country again.”

Dwyer says that this sense of being a permanent visitor “was poignantly conveyed by how a fundamental word was used, which puzzled me when I was a young boy. It was the word ‘home’.” Ireland never left the hearts and minds of Dwyer’s parents.

Dwyer met Irishman, Malachy McCourt, who was “lovable, humorous and politically provocative. This was not an Irish man like my father or his generation. He was younger, had more fire...” He demonstrated “what it means to be a bona fide New Yorker and a full blooded Irish man, although he would be the first to tell you he almost went up in flames along the way, burning his candle at both ends.”

The Cork Literary Review includes revealing Q&A interviews such as the one conducted by Gabriel Fitzmaurice with John B Keane’s widow, Mary. She talks about how tough it was for her husband to have his work rejected in the early days. His play, Sive, changed everything. So-called ‘Sivers,’ christened by actress Siobhán Cahill, thronged their Listowel pub. “We didn’t know any of them but they all brought money and it brought us a certain amount of prosperity.” Since John B Keane’s death, Mary says life is “miserable. ‘Tis miserable. But I’m able to put up a great show.”

The Cork Literary Review, always broad in its scope, contains an interview with Philip McDonagh, Irish ambassador to Russia and a poet. He talks of how as president of the Oxford Union, he invited former Taoiseach, Jack Lynch and former British prime minister, Ted Heath, to speak on Irish unity. The meeting of the men kick-started the peace process, says Eugene O’Connell. His Cork Literary Review deals with the local and the global in poetry and prose and even touches on politics.

*The Cork Literary Review, Volume 15, is published by Bradshaw Books.

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