Sydney Bernard Smith

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
1936- ; b. Glasgow, 4 Aug., of Irish and Scottish parentage parents [father from Forfar, Angus; mother from Co. Clare]; raised in Portstewart, Co. Derry - reflected in the Alex plays; ed. Clongowes Wood College, and Queen’s Coll., Oxford; taught ( ‘faute de mieux’) at Clongowes and also in Italy, Germany, Spain and the America (Univ. of Iowa); moved to Inisboffin, 1971; settled in Dundalk, 2000; plays broadcast on RTÉ, BBC and Channel 4 (UK), and staged at Edinburgh Fringe;
 
issued Girl with Violin (1968), Priorities (1979), Sensualities (1981) and Scurrilities (1981); also Sherca (1979), a play which remained unperformed but appeared in Journal of Irish Literature (Jan. 1979), is based on the Philoctetes of Sophocles, with a former IRA-man turned psychic, and set in “Inis Sherca”; Houseparty at Baldrigga (Hawk’s Well Th., , Sligo, 1985), a second Dublin Theatre Festival play, The 2nd Grand Confabulation of Drum Ceat (Andrews Lane Theatre, 1989);
 
also a novel, Flannery (1991), and his one-man show How to Roast a Strasbourg Duck was highlight of the 1985 Dublin Theatre Festival, being produced by himself after rejection by the Abbey (‘rather more tact is called for’); issued The Oil Emerald (1986); Collected Writings, 1957-2006, 2 vols. (2007); a second novel, The Book of Shannow, has appeared in large part in literary magazines; writes and directs his own shows in Ireland, London, the Edinburgh Fringe, and USA, 1977-2003;
 
his later works chiefly concern global politics - EU and American empire; received personal letters of praise from Ted Hughes; latterly publishes with his own imprint, Little Red Hen (Dundalk); m. Cindy [née] Hoxie, with four children; lives in Dundalk. DIL

[ top ]

Works
Poetry, Girl with Violin [Poetry Ireland Editions, 3] (Dublin: Dolmen 1968), 23pp.; Priorities: Poems 1967-77 (Dublin: Raven Edns. 1979), 43pp.; Sensualities (Dublin: Raven Press 1981; 1983), 39pp.; Scurrilities (Dublin: Raven Arts Press 1981), 40pp.; New and Selected Poems (Dublin: Raven Arts Press 1984), 91pp.; Comrade Dao Jones Reassesses Tienamen Square, & Other Satires, including The New Pale (Dublin: Little Red Hed Productions [1998]), 56pp. [15cm.]; The Immodest Proposal: A Satire (Belfast: Lapwing 2005), 60pp.; Poems 1957-2006 (Dundalk: Little Red Hen 2007), 252pp. Also, Galway: Poets in the West, 1982: Readings by Sydney Bernard Smith, Gerald Dawe, Paul Durcan, Fred Johnston [Raven Editions, 8] (Dublin: Raven Arts [1979]), 43pp. [with sound cassette].

Plays (staged), Don Bosco, Grainne and the Dole (1977); The Impertinence of Being Frank (1978); The Illaunapsppie Triangle (1978); Sherca (1979); Houseparty (1979); Swim Away Babies (1984); On Course for Brazil (1985); How to Roast a Strasbourg Goose (1985); Up for Bloomsday (1985); The 2nd Grand Confabulation of Drum Ceat (1989); Reason not the Need (1992); and The Shaming of the True (1995).

[ top ]

Plays (published), Sherca: A Play in Three Scenes after Sophocles’ Philoctetes, in Journal of Irish Literature, 8 [Short Play Series, 7; iss. Jan. 1979] (Delaware: Proscenium Press 1979), 37pp. [?offprint]; How to Roast a Strasbourg Duck (Little Red Hen 2008), 98pp. [with DVD]

Fiction, Alexander the Careerist (Dundalk: Little Red Hen 2007), 339pp.; Flannery ([Dublin]: Odell & Adair [1991]), 306pp.

Miscellaneous, trans., The Fabulous Life of Guillaume Apollinaire by Gunnar Harding (Dublin: Raven Arts 1982), 39pp.

Collected writings, Collected Works 1957-2000 (Little Red Hen Publications [2002]), digital publication and Collected Writings, 1957-2006, 2 vols. (Ireland: Little Red Hen 2007), 332pp.+309pp.

[ top ]

Criticism
Loredana Salis, ‘‘“So Greek with Consequence””: Classical Tragedy in Contemporary Irish Drama’ [ PhD Diss.] (UUC 2005); Eamon Kelly, review of How to Roast a Strasbourg Hen, in Books Ireland (Feb. 2008) [infra].

