Theo Dorgan

1953- ; b. Cork; son of a Dunlop tyre-factory worker; ed. St Vincent’s Convent, Cork, and UCC, MA 1984; arts organiser and director of Poetry Ireland/Éigse Éireann for eleven years; co-Director of Cork Film Festival and Literature Officer of Triskel Arts Centre; issued The Ordinary House of Love (Galway: Salmon Publ. 1992), winner of Listowel Prize for Poetry, 1992; ed. with Malcolm Maclean, An Leabhar Mór: The Great Book of Ireland (2002), a compilation of 259 Irish and Scottish-Gaelic poets’ work with illustrations by painters accompanying each [var. 150]; Rosa Mundi (1995); ed., Irish Poetry Since Kavanagh (1996);
appt. Independent Assessor of Arts Council submissions to Minister of Arts, Nov. 2000; voyaged from Antigua to Kinsale on board 70-foot schooner “The Spirit of Oysterhaven”, with three others; and issued travel-memoir, Sailing for Home (2004); issued ed., A Book of Uncommon Prayer (Penguin 2007), incorporating examples from world religions dealing with hopes, fears, thanks, spells and oracles as well as death and God; hosts regular RTÉ interview arts programme; a member of Aosdána; Board of Irish Arts Council; ed., with Noel Duffy, Watching the River Flow: A Century in Irish Poetry (1999), and contrib. to Flowing Still: Irish Poets on Irish Poetry, ed. Pat Doran (2009);
issued My Time on the Ocean (2010) recording a voyage from Punto Arenas [Cape Horn] to Capetown on board the 70-ft. Pelagic Australis; winner of O'Shaughnessy Award for Irish Poetry, (Boston College, Mass.), 2010; issued Nine Bright Shiners (2014); he lives in Dublin. OCIL

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  • Slow Air (Pine Tree Press 1985);
  • Moscow Quartet (priv. 1989) [pamphlet; var. 1987];
  • The Ordinary House of Love (Galway: Salmon Publ. 1990), 76pp.; [rep. 1993];
    Nine Views of Uzbekhistan (Dubli: Harkin Press 1992) [pamphlet] 
  • Rosa Mundi (Galway: Salmon 1995), [18] 73pp.;
  • Sappho’s Daughter (Dublin: Wave Train Press 1998), 27pp.;
  • La casa ai margini del mondo, a cura di Mario Gosa e Daniele Serafini (Faenza: Mobydick 1998), 89pp.;
  • What This Earth Costs Us (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2008), 168pp.;
  • with Tony Curtis & Paula Meehan, Days Like These (Washington State: Brooding Heron Press 2008);
    Greek (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2010)
    Nine Bright Shiners (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2014), 142pp.,
  • Making Way (Dublin: New Island 2013), 242pp.
  • Songs of Earth and Light, by Barbara Korun [1963- ] (Southword 2005), 62pp. [Slovene author].
  • with Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha, ed., Revising the Rising, Essays on 1916 (Field Day, 1991);
  • ed., with Gene Lambert, The Great Book of Ireland (1991), 250pp. [510 x 360 x 110mm.; contribs. by 121 artists, 143 poets and 9 composers writing directly on vellum handmade by Joe Katz with calligraphy by Denis Brown and design consultant Trevor Scott (S.D.I.); bound by Anthony Cains; boxed by Eric Pearce with silver clasp by Brian Clarke].
    Postface [afterword] to Seamus Heaney, Les Errance de Sweeney, trans. by B. Hoepffner (Nantes: Passeur 1994);
  • ed., Podium (Tralee: Kerry Arts Fest. 1996);
  • ed., Irish Poetry Since Kavanagh (Blackrock: Four Courts 1996), 162pp. [see contents];
  • ed., A Book of Uncommon Prayer (Penguin Ireland 2007), viii, 294pp.
  • ed., with Malcolm Maclean, Leabhar mór na Gáidhlig/Leabhar mór na Gaeilge: The Great Book of Ireland (Edinburgh: Canongate 2002, 2008), vii, 321pp., col. ills; [23 x 28cm];
  • ed., with Noel Duffy, Watching the River Flow: A Century in Irish Poetry (Dublin: Poetry Ireland 1999), 264pp.;
  • Sailing for Home: A Voyage from Antigua to Kinsale (Penguin Ireland 2004), 320pp.; [var. 2006; rep. Dedalus Press 2010);
  • ed., A Book of Uncommon Prayer (Penguin 2007, 2008), viii, 194pp.
  • Time on the Ocean: A Voyage from Cape Horn to Cape Town (Dublin: New Island Press 2010), 306pp., ill. [map].
Sundry contributions
  • ‘Interview with Paula Meehan’, in Colby Quarterly, 28 (Dec. 1992), pp.265-69;
  • review of Collected Poems by John Montague (1995), in Sunday Independent (31. Dec. 1995; 8L) [available online];
  • ‘Arts in Northern Ireland’, letter to The Irish Times (24 Sept. 2000) [see extract];
  • “Watercolour”, a poem, in The Irish Times (6 Sept. 2008), Weekend [see infra];
  • contrib. to Flowing, Still: Irish Poets on Irish Poetry, ed. Pat Boran (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2009).
  • Theo Dorgan reads “Death of an Irishwoman” by Michael Hartnett by Michael Harnett in Voices and Poetry of Ireland (London: HarperCollins 2003)

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Bibliographical details
Irish Poetry Since Kavanagh, ed. Theo Dorgan (Dublin: Four Courts Press 1996), 162pp. Introduction [7]; Augustine Martin, ‘Kavanagh and After: An Ambiguous Legacy’ [21]; Gerald Dawe, ‘The European Modernists: MacGreevy, Devlin and Coffey’ [32]; Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, ‘Modern Poetry in Irish, 1940-197’ [42]; Edna Longley, ‘Out of Ulster 1: Louis MacNeice and His Influence’ [52]; Terence Brown, ‘Out of Ulster 2: Heaney, Montague, Mahon and Longley’ [6-]; Anthony Roche, ‘Platforms: ‘The Journals, the Publishers’ [71]; Alan Titley, ‘Inntí and Onward: The New Poetry in Irish’ [82]; Eamon Grennan, ‘American Relations’ [95]; Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, ‘The Hidden Ireland: Women’s Inheritance’ [106]; John Goodby, ‘New Wave 1: “A Rising Tide”; Irish Poetry in the 1960s’ [116]; Eavan Boland, ‘New Wave 2: Born in the 50s; Irish Poets of the Global Village’ [136]; Dorgan, ‘Looking Over the Edge’ [147]. Index [159].

Website: There is a link to Dorgan, ‘Twentieth-century Irish Language Poetry’ [essay], in An leabhar mór/The Great Book of Gaelic (rep. in Archipelago [online].)

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A Dorgan CV
  • Assistant Director on the Great Book of Ireland - a film commissioned from Gandon Productions for RTÉ.
  • Presenter of Poetry Now on RTÉ Radio 1, 1996-97, and 1993-95.
  • Ed. & presented Irish Poetry Since Kavanagh in Radio Thomas Davis Lecture Series (RTÉ).
  • Scripted & narrated Hidden Treasures, 4-part documentary ser. (Loopline Productions; RTÉ & BBC TV), 1998.
  • Scripted & presented Imprint (RTÉ TV), 1999-2000 [book programme].
  • Scripted & narrated Ordinary Things (Loopline Productions for the National Museum of Ireland), 2001.
    Co-scripted & narrated Farmleigh: The Story of a House (Loopline Productions for RTÉ) 2010.
    Presented The Invisible Thread, interview series on RT&E Lyric FM [2001-06]
  • Commissioned by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands to report on submissions arising from the ministerial document Towards A New Framework For The Arts - resulting in the so-called Dorgan Report.
See Dorgan website > Biography - online.

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Bookwork” (The Irish Times, 15 Feb. 1997), quotes Dorgan as saying that Poetry Ireland is planning to make 1997 the year ‘when the balance of our readings programme shifts decisively out of Dublin’, particularly to the midlands and the North. And, says Theo Dorgan, ‘we positively welcome approaches from arts organisations and festivals who would like to feature poetry in their program.’

See also interview, in Books Ireland (Dev. 2004), p.289, on Sailing for Home (Penguin Ireland 2004).

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N.I. Ghetto?: Theo Dorgan writes to The Irish Times (24 Sept. 2000) on ‘Arts in Northern Ireland’, much regretting the ‘intemperate and ad hominem tone’ of Damian Smyth’s letter in response to Peter Sirr on the apparent ghettoisation of Northern Ireland citizens by imputed racial and religious affiliation and the condescending parallel with respect to women.’

Watercolour”: ‘I watched you work the colour on soft paper ... until something comes clear and you stand back, surprised and not mistaken: now you’ve found it, /what you’d already guessed was already there. // So with our lives .... My life had been all colour since that day / you wrote your address for me on soft paper / the forms of our promised future coming clear.’ (In The Irish Times, 6 Sept. 2008, Weekend, p.11.)

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Wild Orchids, Windflowers” (i.m. John McGahern, 1934-2006): ‘The long lane curves out beside the lake, / swagged mist in the hawthorns either side. / Leaf rot in the ditches, dust on the verge, / green tunnel of ash and silver birch. // Time you were taking your way to the land of the dead. / The lane joins a country road, drops to the valley. / Bridge then, stone arch, birds in the stream. / Out into sun, a broad land of fields, the bare hill upward, light breaking every where on rock, // Time thick in your throat on the road to the land of the dead. // Now the wide highway, built in these last years. / Turn to the west, walk on into the shadow / of your self, this self you made in the dull afternoons - / the-pen laid down, hand flat on the board. // Evening now, full quiet, on the road to the land, of the dead. // Then finally, there up ahead, the wall of stars. / The black vault of time, the heft of glory – you turn, / you fall back along your march, / down the blank highway, the road, the funneling lane, / back the long journey from the land of the quiet dead // to the house under the trees. Light in the window, voices; / lamp on the deal table, a glass of whiskey, a pen. / Blackbird rustling under the laurel, woodsmoke; you settle your shoulders, you lift the latch, you step in.’ (The Irish Times, 6 June 2009, Weekend, p.13.)

Speaking Direct to the Camera

I had forgotten my country,
had learned the trick of living here
in the silence of a closed heart,
an exile in my native place.

I knew not to tell my story,
well-schooled in the national art
of tell them nothing, hide the fear,
select a mask to hide your face.

Then, something underground shifted.
Unforeseen change came in the air.
A young woman knocked on my door,
and asked if she could speak to me.

Simple as that. A weight lifted,
and up all unexpected burned
the flame of story buried there
all those years, the light of memory

granted liberty to shine out.
A chance encounter, if it was.
A young woman who knew no fear
offered her art to set me free -

I had forgotten my country
until my country remembered me.

  Shared by the poet on Facebook, 29.05.2108.
Note: The poem was written and posted on Facebook at the time of the successful Referendum to remove the 8th Amendment involving the ban on abortion in Ireland.

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CCILB: Worked variously as labourer, [taxi]-driver, tutor, lecturer, Arts Organiser, Film Festival Director; Director Poetry Ireland/Eigse Eireann & Broadcaster. Works: Slow Air (Pine Tree Press 1985); Moscow Quartet (priv. 1987); The Ordinary House of Love (Salmon 1992); ed. Revising the Rising, Essays on 1916, with Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha (Field Day, 1991); also ed., with Gene Lambert, The Great Book of Ireland, unique manuscript in vellum with 259 contribs. Dublin, Poetry Ireland/Éigse Eireann & Clash Ganna Mills Trust; sundry journalism. [Author records of Coleraine Centre for Irish Lit. & Bibliog.]

Internet: There is a Theo Dorgan home page - online.

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Translation Cork: Cork poets incl. Bernard O’Donoghue, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Theo Dorgan, Greg Delanty, Robert Welch, participated in Cork 2005 European translation series directed by Pat Cotter of the Munster Literature Centre.

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