Pól Ó Muirí

Life
1965- ; b. Belfast; author of poetry in Irish and in English;and the latter of which he has also worked as Irish-language editor of Fortnight Review and frequent commentator and reviewer in The Irish Times, later Irish-language editor; winner of Oireachtas na Gaeilge literary award with novel, Dlithe an Nádúir (2001), a novel dealing with the conflict between a ban garda in rural Ireland and the local gombeen man; also issues novels for adult learners (Paloma; Dlithe an Nádúir; Teifeach) dealing with the experiences of Marika, a Bosnian refugee in Ireland. DIL

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Works
Poetry, Faoi Scáil na Ríona (Baile Átha Cliath: Coiscéim 1991), 36pp.; Dinnseanchas (Baile Átha Cliath: Coiscéim 1992), 40pp.; Ginealach Ultach (Baile Átha Cliath: Coiscéim 1993), 47pp.; Siosafas: Gearrscéalta (Baile Átha Cliath: Coiscéim 1995), 70pp.; Abhar Filíochta (Baile Átha Cliath: Coiscéim 1995), 58pp.; D-Day (Belfast: Lagan 1995), 61pp. [in English]; Is Mise Ísmeáél (Béal Feirste: Lagan 2000), 58pp.; Na Móinteacha (Belfast: Lagan Press 2004), 50pp.

Fiction, Snagcheol (Belfast: Lagan Press 2002), 164pp. Biography, A Flight from Shadow: The Life and Works of Seosamh Mac Grianna (Belfast: Lagan 1999), 213pp. Learners’ fiction in Irish: Paloma (q.d.); Dlithe an Nádúir (q.d.); Teifeach (Comhar 2003).

Miscellaneous, ed., edited Irish-language series for Fortnight Educational Trust, e.g., Camille O’Reilly, The Company of Strangers: Ethnicity & the Irish Language in West Belfast (Belfast: 1996), 15pp.

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Criticism
Fred Johnston review of D-Day, in Irish Times (17 Feb. 1996), p.9 [one poem traces his name to the word for ‘mariner’]; Alan Titley, ‘Unfavourite Son’, review of A Flight from Shadow: The Life and Works of Seosamh Mac Grianna, in Books Ireland (March 2000), pp.65-66 [infra]; Alan Titley, review of Is Mise Ísmeáél Lagan Press), in The Irish Times (4 Nov. 2000) [‘lyrical and tough’]; Alan Titley, ‘A stance which suits his mind and mien’, review of Is Mise Ísmeáél (Béal Feirste: Lagan 2000), in The Irish Times (4 Nov. 2000), Weekend Review [infra]; Máirín Nic Eoin, review of Na Móinteacha, in The Irish Times (4 Sept.2004), Weekend [infra]; Alan Titley, review of Snagcheol [with other works], in The Irish Times (28 Sept. 2002), Weekend Review [infra].

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Commentary
Alan Titley, ‘Unfavourite Son’, review of A Flight from Shadow: The Life and Works of Seosamh Mac Grianna, in Books Ireland (March 2000): ‘Pól Ó Muirí has done the courageous and unusual thing in this book of attempting to explain the life and times of one of the most important Irish prose writers of the last century, and of doing this in English. This project throws up problems which have no easy resolution. The Irish-language reader will be readily aware of the cultural debates of the early twentieth century, but Pól Ó Muirí must explain each and every one of them. He must disentangle the dialect wars. He must steer a course between the very often vicious disputes about what constitutes Irish literature or literature in Irish. Worse than that, he must try to translate one of the most untranslatable writers of modern Irish prose, and make him intelligible to those who haven’t the least clue and for whom an echo means an evening newspaper in Cork. / So Ó Muirí can’t win, but he does, actually. And he does so because he writes clearly and unclutteredly, giving enough explanation but never belabouring the point. he intermixes the work with the life so that we actually see a connection between the two, and so that one illuminates the other. [...] There is no other book like this in English which attempts to present to the non-Irish-speaking reader what was and is going on in Irish literature. (p.65) [...] / One of the main strengths of the book is its clear explication of the cultural/literary debates of the time, and of Mac Grianna’s part in them. [...] The book, therefore, is a work of cultural history as much as a critical biography’. (p.66.)

Máirín Nic Eoin, ‘One journey, two roads’, review of Michael Davitt, Fardoras, in The Irish Times, 4 Sept.2004), Weekend: ‘Ó Muirí’s collection was inspired by Na Móinteacha, a region on the south shore of Lough Neagh where the Irish language is no longer spoken, but whose landscape becomes the site and subject of a poetry of linguistic repossession. The Fardoras ( lintel ) in the title of Davitt’s collection is that elusive cultural element which the non-native speaker of Irish constantly seeks. Many of the poems in both collections could only be conceived in a language such as Irish, but while the vulnerability of the medium gives rise to a vigorous poetry of resistance in Davitt, in Ó Muirí it produces a sense of stoic acceptance that his poem may be of no more consequence than a leaf, which, though the natural product of a nurturing tree, may alight ultimately on a bed of indifference. / Na Móinteacha develops two central strands in Ó Muirí’s poetry up to now, with meditations on the physical world and on human relationships, with the natural environment dovetailing into a historical critique of the forces. shaping landscapes and ulations. Peaceful pastoral is exposed as a scene of slaughter in the title poem for example, as herons and and buzzards flee the din of RAF fighter planes, which in turn evoke memories of sectarian killers and their prey. Nationalism does not escape Ó Muirí’s critique of politically motivated violence. The sparse “Sluasaid” is a searing condemnation of of any attempt to justify the chilling brutality of political murder, while “Disappeared’” and “Fiche Bliain” expose the natural world’s indifference both to the violence and to the commemorations of its victims, enacted upon it.’

Alan Titley, ‘A stance which suits his mind and mien’, review of Pól Ó Muiríi, Is Mise Ismeáél, in The Irish Times (4 Nov. 2000), Weekend Review: ‘[...] Pól Ó Muirí is his own man. He is Ishmael - and Don Quixote and d'Artagnan - who doesn't bend the knee to gods. In this, his sixth collection of poetry, he has carved out a stance which suits his mind and mien. It is a proud, independent, sometimes fighting stance against hypocrisy, but also a self-critical and searing examination of himself, born out of a fear that maybe we are all a bit too much like one another. The title sequence of poems is the finest expression of this stance where he sees himself (if that is who he sees) as a “wandering rogue”, a “hunter of the great white whale”, a disloyal son, a hermit, an argumentative person writing with blood that is blacker than ink. / But this is not posing. He goes straight to the fork in a poem like “Faidh Breige” which, we must assume, is an attack on those who made a Nazi propagandist a saoi or “wise man” in the Aosdana of our time. In “Baisteadh” his Belfast is most determinedly not that weird and lovely place of Ciaran Carson's. “Muscaedoiri” is a satire in the old blunt sense, not meant to be subtle, not designed to be pretty. / As against that he can write nature poetry as if it never went out of fashion [...]' (See full text, infra.)

Alan Titley, ‘This and other worlds’, review of Snagcheol, in The Irish Times (28 Sept 2002), Weekend Review: ‘[...] One of its great strengths is the variety of tone and voice and location ranging from the classically conventional, through the documentary to the joyous shouts of the poetic. A food journalist gabbles on about his career in a crass conversational way lacing his talk with pretentious bits of French; a new government minister with a violent paramilitary background agonises over his past and his “lapse” into politics; the owner of a Chinese restaurant spills the story of his tough life and falls foul of the old bigotries; a detective searches for the truth in the life of a black American jazz musician; a journalist muses on the power of the obit writer; a newly released prisoner struggles to come to terms with his life in a layered and complex tale about regret and disappointment and lost youth. / There are also some plainly funny stories, although fuelled by a sharp sense of satire, such as the Gaelic Leaguer who sells some of his more private parts to the devil in order to be top dog in the organisation, or the translator who is requested to turn an official document into West Belfast Irish. / This anarchic streak is only one side of the more serious commentary lodged in the narratives [...]' (For full text, see infra.)

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