[ top ]

Commentary
Eamon Kelly, review of How to Roast a Strasbourg Duck (RLH 2008), in Books Ireland (Feb. 2008), p.12: : [...] ‘Described by Fintan O’Toole at the time in the Sunday Tribune as a “savagely indignant odyssey through the convolutions of torture, legality and corruption ...” the play is a courtroom poetic satire where Reality is arraigned on charge of “persistent and needless maltreatment of the human species”. The case, due to be heard before Lord Reason, is suspended, allowing Chancellor Serious and his deputy Meaning to begin designing a new illusion./ Sidney Bernard Smith is something of a character in Irish theatre circles since the 1960s. A longtime member of Aosdána he is known for a sophisticated ribald humour which is wonderfully captured in this publication. He was described by Con Houlihan as “an expert catcher in the wry” and by himself as “irascible but brilliant”. This is no mean boast. Fluent in several languages, all of which, by my estimation, feature in Strasbourq Goose, his style of humour and play with language makes him come across, in the context of this review, as a kind of sophisticated granddaddy of Mark O’Rowe [also reviewed here]. His witty play with philosophical themes displays a mischievous imagination with subversive anti-establishment tastes. How to Roast a Strasbourq Goose comes across now as a highly intellectual comedy in a style of theatre and language that is rarely seen any more. Coming as it does with a DVD this would make a nice collector’s item for those with a taste for post-Beckett Irish theatre comedy.

[ top ]

Quotations
Bio-note: ‘Father from Forfar, mother from Clare, S.B.Smith, born 1936 in Glasgow, grew up in Portstewart, Co. Derry, was schooled in & near Dublin, studied languages in Oxford, strove to become a cricketer or classical musician, taught faute de mieux, travelled intermittently, married Cindy Hoxie, sought roots, moved to & flourished in Inishbofin, fathered four children, wrote & acted, failed to change the world, expects to expire shortly in Dundalk - a crab is lunching on the liver, as of May 2007’. (Autograph note, on LULU website - online ; 31.07.08]

Blood for Oil?’ - Letter to London Review of Books (19 May 2005): ‘The piece by Retort (LRB, 21 Apri 2005) brought to mind Blair’s monstrous pre-war mendacity: “It’s got nothing to do with oil.” He must have considered what Larry Goldstein, president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation, told the Wall Street Journal on 16 January 2003: “If we go to war, it’s not about oil. But the day the war ends, it has everything to do with oil.” When the liberators reached Baghdad, the only ministry they protected was the Oil Ministry. Now the newly “independent” government appoints Ahmad Chalabi – convicted in Jordan of embezzling $20m from a bank – to run it.’ (Sydney Bernard Smith, Dundalk.) [LRB, online; 31.07.08.]

[ top ]

Reference
“Sydney Bernard Smith’s Storefront” on LULU gives book and plot summaries and publishes his works electronically with an autobiographically note [as supra]. The works available here are:
The Book of Shannow; Houseparty at Baldriggera; Peacemonger and Other Satires; Sauce for the Gander; How to Roast a Strasbourg Goose; Power Plays; Alexander the Lesser; Alexander the Careerist; The Island Plays; The 2nd Grand Confabulation at Drum Ceat; Poems 1957-2006; Collected Writings, Vol. 1 & 2. A synopsis of these works is also provided. [ Go online ]
Website contents (Plot summaries, &c.)
Copied here ; go online.

See also Bernard Sydney Smith page on Doollee com [ site & page ]

[ top ]

Notes
Sherca (1979) is based on the Philoctetes of Sophocles and set in “Inis Sherca”, an island off the West of Ireland where Phil, a recluse with psychic powers and a hinted IRA background, is approached by O’Dea and Leo seeking him for a new mission.

How to Roast a Strasbourg Duck (1985; pub. 2008), is a courtroom poetic satire in which Reality is arraigned on a charge of ‘persistent and needless maltreatment of the human species’ in a trial, heard before Reason, which is suspended so that Chancellor Serious and his deputy Meaning can design a new illusion. (See Eamon Kelly, review, Books Ireland, Feb. 2008, p.12.)

Namesake(s): a Sydney Bernard Smith is author of Air Transport in the Pacific (NY 1941); Bernard Smith is professor of Tropical geomorphology at QUB; Sydney Smith (1771-1845) was the famous author/philanthropist.

[ top ]