Skip to content

December 14, 2018


#Poetry Seamus Heaney on P. Kavanagh

by N@ncy



  1. I had never heard of Patrick Kavanagh.
  2. He is the most important Irish poet between
  3. ….the death of W.B. Yeats and
  4. ….the rise of Seamus Heaney (review)
  5. I read when the Irish Times compiled a
  6. list of favorite Irish poems in 2000
  7. 10  of Kavanagh’s poems were in the top 50.
  8. I wanted to know why Kavanagh is so popular.
  9. His Wikipedia page…..gave me the basics
  10. He struggled in life and literature.
  11. An essay about Kavanagh by Seamus Heaney
  12. …is a good place to start my investigation!


Who was Patrick Kavanagh? (1904–1967)  .

  1. He was born in County Monaghan
  2. …the son of a small farmer.
  3. He left school at 13  to work the land.
  4. He continued to educate himself, reading and writing poetry.
  5. In 1939 he moved to Dublin and became a freelance writer.

EssayFrom Monaghan to the Grand Canal ( Dublin)


  1. Seamus Heaney portraits Patrick Kavanagh as a man
  2. who was not compensated enough for what he created.
  3. The first lines of the essay are a direct quote by Kavanagh:
  4. “I has never been much considered by the English critics’.
  5. Heaney admits the overall impression after reading Kavanagh’s
  6. Collected Poems is a man who knows he can do the real thing
  7. …but much of the time he is straining and failing.


Strong point:   analysis of 3 poems:

  1. Heaney analyses the poem Inniskeen Road: July Evening.
  2. It is a love poem to a place written towards the end of the affair.
  3. Inniskeen is the poet’s birthplace and home for more than 30 years.
  4. Theme: Solitude: solitude of the ROAD and solitude of the POET.
  5. Heaney also explains one of Kavanagh’s complex poems:
  6. Bluebells For Love
  7. Kavanagh’s most celebrated poem is The Great Hunger.
  8. It was published in 1942 and is elegy
  9. a rage against the dying light of a country farmyard.
  10. Tone: tragic about small-farm misery
  11. but with a tinge of a comically serious conversation.


Weak point:

  1. I missed a clear structure in this essay.
  2. Heaney is a man whose every word should be appreciated
  3. but I felt I was skipping from poem
  4. …to personal background
  5. then to anecdotes about past poets (Brian Merriaman (1747-1805);
  6. William Carleton (1794-1869); Austin Clarke (1896-1974).
  7. Suddenly  I was in Kavanagh’s autobiography The Green Fool.
  8. Perhaps Heaney could have reduced the scope
  9. ..of his essay to just a few
  10. of Kavanagh’s poems…..and leave it at that.


Strong point:

  1. I did learn what I was looking for….
  2. Why was Kavanagh so popular?
  3. Heaney explains that the
  4. …Kavanagh expresses a hard buried life that goes
  5. beyond the feel of the middle-class novelist or poet.
  6. Kavanagh’s  best work rises up
  7. to the surface under internal pressure.
  8. You could compare it to a artesian well.
  9. The pressure from the confining layers inside Kavanagh
  10. forces the words and emotions upward into his poems.
  11. Wordsworth  believed that
  12. …the poem is the record of a great emotion,
  13. later recollected in tranquility.


Last thoughts:

  1. After reading Inniskeen Road: July Evening and especially
  2. Bluebells For Love and The Bluebells have Withered
  3. …I can say the poems produced
  4. discoveries, connections and glimmers of expression
  5. …that I just loved.
  6. Probably that is what readers like about Kavanagh’s writing.
Read more from poetry
9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dec 14 2018

    I really like Kavanagh. On Raglan Road is one of his most popular–there are a couple of musical settings that you can find on YouTube. Come Dance with Kitty Stobling is another one of his I had memorized at one point.

    I didn’t know Seamus Heaney had written about Kavanagh, but I’m not too surprised to learn it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dec 15 2018

      I was so impressed by the feeling of unrequited love.
      Through “The Blusbells Have Withered” Kavanagh’s
      love for this woman has become…eternal.
      We’re reading about it, moved by it….years and years later.
      I enjoy taking a break from novels, plays and non-fiction…just to let a poem
      talk to me.
      Thanks for your comments!


  2. Dec 15 2018

    You may see Van Morrison and the Chieftains doing On Raglan Road here:
    I so hope the link works. I also put the poem up on my blog the very first year I was writing. You may read K’s words here:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dec 15 2018

      Thank you so much for these links…I will have a look!


  3. I’d never heard of Kavanagh so thanks for the education, Nancy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dec 15 2018

      I know I should read some great poets of the ‘poetry golden age’…(Milton, Keats, Browning, Dickinson, Frost)
      but simple poems by poets who just pop up on my radar are a joy to discover.
      Jericho Brown is a US poet….prize winning rising star…born in Louisiana and teaches English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve read a few of his poems…listened to an interview with him on a podcast. The New Testament …his second collection…here Brown offers his reader a journey unlike any other in contemporary poetry!
      Thanks for you comments….and good luck with all your challenges for 2019…I’ll be following your progress!



Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. #Ireland Essays on Modern Irish Writing | NancyElin
  2. #NonFicNov week 1: Year in Non-Fiction | NancyElin
  3. #NonficNov: Week 1 Year in Non-Fiction | NancyElin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: