Patrick Galvin

Life

1927- ; b. [poss.] 15 Aug., 13 Margaret St. [off Barrack St.] , Cork; with seven siblings. his childhood was blighted by the poverty and his parents’ troubled relationship; ed. Presentation Brothers (CBS); encouraged to read by a Jewish neighbour; disruptive behaviour resulted in 3 years sentence to St. Conleth’s Industrial School (Daingean, Co. Offaly) [reformatory], 1938; influenced by an English teacher and a veteran of the Spanish Civil War [poss. neighbour, supra]; returned to Cork, discarding the suit supplied behind a hedge, 1939; sold broadsheets in Cork pubs in early childhood; employed as messenger boy, newspaper boy, and projectionist in Washington St. and Lee cinemas; travelled to Belfast to join American Army but enlisted in RAF Bomber Command mistake instead, 1942; served in UK, Palestine, and Sierre Leone (Coastal Command, Africa); variously employed in London in post-war period; encounter Seamus Ennis, who encouraged his folk-singing;
 
made 7 records of of Irish folk-song from 1798-1923 for WMA, Stinstson Records and Riverside Records, NY; wrote songs incl. his “James Connolly”, sung by Christy Moore; broadcast poetry with BBC; issued Heart of Grace (1957); made Life and Poetry of J. M. Synge (BBC3, 1959), a radio feature; briefly moved to Dublin, 1962; a play, And Him Stretched (Unity Theatre, London 1962); returned to London, 1963; wrote Boy in the Smoke (BBC 2, 1965); settled at Roaring Water Bay, W. Cork, 1965; Cry the Believers (1965), play; travelled in Spain, Israel, Germany, 1967-69; The Wood Burners (1973), poetry; resident dramatist at Lyric Theatre, Belfast, as poet-in-residence,1974-77, and recipient of the Leverhulme Fellowship in Drama, 1974-76; Nightfall to Belfast (Lyric Th. 1973) - a play involving testimonies to state brutality in monologue form which was nearly interrupted by a 300 lb. car-bomb, fortunately defused outside the Lyric; dir. Yeats’s Purgatory (Lyric Th. 1974); The Last Burning (Lyric 1974), based on the story of Brigid Cleary; We Do [var. Did] It for Love (Lyric Th. 1975), ballad opera set in N. Ireland Troubles, and centred on a merry-go-round; also The Devil’s Own People (Dublin Th. Fest. 1976); issued Man on the Porch: Selected Poems (1979); spent six months in Spain; resident writer, East Midland Arts, 1980-82;
 
wrote Class of ‘39 (BBC4 1981), radio play; read at Washington Library of Congress; wrote My Silver Bird, with music by Peadar O’Riada (Lyric Th. 1981); wrote and dir., I Mind My Time (Belfast Fest. 1982), one-man show; dir. Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape (Belfast Th. Fest. 1982); travelled in Spain for research; moved to Ballycotton, East Cork and appt. writer-in-residence, UCC (NUI); issued City Child Come Trailing Home and Landscape and Seascape (RTÉ 1983), radio plays; elected to Aosdána, 1984; wrote Quartet for Nightown, and Wolfe (RTÉ 1984), radio plays; settled in Belfast; adapted The Country Woman by Paul Smith (BBC4 1986); adapted The Monkey’s Paw by W. Jacobs (BBC4 1986); dir. Oscar Wilde (Brighton Pavilion 1987); issued Folk Tales for the General (1990); Song for a Poor Boy (1990); reading tour in Mexico and Newfoundland, 1991; returned to Cork, 1991; Song for a Raggy Boy (1991), autobiography, adapted for film with Aidan Quinn in lead-role; The Death of Arthur O’Leary (1994); O’Shaugnessy Award for Poetry from Irish American Cult. Institute, and reading tour in USA, 1994;
 
writer in residence and ed. Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Co. Anthology (1996), incl. his own Village Diary; hix New and Selected Poems was edited by Greg Delanty and Robert Welch (1996); The Raggy Boy Trilogy issued 2003, to be filmed by Aisling Walsh; awarded Hon. D.Litt at UCC (NUI), 2 June 2006; MSS copies of his plays are held in the John Burns Library of Boston College. DIL DIW OCIL

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Works
Poetry, Heart of Grace (London: Linden Press 1957); Christ in London (London: Linden Press 1960); The Woodburners (Dublin: New Writers’s Press 1973); Midnight and Other Poems (1979); Man on the Porch (London: Martin Brian and O’Keeffe 1980) [var. 1979]; Folk Tales for the General (Dublin: Raven Arts 1990);The Death of Arthur O’Leary (Cork: Three Spires Press 1994), 26pp.; Greg Delanty & Robert Welch, eds. & intro., New and Selected Poems of Patrick Galvin (Cork UP 1996), 128[133]pp. Also Irish Songs of Resistance (1955); The Madwoman of Cork ((1987) [portfolio edn., infra]; also Do., as cassette recording; Songs for a Poor Boy (1989).

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Plays, Cry The Believers (1960); And Him Stretched (1961); Boy in the Smoke (1965); The Last Burning (1974); We Do It for Love (1976); Nightfall to Belfast (1976); The Devil’s Own People (1976); The Class of ‘39 (1980); My Silver Bird (1980); City Child, Come Trailing Home (1983); Landscape and Seascape (1983); Quartet for Nightown (1984); Wolfe (1984

Autobiography, Song for a Poor Boy: A Cork Childhood (Dublin: Raven Arts Press 1990), 111pp. [1-85186-080-0]; Song for a Raggy Boy (Dublin: Raven Arts 1991); Song for a Fly Boy (due 1997); issued jointly as The Raggy Boy Trilogy (Raven Arts 2003).

Miscellaneous, Letter to A British Soldier on Irish Soil (Detroit: Red Hanrahan Press 1972) [ltd. 500]. Translation, Yilmaz Odabaci, Everything But You, trans. Patrick Galvin & Robert O’Donoghue [Munster Lit. Centre] (Cork: Southword 2006), 66pp.

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Bibliographical details
Portfolio: his longer poem “The Madwoman of Cork” was been produced in a portfolio edition of 1987 with 8 lithographic illustrations by Kent Clark, one for each stanza; copied of the ltd. edition of 75 are held in Harvard University Library, Boston, Massachusetts, USA The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast, Northern Ireland St. Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada The University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Canada The Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, County Monaghan, Ireland The Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland and numerous private collections worldwide. Kent Jones holds the Chair of Fine Art at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Commentary
Michael Smith, review of New and Selected Poems (1997), in The Irish Times (11 Jan. 1997), quoting extensively, remarking that the poetry is not politically correct (without praised or blame), and further that ‘the poets affinities are with the odd, the deprived, the dispossessed and the marginalised’, characterising him as a ‘performance poet’.

Robert Welch & Greg Delanty, New and Selected Poems of Patrick Galvin (Cork UP 1996), Introduction [by Welch], pp.vii-xvi. ‘[P]articular importance may be attached to the self-respect and fraternal pride that was fostered in the nineteenth-century craftsman’s an artisans’ guild in Cork. The rights of the skilled craftsmen were jealously protected in this context of economic prosperity, which meant that there was a hierarchy of labour and that a sense of value was attached to physical work. Cork had (still has?) a working class not easily cowed and one keenly concerned with issued of social justice. This is one reason why Jews were welcome in Cork in the early twentieth century, when other cities adopted distinctly anti-Semitic attitudes. The small but very significant Jewish population of Cork surfaces in Galvin’s autobiographical writings in a hatred of fascist, totalitarian and authoritarian ideologies, which is everywhere evident in his poetry and drama./The most formative influence, however, on Galvin’s radical liberalism was the fact that he grew up in a city with a tradition of rebellion after the Anglo-Irish war of 1919-1922 won partial independence for Ireland from Britain. There was much disillusionment, and that mood informs the atmosphere of the post-revolutionary school of realist prose, chief among which was that of the Corkmen Frank O’Connor and Sean O’Faolain [...]. Certainly the spirit of Connolly’s humane socialism informed Galvin’s boyhood and earl manhood as much as the sacral transcendentalism of Patrick Pearse./However, the figure of Michael Collins, IRA leader and one of the chief negotiators of the Treaty haunted Galvin’s imagination, as it did that of many young men in Cork and the rest of Ireland in the post-revolutionary period.. His ruthlessness, integrity and daring and the fact that he was ambushed and killed in mysterious circumstances made him a figure of mystery and power, qualities celebrated in Galvin’s lament for the “Big Fella” and in “The White Monument” [xi] [...] But another element creeps in as well, ad a crucial and determining one in Galvin’ range of voices: it is a note of excited celebration that comes from Federico Garcia Lorca. Galvin learnt from Lorca how it was possible to unite folk energy with modernist and indeed surrealist effects. This alliance is bravely attempted in “The White Monument” when the Irish caoineadh and Lorca’s lyric enthusiasm are joined to evoke and salute the chthonic power and vital masculinity of Michael Collins ... bull-fighting imagery is prominent in [the poem]. ... modern English cannot sustain a long note of excited elegy in the way Irish and Spanish can.’ [xxi]; speaks of Paul Durcan and Gerry Murphy as having learned a great deal from Galvin’s methods; ‘He is a poet of troubled conscience, and many (especially later) poems, such as Folk Tales for the General” bear witness to this: however, there is another Galvin which is wonderfully indifferent to conscience and its troubles. This is the one we see traces of in “The White Monument”, which celebrates the sheer energy beyond our judgement, of a powerful personality.’ [goes on to cite “My Little Knife”, a poem compared with Yeats’s Crazy Jane sequence; ‘This is the real thing.’ [xiii]; highlights “The Kings are Out”; notes workings of ‘a kind of appalled conscience’ in Belfast poems such as “Midnight”; and “Troubles”; compares the ‘enigmatic situation ... in a kind of skeletal folk tale’ of these with work of Pablo Neruda and Gabriel Garcia Marquez; ‘Galvin is a pet who combines a very strong sense of the community that shaped and formed him, and gave him his voice, with a broad sense of human concerns, that range from social idealism through pity for the victims of power, to anger at wrongs done. In spite of this alert and engaged conscience, however, his verse also celebrated the energy which his indifferent to our moral conscience and conscientious objections.’ [&c.; xvi.]

Shirley Kelly, ‘The brutality of that place I’ll never forget’ [interview with Patrick Galvin], in Books Ireland (Feb. 2003): Galvin son of mostly unemployed dock-worker in Cork, with four brothers and three sisters, now mostly lost in diaspora; his mother a supporter of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War; a maternal grandfather shot dead in Chicago bootlegging wars; other eccentric relatives; sent as teenager to reformatory (‘My parents couldn’t make any hand of me’; I was out of control […]’); Song for a Raggy Boy set in fictional St. Jude’s; ‘mindless beatings and the most sadistic punishments’; arrival of new English teacher William Franklin, returned from Spanish Civil War, introduces interest in literature and encourages literacy among the boys; later died at Normandy; Galvin travelled to Belfast to join American forces but accidentally recruited to the RAF ‘by mistake’ and became bomb-loader, serving in Britain, North Africa, Palestine and Sierre Leone; settled in London; read poems on BBC; married with two daughters and separated; issued 7-disk set of Irish ballads of 1798-1923; returned to Belfast and ultimately to Cork with his second wife, 1996. (pp.5-6.)

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References
Brian De Breffny, ed., Cultural Encyclopaedia of Ireland, contains a short entry: ‘his genius and pieties inseparable from his birthplace, Cork.’

Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (1979) describes his verse as ‘vigorous slabs of language rather than poetry’, and characterises his Belfast plays as ‘thin stuff’.

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Notes
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.

Last Burning? Galvin’s play of 1974 is variously described as being based on based on the story of Brigid Cleary and on the Dame Kyteler witch trial in Kilkenny.

Birth date: either April 15th or August 15th, 1927 or possibly 1929 or later. Galvin’s date of birth remains uncertain as his mother changed the date on his birth certificate so that he could more easily find employment. (See Galvin page at John Burns Library, Boston College [link].) It is also unclear from reference sources how long he remained in Daingean and whether the influential teacher was a member of staff there.

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