Michael Coady

Commentary


Life
1939- ; b. Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary; ed. CBS and St Patrick’s, Drumcondra, UCG and UCC; returned to Carrick-on-Suir as a teacher; m. with three children; first published ‘The Letter’ in New Irish Writing (Irish Press), a poem based on a letter received from his great-grandfather, James Coady, who had left his son in Ireland in going into exile in America, never to return;
 
he organised a committee for the rehabilitation of Fr. Michael O’Hickey of Carrick-on-Shannon, the contoversial Gaelic-leaguer who crossed swords with the Maynooth clerical authorities; resulted the erection of a statue which was unveiled by Cardinal Ó Fiaich; issued Two for a Woman, Three for a Man (1980), Oven Lane (1987); travelled to Newfoundland and America on Arts Council bursaries [An Chomhairle Ealaíon]; also issued All Souls (1997), One Another (2003), using his own photographs with poetry and prose;
 
ed. Full Tide: A Miscellany (1999); elected to Aosdána, 1998; winner of 2004 he received the eighth annual Lawrence O'Shaughnessy Award (St Thomas Centre for Irish Studies, St Paul, Minnesota), 2004; appt. Heimbold Professor of Irish Studies at Villanova University in 2005; featured in Cork Spring Literary Festival (“Dinnseachas / The Lore of Place”, Munster Lit. Centre, 17-20 2010; issued Going by Water (2010), a book of poetry, prose and photographs. OCIL

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Works
Poetry
  • Two for a Woman, Three for a Man [Gallery Books No. 55] (Dublin: Gallery Books 1980), 34pp.;
  • Oven Lane (Oldcastle: Gallery Books 1987), 71pp.;
  • All Souls (Oldcastle: Gallery Books 1997), 138pp. [poetry, memoir, fiction], and Do. [rev. edn. (Gallery Press 2001), 140pp.;
  • One Another (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2003),
  • Going By Water (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2009), 166pp.

 

Miscellaneous
  • ed., Brenda Yasin, Pilgrim spirit: A Selection of Verse ([Dublin:] S. Yasin 1986), 51pp.;
  • contrib. short piece in Krino [‘The State of Poetry’ special issue], ed. Gerald Dawe & Jonathan Williams (Winter 1993), pp.12-13;
  • Full Tide: A Miscellany (Nenagh: Relay Press 1999), ix, 182pp;
  • One Another (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2003), 192pp.
 

Contrib. to The Honest Ulsterman, issues 75 & 80 [see Tom Clyde, The Honest Ulsterman, Author Index, 1995]. Contribs. to The Irish Times incl. review of Éibhear Walshe, Cissie’s Abattoir (Irish Times, 3 Oct. 2009,. Weekend, p.12.)

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Criticism
  • Catriona Clutterbuck, ‘Turning Insides Out - Place, Time and Possibility of Connection in Contemporary Irish Poetry’ (NUI 1984);
  • Fred Johnston, review of One Another, in Books Ireland (April 2004), pp.89-90;
  • Eamonn Wall, ‘The Use of Memory: Michael Coady’s All Souls’, in South Carolina Review, 41, 2 (Spring 2009), pp.60-71.
  • John McAuliffe, review of Going by Water, in The Irish Times (23 Jan. 2010), Weekend, p.11 [see extract].
  • Rory Brennan, review of Going by Water, in Books Ireland (Oct. 2010), p.204 [see extract],

 

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Commentary
John McAuliffe, review of Going by Water, in The Irish Times (23 Jan. 2010), Weekend, p.11: ‘Michael Coady’s Going By Water is a large and ambitious project. [...] His river poems are less interested in showing us the wet fact of a river than in recording how the Suir is loved, feared, named and talked about: elegies for the drowned are placed side by side with poems of river lore such as “The Wobbler’s Tale”, which begins: ‘He swore / by the holy jingos / and the high cross / of Kilkenny.’ Coady relishes the humours and local idioms of Carrick, and Going By Water is broadly comic and theatrical about the human community of its river town. While there is great lightness in the book’s hop, skip and jump across genres – Coady’s now characteristic mix of verse, photo and prose – his sketches of the town’s characters lack the focus and structure with which, for example, small towns are imagined in comparable works, such as Fellini’s Amarcord and John McGahern’s That They May Face the Rising Sun. Although Coady threads river images through each of the book’s five sections, he is more a chronicler than a shaping participant in Going By Water, inviting other voices into the book and relaxing in their lively and often very funny company. [...]’ (For full text, see RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, attached.)

