James Liddy

Commentary

Life
1934-2008 [James Daniel Liddy]; b. 1 July 1934 (‘Night of the Long Knives’), at Lwr. Pembroke St., Dublin [nursing home], the son of dispensary doctor at Coolgreany, Co. Wexford, and Irish-American mother, New-Yorker and socialite to whom he was deeply attached; brought up in Co. Wexford and Co. Clare; ed. Glenstal Abbey School [OSB] and UCD; entered Irish bar and practised up to the 1960s; befriended by Patrick Kavanagh, whom he took identified as his mentor; lived in Dublin, Kilkee, Trieste, Valladolid; moved to San Francisco [aetat. 33], teaching at SF State College and living in Haight-Ashbury, 1967; also lived in New Orleans; he became an American citizen and was appt. Asst. Prof. Wisconsin-Milwaukee Univ., where he remained since early 1980s;
 
ed., with Michael Hartnett and Liam O’Connor, Arena in the 1963-65s [4 iss.]; contrib. to Aquarius, The Dubliner, and the Kilkenny Magazine; sometime chairman of Gorey Arts Centre and ed. The Gorey Detail, 1977-83; issued Orpheus and the Ice-Cream Parlour (1975), fiction; his poetry collections incl. Esau, My Kingdom for a Drink: Homage to James Joyce on his LXXX Birthday (1962) - which is was reviewed dyspectically by Flann O’Brien [as infra]; In a Blue Smoke (1964); Blue Mountain (1968); A Life of Stephen Dedalus (1969); A Munster Song of Love and War (1971), expressing homosexual love; Baudelaire’s Bar Room Flowers (1975); Corca Bascinn (1977); Comyn’s Lay (1978); Chamber Pot Music (1982); At the Grave of Fr. Sweetman (1984); associated with Blue Canary poetry magazine (Milwaukee) from 1980s;
 
celebrated homosexuality in Young Men Go Out Walking (1986); issued further collections, Epitaphery (1998); God Set Dancing (2000); I Only Know that I Love Strength in my Friends and Greatness (2003); elected a member of Aosdána; proposed that Beresford Place be renamed Nora Barnacle Place; issued The Doctor s House (2005), an autobiography covering childhood, days in McDaid’s with Kavanagh & Co., and liberating American sojourn, with a sequel as The Full Shilling (2009), a second autobiography and memoir of literary acquaintance incl. Patrick Kavanagh, Francis Stuart, Flann O’Brien, and Noel Browne; Honeysuckle, Honeyjuice, a feschrift, was launched at UWM on 18 April 2006;
 
