Michael Smith

Life
1942-2014 [fam. “Mike”]; b. 1 Sept. 1942, Dublin; educ. Glenstal Abbey School, Co. Limerick; taught at St Paul’s College in Raheny, where Declan Kiberd was among his students; with Irene [Smith] and Trevor Joyce, co-fnd. New Writers Press, 1967; his poetry collections incl. With the Woodnymphs (1968); Dedications (1968); Times and Locations (1972); Pilgrimage (1976); with Trevor Joyce, fnd. ed. The Lace Curtain (1969-71), promoting the work of Brian Coffey, Thomas MacGreevy and Denis Devlin; launched an attack on the Irish literary revival in the third issue; poems, Times & Locations (Dolmen 1972);

served on Arts Council, 1984-89; trans. Antonio Machado, Del Camino (1974); awarded  European Academy Medal, 2001; editor of Poetry Ireland Review in 2002, devoting one issue to an anthology of Argentinian poetry ed. by Liliana Heer and Ana Arzomanian; appt. first writer in residence at UCD and later received Honorary Fellowship; with Valentine Gianuzzi, issued an edition of the poems of Peruvian writer César Vallejo (2006), and ed. with trans. selected poems of Galician poet Rosalía de Castro (2007) - the illegitimate dg. of a priest;

also trans. Miguel Hernandez, Garcia Lorca, Neruda, Machado, Gongora, Quevedo and others; closely assoc. with the Shearman Classics ser. (Exeter); has edited anthologies of James Clarence Mangan, Irish ’Thirties Poets; he received the European Academy of Poetry Special Medal; d. 16 Nov. 2014, at his home, "Clarence", on Mangan Rd., Dublin 8; survived by his wife Irene, three daughters and grand-children. OCIL

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Works
Collections
  • Dedications (Dublin: New Writers’ Press 1968), [18]pp. [ltd edn. 200];
  • With the Woodnymphs (Dublin: New Writers’ Press 1968), 32pp. [ltd. edn. 300];
  • Homage to James Thomson (B.V.) at Portobello (Dublin: New Writers’ Press 1969), [12]pp., 25.4cm. [50 copies, No. 5 of which is held in TCD Library, in a copy assoc. with W. J. McCormack].
  • Times and Locations (Dublin: Dolmen Pres; OUP 1972);
  • Familiar Anecdotes (New Writers’ Press, 1981);
  • Selected Poems (Cork: Melmoth Press 1985);
  • Lost Genealogies (New Writers’ Press, 1993);
  • Meditations on Metaphors (New Writers’ Press, 1998).

Query: Poems: Michael Smith [Advent Poems, 6] (London: Advent Books [1971]), [4]pp.; 23cm. [COPAC]

Selected & collected
  • The Purpose of the Gift: Selected Poems (Shearsman Books/New Writers’ Press 2004), 164pp. [var. 2005]
  • Collected Poems of Michael Smith (Shearsman 2009), 242pp.
Translations
  • ed., with Trevor Joyce, The Poems of Sweeny Peregrine: A Working of the Corrupt Irish Text (Dublin: New Writers' Press 1976), [50]pp.;
  • trans. The Tamarit Poems by Federico Garcia Lorca (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2002), 68pp.;
  • Maldon and Other Translations (Shearsman Books/New Writers’ Press 2005), 156pp.;
  • ed., with Valentino Gianuzzi [trans.], Selected poems [of] César Vallejo (Exeter: Shearsman 2006), 134pp.
  • ed. & trans., Selected Poems [of] Rosalía de Castro (Exeter: Shearsman Books 2007), 131pp.
  • with Luis Ingelmo, trans. & intro., Collected Poems [of] Claudio Rodríguez / Poes&i´a completa: 1953-1991(Exeter: Shearsman 2008), 414pp.
Miscellaneous
  • ‘The Contemporary Situation in Irish Poetry’, in Two Decades of Irish Writing, ed., Douglas Dunn (Carcanet 1975) [q.pp.];
  • ‘Laments’, review of Seamus Heaney, in Irish Times (9 Dec. 1995), p.8;
  • review of Roddy Doyle, The Woman Who Walked into Doors in Irish Times (30 March 1996), [q.p.];
  • ‘Lost and Found’ [article on translation], in ‘Poetry Now’, Irish Times (11 July 1998), [q.p.];
  • ‘Modernist Eye’, “Poetry Now” [column], in Irish Times (25 July, 1998), [q.p.];

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Criticism
Trevor Joyce, ‘New Writers’ Press: The History of a Project’, in Modernism in Ireland: The Poetry of the 1930s, ed. Patricia Coughlan & Alex Davis (Cork UP 1995), pp. 276-306; Fiona Sampson, ‘The Gift of Understanding’, review of Maldon and Other Poems and The Purpose of the Gift, in The Irish Times (10 Aug. 2005), Weekend Review [infra]; Peter Sirr, review of Michael Smith’s Collected Poems, in The Irish Times (22 Aug. 2009), Weekend, p.12 [infra].

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Commentary
Fiona Sampson, ‘The Gift of Understanding’, review of Maldon and Other Poems and The Purpose of the Gift, in The Irish Times (10 Aug. 2005), Weekend Review: ‘[...] beyond the characteristic Anglo-Saxon kennings, this is clean-cut, contemporary verse. Smith solves the several problems of Maldon with grace: the compression of the half-line alliterative form and the “clotting” of kennings are mediated by his staggered lineation; hyphenated compounds (“heart-wounded”, “shield-hedge”) re-naturalise what could seem mannered or opaque. The cover blurb speaks of “a ghost of the alliterative pattern” of the original; Smith’s avoidance of the Latinate allows English to do the work by “ghosting” its own antecedents. / Maldon and Other Translations is a substantial triptych (its other parts are Eileen O’Connell’s 18th-century “Lament for Art O’Leary” and a selection of flamenco lyrics from the 19th-century collection made by Machado’s father, Antonio Machado y Álvarez) in which Smith enlarges not only his own range but, importantly, that of material available in English. His introduction to these Cantes Flamencos reminds us how in thrall we are to Lorca’s definitions of Cante Jondo and flamenco, and suggests that poet may not be the most reliable of ethnomusicologists. / Certainly, the 250 songs translated here (though I had some reservations about the number which seem to have been tidied up into the form of a single quatrain) are beautiful and sharply idiomatic, if more proverbial than we’ve come to expect of “deep song”: “I thought I was the only one who watered your garden, but I have seen there are many who go and draw water.” Does such Spanish duende enter Michael Smith’s own verse? Plainly it does. [...]’ [See full text, infra.)

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Peter Sirr, review of Michael Smith’s Collected Poems, in The Irish Times (22 Aug. 2009), Weekend, p.12: ‘The poetry is spare, avoiding any kind of formal or rhetorical flourish; it's a bare-bones aesthetic and it suits the cool regard of these poems. [...] These poems [which focus on Dublin] count the cost of poverty, failure, oppression, registering the human imprint on the city, and are full of sympathy and a kind of buried anger meeted out to slum children, beggars, messenger boys or stree singers his eye fall on [...; quotes:] ‘The past comes with a thousand voices / and the bricks and walls hold spectral faces’; poet notes that ‘the Dublin that is the locus of many of these poems has largely disappeared’. Sirr speaks of ‘a vision given force by unyielding honesty [also] to be seen in the poems set in Spain’.

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Quotations
The Lace Curtain, No. 3: ‘For there is, it seems to me, something ineffably bourgeois and artificial about the Celtic and late-Celtic Twilight, about all its blather of fairies and unintentionally ridiculous or imaginatively untenable entities of Gaelic mythology and folk-lore, about its bad, fifth-rate nature poems and its sham imbecilic peasant poems.’ (Quoted in Alan Warner, A Guide to Anglo-Irish Literature, Dublin, 1981, p.8.)

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Roddy Doyle, The Woman Who Walked into Doors in Irish Times (30 March 1996), [q.p.], review: Smith looks at the demeaningly ‘working-class’ elements of the Paula/Charlo story: ‘some of the truth is there, astutely blended with predominantly crude caricaturing and stereotyping.’

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Modernist Eye’, in “Poetry Now” [column], Irish Times (25 July, 1998), [q.p.]: ‘[…] not a great deal of contemporary Irish literature … can lay claim to being Modernist. The general practice has been and continues to be an unthinking use of language, language as conditioned reflex, with the implicit assumption of an unequivocal reality accessibel to and agreed by all. … Of course the academics, or many of them, know what has been happening in our understanding of language. But by and lage their knoweldge strays in the lecture-rooms of academe; and for the purpose of “communicating” with the great uninitiated public, in newspaper reviews, for example, these academics are only to willing to fall back on the accepted “norms” of language and literary appreciation.’

Namesake: In 2004, businessman and environmentalist Michael Smith joined vincent Browne in launching Village, chiefly rdited by Browne; in Sept. 2007, Smith and others resigned from the board; but in Nov. 2008, Smith relaunched it without Browne.

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