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Patrick Kavanagh 1905 - 1967
and boisterous poet Patrick Kavanagh was born to a shoemaker and small farmer
in County Monaghan. Leaving school at 13 to work as a cobbler like his father,
he eventually opted for the life of a farmer. Patrick's intellectual thirst
remained unquenched, however, and he succeeded in carving out a literary
legacy with his pen.
Kavanagh's first book of poetry, Ploughman
and Other Poems, was published in 1936, followed by the semi-autobiographical
The Green Fool, which sparked a vicious feud with contemporary Oliver
St. John Gogarty. In 1939, Kavanagh relocated to Dublin in the hopes of
launching a journalistic career. Sadly, he encountered a chilly and elitist
reception from the insular Dublin literary scene, where he was largely regarded
as a 'country bumpkin.' He persisted, however, ardently railing against
the soul-crushing conformity of Irish society and the iron hand of the Church
during his era.
Kavanagh's most remarkable success came
in 1942 with the publication of The Great Hunger, an epic poem illustrating
the hardships of Irish farming families. In 1953 he initiated an unsuccessful
libel suit against The Leader for a scathing anonymous biography.
Miserably defeated and in extremely poor health, he had a cancerous lung
removed following the trial. Emerging from this dark period, he experienced
a spiritual and literary rebirth, producing some of his finest and most
lyrical poetry. Appointed to the faculty of UCD in 1959, he continued to
enjoy success until his death from bronchitis in 1967.