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Rory Brennan, review of Going by Water, in Books Ireland (Oct. 2010): ‘Collections of poems should have memorable titles. Dylan Thomas is an exception but then he, quite rightly, could get away with anything. Thom Gunn was a poet of unforgettable titles, “My Sad Captains” being his best. Michael Coady’s tend to be flat, Oven Lane for example. Going by Water is also dull, if it does remind me of the comic ballad “Brian O’Lynn”. When his jaunting car falls off a bridge after a spree O’Lynn says, “We’ll go home by the water!” Coady is a native of Carrick on Suir and that river has appeared in his work before in a fine elegy for Job Wilks, an English soldier drowned while garrisoned in the town in 1868. One of the first points to note about this new, much larger and more lavish volume, is that it displays no advance or refinement in poetic technique since Oven Lane in 1987. If anything the opposite is the case. It must also be noted that Coady is a capable photographer and his pictures throughout the book of boats and boatmen on the Suir as well as other topics are generally well composed. / I made some reservations above about the celebration of the local as a persistent theme. Much of the legitimacy for all this as a theme in Irish verse comes from Patrick Kavanagh and his championship of the parochial overthe provincial, a dodgy distinction if there ever was one. However Kavanagh could project his small world on to a larger screen with real illumination. “That was the year of the Munich bother”; “Not any streets but the streets of nineteen forty”. These are brilliant, very close to great lines. This capacity to universalise, to allot perspective to the minor and major event, to juxtapose accurately, is just what Coady fails to bring about in his elegies forfishermen, his portraits of slightly eccentric ladies, old bachelor rakes, traditional musicians and so on. / These people, their lives not more or less valid than anyone else’s, simply stay where they are. Little in this book resonates, reaches out or rebounds. It strikes me this might be the end of the line for the O’Connor- O’Faolain strain of provincial realism, petering out in verse rather than in prose as one might expect. Laterwhen Coady goes to Paris he tracks down an Irish nun who spent her life working with prostitutes. The poem about her, fine woman as she undoubtedly was, is not really a poem at all. Written out ’straight’, it is a simply a magazine article. It also has to be said that Coady’s habitual resort to the standard cliche is enervating. In the space of a few lines I find: dusk gathering / ruined castle / running water / strangely changes. There are a hundred more such examples of the mundane and humdrum. The cliche has its place in poetry, but it is in the way used by Auden, who isolated it, refurbished its context and drove it home anew with startling effects. This book is made all the more disappointing by the sense that here is a genuine and well-informed poetic sensibility that has failed to find expression.’ (p.204.)

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Quotations
Na Prataí Dubha”: ‘The black potatoes / scattered our neighbours, / Sent them to the poorhouse / across the sea; / They are stretched in hundreds / in the mountain graveyard, / May the heavenly host / take up their plea.’ (All Souls 1997; 2001; also contains “ Five Airs from an Older Music” and a prose-piece consisting in a discussion of the stories of his father and uncles and their relation to Ireland during the age of emigration).

Letting Go
  I love the abandon
of abandoned things

the harmonium surrendering
in a churchyard in Aherlow,
the hearse resigned to nettles
behind a pub in Carna,
the tin dancehall possessed
by convolvulus in Kerry,
the living room that hosts
a tree in south Kilkenny.

I sense a rapture
in deserted things

washed-out circus posters
derelict on gables,
lush forgotten sidings
of country railway stations,
bat droppings profligate
on pew and font and lectern,
the wedding dress a dog
has nosed from a dustbin.

I love the openness
of things no longer viable,
I sense their shameless
slow unbuttoning:
the implicit nakedness
there for the taking,
the surrender to the dance
of breaking and creating.
—from Oven Lane (1987); given on Poetry International website; accessed 21.11.2-15.

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Grandparents: ‘I can recall the Waterford city of more than a decade before the period of which Eibhear Walshe writes colourfully and affectionately, if questioningly. My maternal grandparents - he a photographer and she a chirch organist and piano teacher - lived in a big rambling gassit house on O’Connell Street, and I would spend holidays there as a child temporarily transferred from my small upriver hometown of Carrick-on-Suir. It was an exotic remove to what was still a quasi-Edwardian world. To the end of her life, a tune from Wallace or Balfe could bring my Waterford-born mother to tears, exiles as she was through marriage in Carrick. And inward world? Yes and no. As well as old crones in shawls there were ships on the big river and sailors in the streets.’ (Review of Eibhear Walshe, Cissie’s Abattoir, in The Irish Times, 3 Oct. 2009, Weekend, p.12.)

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References
Anthologised
in Poets of Munster (Anvil 1985); Irish Poets 1924-1974 (Pan Books 1975); Dannie Abse, ed., Best of the Poetry Year 4 (Robson Books 1976); Best of the Poetry Year 6 (Robson Books 1979); Gabriel Fitzmaurice, ed., Irish Poetry Now (Wolfhound 1993).

Hibernia Books (Cat. 19) lists Two for a Woman, Three for a Man (Gallery 1980).

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