Gerard Smyth

Life
1951- ; b. in Dublin and grew up in the Liberties (Meath St.), Dublin; spent summers on a Co. Meath farm where his mother was born; first published in New Irish Writing (ed. David Marcus), and Honest Ulsterman (ed. James Simmons); works as a managing editor for Arts pages of The Irish Times; issued The Flags are Quiet (1969); Twenty Poems (1970); Orchestra of Silence (1971); World Without End (1977) and Loss and Gain (1981), published with New Writers, Gallery and Raven; Painting the Pink Roses Black (1986) and The Mirror Tent (2007); In the Fullness of Time: New and Selected Poems (2011); elected to AOSDana in May 2009; there is an oil portrait by Nick Miller. DIL

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Works
  • The Flags are Quiet (Dublin: New Writers Press 1969);
  • Twenty Poems (Dublin: New Writers’ Press 1970);
  • Orchestra of Silence (Dublin: Tara Telephone Publ. [1971]), 19pp. [500 copies];
  • World Without End (Dublin: New Writers’ Press 1977);
  • Who Knows [Poetry Ireland Poems No.10] (Portmarnock: Poetry Ireland 1979), 1 sh.;
  • Loss and Gain (Dublin: Raven Arts 1981), 43pp.;
  • Eclipse ([Portree]: Aquila 1983), 22pp.;
  • Painting the Pink Roses Black (Dublin: Dedalus Press 1986), 53pp.;
  • Daytime Sleeper (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2002), 104pp.;
  • A New Tenancy (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2004), 80pp.;
  • The Mirror Tent (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2007), 86pp.
  • The Fullness of Time: New and Selected Poems, intro. by Thomas McCarthy (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2010), xix, 198pp.
Also in Wingspan: A Dedalus Sampler, ed Pat Boran (Dedalus Press 2006).
 
Miscellaneous
Intro. to Donald Teskey : Not Only Forms - Paintings from the North West Coastline [Exhibition Cat. - 11 Feb.-6 March 2004] (Dublin: Rubicon 2004), 38pp., ill.

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Criticism
Michael Smith, ‘The Contemporary Situation in Irish Poetry’, review of Twenty Poems (1970), in Douglas Dunn, Two Decades of Irish Writing (1975); Gerald Dawe, review of Daytime Sleeper, in The Irish Times (18 May 2002), Weekend p.10 [infra]; Fred Johnston, review of Daytime Sleeper, in Books Ireland (Oct. 2002), p.247; Hugh McFadden, review of The Mirror Tent, in Books Ireland, Nov. 2007), p.253.

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Commentary
Gerald Dawe, ‘The Return of an Elegiac Poet’, review of Daytime Sleeper, cites volumes to date and remarks: The present volume ‘amounts to a reintroduction of this elegiac poet with reworked poems rigorously selected from the earlier work alongside a significant collection of new poems’; ‘brooding with Kinsella-like intensity on family figures who are caught in many ways between a city world and the ghosts of the rural past’; ‘Smyth’s world is like a shadowland within which the poet memorialises the past … and, strangely and provocatively, about the inaccessibility, or loss, of the past.’ Quotes, ‘The old keepsake of yours, the troll-face/doll stares at me form across the room. / I am in its gaze, unable to avoid the wicked grin.//The heating system makes cooling-down noises. / The doze and dream. There is no connection between the dream and what happens in life.’ Dawe describes Smyth’s tone of voice as a ‘quiet, uncertain, noticing, and conversational tone’ and characterises the poems as ‘shorn of any elaboration’. (The Irish Times, 18 May 2002, Weekend p.10.)

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Arminta Wallace, ‘Out with the auld, in with the new’ [on literary Dublin], in The Irish Times (12 March 2011, Weekend, p.1: ‘Another type of Dublin truth-telling is evident in the work of Dublin poets. In his introduction to Gerard Smyth’s The Fullness of Time: New and Selected Poems, Thomas McCarthy describes the poetry as “Dublin geography, in a compelling Dublin remembered but washed clean of sentimentality like the wet cobblestones of St James’s Gate”. Certainly a poem such as Smyth’s “The Russian Delicatessen”, which will be published in the forthcoming edition of Poetry Ireland Review, can evoke the city in a way that is both timeless and utterly immediate: “When the Russian delicatessen opened opposite the Chinese takeaway, I thought of my father and what he might say ...” / “Cities have always been my thing,” Smyth says. “Walking cities has always been one of my favourite activities, and I learned to walk cities in Dublin.” / Dublin may have sprawled beyond its old boundaries in the past decade but, he argues, “the shape of the city hasn’t changed. The heritage of the city hasn’t changed. There are still the same statues and the same landmarks the river is still the same river that courses its way through it.” / But post-boom, says Smyth, [...] there is a new uneasiness in the equation. “Dublin, whether people accept it or not, has been at the centre of the fall from grace that we’ve suffered. I’m not saying that people outside Dublin haven’t suffered. But as the capital city Dublin bears a responsibility for what happened.” It is too soon to see this awareness turn up on the page, he says. “What has been happening is so quick and so dramatic that it will take time for someone to emerge to navigate through it, and mediate it, and write it into literature in some way or other.”

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Quotations
‘‘Phoenix Park’’: ‘The deer watching from soaked grass / are statues imitating stillness and grief. / The stag’s breath seems inexhaustible.’ (Quoted in Fred Johnston, revew of Daytime Sleeper, in Books Ireland (Oct. 2002, p.247.)

Picturehouse”: ‘we sat in the ranks of the hypnotised. / Those who believed in the divine / transfiguration of false idols. // All of us close together in a dark hush, / lulled by the first arpeggios / of a menacing theme. The plush red seats / made us kings and queens. The projector beam was like light // from a beacon when the scalloped curtain / rose up or parted to reveal a cinematic vista: Piccadilly and all its neon. / Tumbleweed rolling in tufts down a lonely Main Street.’ (Quoted in Hugh McFadden, review of The Mirror Tent, in Books Ireland, Nov. 2007, p.253.)

An Evening Walk in Maryland”: ‘[…] a tired old man / his pride in the Republic gone […] / each night he emptied his pockets of its hoard / of coins and his betting docket for the horse / and jockey that tumbled in the final furlong.’ (Quoted in Hugh McFadden, review of The Mirror Tent, in Books Ireland, Nov. 2007, p.253.)

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References

Gerard Smyth has a website at www.gerardsmyth.com
 
—Quotes John F. Deane: ‘Gerard Smyth has achieved a hard-won grace and fluency over many years and now writes with controlled passion and lyrical intensity, the result of a dedication to the truth of poetry that has involved a steady pilgrimage. If the work began with a dismal view of human living, imaged through inner city Dublin, it is the spare language and affectionate, though unsparing, knowledge of contemporary life, combined with unobstrusive faith in human possibility, that give the later poems a relevance, a music and a depth unique to the poetry of our time. The Mirror Tent offers poems that are mature and accomplished, their surface beauty offering, to a more concentrated reading, a depth and unselfconscious wisdom for which we must truly grateful.’


Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (1979), contains an extremely dismissive notice of Gerard Smyth, incidentally pillorying Michael Hartnett.

Hibernia Books (1996) lists Eclipse (Aquila 1983).

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