Liddy died at home in Milwaukee on 5 Nov. 2008 [3.a.m.]; survived by his partner Jim Chapson and a sister, Nora; an obituary appeared in The Irish Times on 8 Nov. 2008 and a notice on Sat. 11 Nov. 2008; there was a celebration of his work at the Writers Centre, Dublin, on 28 June 2011; a Selected Poems has been edited by John Redmond; there is a dedicatory poem in Philip Casey’s Dialogue from a Fading Light (2005). DIW DIL
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Works
Poetry
  • In a Blue Smoke (Dublin: Dolmen 1964), 40pp.[see contents].
  • Blue Mountain (Dublin: Dolmen/NY 1968), 39pp.
  • with Jim Chapson & Thomas Hill, Blue House: Poems in the Chinese Manner - to the Memory of Jack Spicer (Honolulu/Los Altos: Nine Beasts Press [1968]), 51pp.
  • A Life of Stephen Dedalus (SF: White Rabbit Press 1969), [16]pp.
  • A Munster Song of Love and War (SF: White Rabbit Press 1971), 13pp.
  • Homage to Patrick Kavanagh, ed. Trevor Joyce (Dublin: New Writers’ Press 1971), 6pp.
  • Baudelaire’s Bar Room Flowers (Santa Barbara: Capra Press, White Rabbit 1975), 53pp., ill. [ltd. edn. 500].
  • Orpheus and the Ice-Cream Parlour (Gorey: Funge Gallery 1975).
  • Corca Bascinn (Dublin: Dolmen; NY: OUP 1977), 64pp.
  • Comyn’s Lay (Fort Bragg: West Coast Print Center 1978), 32pp.
  • Chamber Pot Music (Berkeley: Hit & Run Press 1982), [20]pp. [ded. to Kay Boyle].
  • Moon and Star Moments (NY: At-Swim Press 1982) [1v].
  • At the Grave of Fr. Sweetman (Naas: Malton Press 1984).
  • Art is Not for Grown Ups (Milwaukee: Blue Canary; Dublin: Kerr’s Pinks 1990), 26pp.
  • In the Slovak Bowling Alley (Milwaukee: Blue Canary Press; Dublin: Kerr’s Pinks 1990), 24pp.
  • Gold Set Dancing (Galway: Salmon 2000), 72pp.
  • On the Raft with Fr Roseliep (Dublin: Arlen House 2006), 64pp.
  • I Only Know That I Love Strength in My Friends and Greatness (Dublin: Arlen House 2003) [q.pp.]
  • Wexford and Arcady (Galway: Arlen House 2009), 80pp.
  • Askeaton Sequence (Galway: Arlen House 2009), 80pp.
Selected & Collected
  • A White Thought in a White Shade: New and Selected Poems (Dublin: Kerr’s Pinks 1987), 144pp. Collected Poems, intro. Brian Arkins (Creighton UP 1994), xc, 359pp.
  • Selected Poems, ed. John Redmond (2011),
Broadsheets, &c.
  • ed., Poetry Broadsheet, 1 (Gorey: Funge Art Centre [1972]), [12]pp., ill. & designed by Robert Armstrong [40.2 x 13 cm].
  • [with others], Poem-sheet 2 (Athlone: Kincora Poetry 1975), 6pp. [1 folded sheet) [poems by Frank Bannon, Conleth Ellis, Peter Fallon, Frances Gwynn, Paul Hoare, Brendan Kennelly, Liddy and Gearoid O’Brien].
  • intro., This was “Arena”, (Naas: Malton Press 1982), 115pp., ill. [facsims. of all 4 issues; ports.; 38 cm.]
Translation
  • The Poems of Amadeo Modigliani, translated by James Liddy ([Gorey]: Funge Art Centre [1976]), [8]pp., ill.  [copy in TCD Library]
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Prose
  • Young Men Go Out Walking, in Triad: Modern Irish Fiction (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1986) [with “Mrs. Klein” by Ronit Lentin & “Ivy Lodge” by Tomás Ó Murchadha].
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Autobiography
  • The Doctor’s House (Galway: Salmon Press 2005), 142pp. [see notice]
  • The Full Shilling (Moher: Salmon Press 2009), 146pp. . [see notice]
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Miscellaneous
  • Esau, My Kingdom for a Drink: Homage to James Joyce on his LXXX Birthday (Dublin: Dolmen 1962) [see extract].
  • You Can’t Jog for Jesus: Jack Kerouac as a Religious Writer [address given at St. Hedwig’s Parish, Milwaukee, 6 April 1984] (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Blue Canary Press [1984]), 12pp., ill. [22 cm.]
  • Trees Warmer than Green: Notes Towards a Video of Avondale House (Portlaoise: International University Press 1991), 26pp. [copy in Univ. of London, RLS]
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Contributions
  • Contrib. four poems to University Review (Summer 1963), pp.21-24 [as infra];
  • ‘Irish Poets and the Protestant Muse’, in Éire-Ireland: A Journal of Irish Studies, 14, 2 (Summer 1979), pp.118-[28].
  • ‘Shorts for John Jordan, Earl MacCarthy and Kevin Monaghan’ and ‘Canticos’ [Two Poems], in Poetry Ireland Review, 41, ed. Pat Boran [‘Sexuality Issue’] (Spring 1994).
  • ‘Voices in the Irish Cities of the Dead: Melodrama and Dissent in Frank McGuinness’s Carthaginians’, in Irish University Review (Winter/Autumn 1995), pp.278-84 [available at JSTOR Ireland online].
  • ed. The Natoma Free Sun, 1, 2 (San Francisco July 1968).
  • review of Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans, in The Irish Times (10 Sept. 2005).
Sundry other Irish Times reviews.
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Four Poems in University Review (Summer 1963)
  • “The Voice of America” (p.21) - available at JSTOR [online].
  • “Summer School” (pp.21-22) - available at JSTOR [online].
  • “The Parish, Limerick, New Year's Eve” (pp.22-23) - available at JSTOR [online].
  • “O Irish Students” (pp.23-24)   - available at JSTOR [online].

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Bibliographical details
In a
Blue Smoke: Poems by James Liddy (Dublin: Dolmen Press 1964), 40pp., contains “Patrick Kavanagh’s Dublin”; “To the Memory of Bernard Berenson”; “If Christ Walked Again: “Beatitudes, 1960”; “The Parish, Limerick, New Year’s Eve”; “For Seam[us] O’Casey”; “The Voice of America, 1960”; “Pacem in Terris”; “Prayer to Christ and Socrates”; “In a Blue Smoke”; “Thinking of Bookshops”; “Irish Muse”; “By the Western Seaboard”; “Another Fit of Venom”; “Forgiveness” Anne”; “Anne’s Dream”; “Dear One, a Saint”; “Words for my Love December 25”; “Anthony”; “Pat”; “Mother of God”; “To the Memory of Sylvia Plath”; “The First Gone”; “Post Alcoholum Tristis”; “Personal Odyssey”.

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Criticism
  • Brian Arkins, James Liddy: A Critical Study (Galway: Arlen House 2001), 118pp.;
  • Michael Begnal, ed., Honeysuckle, Honeyjuice: A Festschrift for James Liddy (Galway: Arlen Press; Cornell UP 2006) [contribs. incl. Dermot Bolger, Michael Casey, Michael Hartnett, Pearse Hutchinson, John Montague, Micheál Ó Conghaile, Liam O’Connor, Dennis O’Driscoll, Una O’Higgins O’Malley, Cathal Ó Searcaigh, Eamonn Wall, et al.].
  • Thomas Dillon Redshaw, ‘“We Done Our Best When We Were Let”: James Liddy’s Arena, 19631965’, in The South Carolina Review, 38, 1 (Fall 2005), pp.97-117 [see extract];
  • Eamonn Wall, ‘James Liddy: Poet & Editor’, in An Sionnach: A Journal of Literature, Arts and Culture, 1 (2005), pp.32-40.
  • David Gardiner, ‘A poet permeated by the Beat’, review of Honeysuckle, Honeyjuice: A Tribute to James Liddy, and On the Raft with Fr Roseliep, in The Irish Times (3 Feb. 2007), Weekend, p.12;
  • Irish Times, Obituary (8 Nov. 2008) [see extract]- online.
  • John Redmond, review of Wexford and Arcady and Askeaton Sequence by James Liddy, in An Sionnach: A Journal of Literature, Culture, and the Arts, 5, 1 & 2 (Spring & Fall 2009), pp.302-05 [see extract].

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Commentary
Thomas Redshaw Dillon, A Poet’s Portraits of Personalities’, review of The Doctor’s House, in The Irish Times (7 May 2005), Weekend, p.11: ‘James Liddy’s The Doctor’s House offers a rewarding portrait of the artist rather than the usual autobiography. The cover photograph of young Liddy standing with his father at the door to their Coolgreany residence sets the scene. In these pages, Liddy renders his life as poet discontinuously in disarmingly quick essays that have the self-delighted tone of the memoir. / Consequently, The Doctor’s House lacks the continuities of Anthony Cronin’s or John Ryan’s portrayals of Dublin ’s Bohemia in the 1950s and early 1960s. The Doctor’s House teases a reader’s craving for narrative, unlike Richard Murphy’s The Kick (2002) or John Montague’s Company (2001). / Amused and amusing, peppered with charitable gossip, Liddy’s longer essays of remembrance - such as the title essay or “How We Stood Our Rounds” or “Katherine Kavanagh” capture the intimacies of good-hearted talk. Liddy’s sort of memoir is antique, Edwardian in its goodwill - like the dinner address over. which Gabriel, Conroy fussed so famously in “The Dead”. [...] Liddy’s extended recollections of Dublin in the 1960s - of John Jordan, Patrick Kavanagh, Liam Miller - all orbit around the “intensive care unit” of McDaid’s. Especially affecting here are the glimpses of the young poet Michael Hartnett “coming out of the earth” of Co Limerick into the international telephone exchange - and into the realms-of his own poetry. [...] Liddy ends with a parody of Beckett - an Estragon and V1adimir routine. Better would have been another pastiche, his Hic-and-Ille dialogue Yeats: New Ways of Failing in Love (2003): “... not only late flowering drunk love at first sight but conversion to the idea of poetry community. Almost some other self, partner of joy.”’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index or direct; also at Clemson University - online; accessed 30 Sept. 2008 - or see attached PDF].)

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Flann O’Brien reviewing Esau, My Kingdom for a Drink: ‘is all ... illiterate schoolboy hysteria, brashness and, where any meaning can be discerned, a total ignorance by Mr Liddy of Joyce’s work and intent ... Mr Liddy’s eructation can provoke nothing but derision and perhaps the hope that he is young enough to get a touch of the strap from the Brothers.’ (Quoted by Michael Begnal [ed.] in Honeysuckle, Honeyjuice: A Tribute to James Liddy, and cited in David Gardiner, reviewing same, in The Irish Times, 3 Feb. 2007, Weekend, p.12.)

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The Irish Times (8 Nov. 2008) - Obituary cites his opinions: described the world as a ‘prison / Run by elderly bores’ who stand in the way of ‘the revolution we imagine / in which each of us will love / the other’; favoured poems of ‘emotional intelligence’ in which the ‘language and imagery are clear and evocative yet mysterious’ rejected the idea of ‘the poem put together by the Department of English grammatical kit’ in favour of ‘responsibility to the poem’ in which the poem is founded on its allegiance to the the imagination. Influenced by Baudelaire, Whitman, Kerouac, and William Blake - particularly The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

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John Redmond, review of Wexford and Arcady and Askeaton Sequence, in An Sionnach: A Journal of Literature, Culture, and the Arts, 5, 1 & 2 (Spring & Fall 2009): ‘Like Yeats in senatorial mode, Liddy is often to be seen addressing the younger generations, giving them the benefit of his finely detailed hinterland. But as much as this hinterland was capacious, we should remember what it did not contain. A major part of Liddy’s value, as poet and conversationalist, was that he had absorbed nothing from television (or, indeed, YouTube.) Yes, his range of reference might no longer be au courant but that made it all the more exotic. The surprise of reading Liddy is akin to meeting someone with an entirely novel set of household gods - out go Paris Hilton, Jon Stewart, and Eminem, and in come Liam Miller, Elizabeth Bowen, and the Ginger Man. [...] Stylistically, Liddy practices a kind of monological shorthand, no doubt fortified by his reading of Beat literature, but also not that far removed from some of the modernist procedures of Brian Coffey and Denis Devlin. He has a talent for parallelism, a device which has the benefit of tightening his many provisional forms. / Liddy is not so much an erotic poet as a poet who is in favor of eroticism. / Stylistically, Liddy practices a kind of monological shorthand, no doubt fortified by his reading of Beat literature, but also not that far removed from some of the modernist procedures of Brian Coffey and Denis Devlin.’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

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Quotations

‘I will have to say straight away that being queer, like being Irish and being Catholic, has charted my imagination.’ (Interview in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Journal, 1996).


Canal Bank”: ‘The well-off are introduced at parties / same class, opposite sex. / It is not difficult: / kiss the girl, say something nice, / invite her out to dinner. / Dangle a few insurance policies before daddy. // Their cars flash by over the bridge / to a meal cum show in town. // The working love a lot and say so if they / have notes for drink or, / instead of the pub, here at night / they find an unlighted tree meeting in the dark. // There are no ceremonies in a Catholic Church, / no phoney weddings by clergy for them. / Water, water falling / to an ultimate Ringsend sea / lovers do not bother but use the worn grass / of the walk Paddy Kavanagh looks from.’ (The Dubliner, July-Aug. 1962, p.49; note, back page of issue is given over to full-page advertisement for Esau My Kingdom for a Drink.)

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Patrick Kavanagh’s Dublin”: ‘We travel through Dublin’s wide streets bearing / white flowers to throw in bunches to our young friends / and sunrise halos from forgiveness to our unknowing lovers / where roof-high breezes out of a green still / on the fields pour along our hands which clumsily confess / the faithfulness too deep for anything but walking.’ (Quoted in David Gardiner, review of Honeysuckle, Honeyjuice, in The Irish Times, 3 Feb. 2007, Weekend, p.12.)

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More Patrick Kavanagh, ‘“It’s five pounds to talk to me today.” / “Paddy, it’s usually only one pound, even on a bad day.” / “But it’s a black day for me - hand over or fuck off.” / I held up a one pound note. Paddy took it and savagely, if calmly, tore it to little pieces.’ (Quoted in Michael S. Begnal, review of The Doctor's House, in The Cuirt Journal, Galway; available at Salmon Poetry Liddy page - online; accessed 30.06.2011.)

Literary Dublin: "I saw F. J. McCormack / I heard Ruth Draper doing her maid's Co. Kerry / Father liked 'the Shadow of the Glen' he wanted to be a tramp / Yeats's plays my favourites tacked on at the end for a quarter of the house / I preferred Mac Liammoir in 'The Old Lady Says No' in the / Gate to his 'The Importance of Being Oscar' in The Gaiety / Siobhan McKenna St. Joan of all St. Joans ..."


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Open Letter to the Young about Patrick Kavanagh’, in The Lace Curtain: A Magazine of Poetry and Criticism [ed. Michael Smith & Trevor Joyce], 1 (Winter 1969), commends Kavanagh for a poetry in which real ideas from living come at us’: ‘This kind can be direct statement with a reference behind to the story of what happened to the poet. It relies on the mind staying alive, on the man making the statement keeping his emotional intelligence alive. My particular dogma concerning the kind of poetry that could be called the poetry of passionate memory is that it is more delicate and sensual than the poetry of description and analysis. Much is gained if the ideas in their language and imagery are clear and evocative yet mysterious, taking away as they give. You must think of the difference between an apparent simplicity and a simplemindedness. You cannot imagine how hard it is for us, who suffer and occasionally write, to bear the simple creatures who want a predetermined scheme, ambiguity and irony, in a poem. These writers of exercise poems make us angry or indifferent, according to mood.’ Further, ’The landscape of his poetry is familiar enough. The corner of a field, light peeping under a canal bridge, swallows in the garage, coffee shop girls, blackberries appearing, Yeats’s great dream house infested by swinishness. A world alive and green and true to despair.’ (pp.55-57.)

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Esau, My Kingdom for a Drink: Homage to James Joyce on his LXXX Birthday (Dublin: Dolmen Press 1962): ‘YOU, JAMES AUGUSTINE JOYCE, OF GREAT AND immeasurable constancy of soul, sailing between the Scylla of musty Protestant Ireland, Lyster, Best, Eglington, and the Charybdis of the neighbourly jealousy of your compatriot, Buck Mulligan, how much you speak for us. You, the greatest son of Catholic Ireland in seven hundred years, how many things you were to us, how near from our bogland vou flew to the sun of truth of life, how like all of us you were searching for the father, Bloom-Shakespeare, hidden in the deep bones to which we long to return. How from the strangled city of the dead you carried your books as testimony of life, how from the decaying streets of your childhood you travelled with your poems, lonely Dubliner, to the sun, to your old father. / But above all you were speaking of the life which comes from the mind. You speak of the thoughts of house and father and mother and playmates on the road, then the years, of learning your own body and looking and touching the bodies of others to find out that the thoughts of the mind are related to the touchings of the body, then the discovery - Flight No. 1 of the artist - that the mind works for itself, can see by itself, can understand beyond what it sees. And the recognition that the feelings of pleasure of the body are even deeper in the mind, that what you like in the body turns to what you love in the mind. Your kingdom of the lonely tower of desire at sixteen. The paradise of desire at eighteen ripening into the earthlight of the hours and flowing with you to the bright faces at parties and pushing you even as far as the pubs. (...; p.7.) [(See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Writers”, via index, or direct.)

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The Doctor’s House (2001) - Chapter 1 [beginning]: ‘Angle-sloping barrack shed, big tree strung behind it, before it, big thick logs of wood. They’ve been saving them and piling them up. I’m afraid of the saw, it reminds me of the French Revolution. The old garden gates, fortress gates, one of them opened, the laurel hedge clipped quite low along the barrack wall. After mid-summer I don’t go out there any more with the insects, red bites that are painful all night. I stay in the yard. The wood is piled up, it takes up a quarter of the space, someone has put a bicycle against the logs, a lady’s bicycle. The black Ford is in the shed, it is usually out to patients or the golf club. Daddy must be in the Dispensary getting his things in the black bag together, making up the little bottles of medicines. Lots of cough bottles. They swear by it. The dogs run around: Ginger, Mi-Wadi; golden paws and ears, gold wag of tail in the month of July. Month of roses framing the doors and windows on the yard. Clematis gone now from the barrack wall on the drive, the stones in the wall are always loose. Lilac trees in the front, purple and white equally balanced, the red drops of fuchsia alongside. In the sheds, dead car batteries and pictures of dead jockeys and horses, the swallows make a mess when we leave the car in at night. I think of horses in here and their hay, that must have been a fine sight and a fine smell. Because there are no cars on the road, except the priest’s and the doctor’s, people travel by trap; with the logs, sometimes there’s no place for the patients to park. The Condrons of Castletown come in the biggest and shiniest trap.’ (For longer excerpt, see attached.)

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Reference
Peter Ellis Books (Cat. 20) lists Esau, My Kingdom for a Drink - Homage to James Joyce on his 80th Birthday (Dolmen Press 1962), 15pp.; presentation copy from author inscribed on half-title “For Willie Glynn - James Liddy, Dublin 21st Jan. 1962.” Ink stmap of Catholic abbey library [Glenstal] on half-title. Covers partially faded and slightly rubbed. Spine splitting. Good.

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Notes
Philip Casey, Dialogue in Fading Light: New and Selected Poems (Dublin: New Island Press 2005), contains “The After Life of Books”, a poem comprising plays on the titles of verses by the poet James Liddy (‘To be a philistine on every mean street / Let it be known: / I have all the Gorey Details’ (see review in Books Ireland, Oct. 2006, p.227.)

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The Doctor’s House (2005): an unconventional autobiography of one of Ireland’s most engaging and independent poets. In the first section, James Liddy describes his early life in Co. Wexford. His father was a Dispensary doctor, and his mother was an American from New York. Liddy’s poetic prose style conveys a sense of living in both past and present. His love of the unusual, and a striving for intellectual freedom, propelled him, as a student in Dublin, to become one of the literary mandarins who made McDaid’s pub the centre of Irish literary life. Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh, John Jordan, Richard Riordain, and Michael Hartnett figured largely in his life at that time, as did American writers Edward Dahlberg and Anthony Kerrigan. James Liddy was a member of a new generation of writers in the 1960s; this book gives the flavour of this sparkling period. The final chapters, his pivotal move to America, his adventures in San Francisco, New Orleans, and the German-American dream city of Milwaukee, mark the development of his poetry and his ever present sense of fun and intellectual exploration. (See Salmon Poetry website - book notice online; accessed 30.06.2011.)

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The Full Shilling (2009): James Liddy’s memoir follows The Doctor’s House (Salmon, 2004), but takes a different perspective, exploring the world of Liddy’s parents and their friends in mid-twentieth century Ireland. He presents an extensive gallery of portraits of those he knew in Ireland and the U.S. including his peers at U.C.D. Patrick Kavanagh, Flann O’Brien, Francis Stuart, Thomas MacGreevey, Michael Hartnett, Noel Browne appear on these pages together with many senior American writers and literary figures.  The memoir, unusually (in keeping with Liddy’s eccentric style), includes short stories set in the years of his growing up in Ireland. The effect is personal, exhilarating and definitely more than nostalgic. (See Salmon Poetry website - book notice online; accessed 30.06.2011).

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Namesake: James Liddy, an investment portfolio consultant and photographer, has a website at www.jamesliddy.com which contains a fine gallery of of American landscape images “Places, Wildlife, Plants & Trees, Perspectives”.

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