Macdara Woods


Life
1942- , b. 9 April, Dublin; ed. Gongaza College, and UCD; fnd. & ed., Cyphers with Leland Bardwell, Pearse Hutchinson, and Eiléan Ni Chuilleanáin, his wife, in 1975; issued “Decimal D. Sec. Drinks in a Bar in Marrakesh” (1970), a long poem in pamphlet-form; Eary Morning Matins (Gallery, 1973); elected to Aosdána in 1986; edited The Kilkenny Anthology (1991); issued Selected Poems (1996);
 
he has given readings at numerous universities and other venues in the United States and Europe, incl. the Gorki Institute, Moscow (October 1992), NY Univ. (Glucksman House, 1996), American-Irish Historical Society in New York (March/April 2003), and Moscow State University (April, 2003);
 
issued The Nightingale Water (2001), addressing issues of death and disintegration; issued Artichoke Wine (2006), which incls. two major sequences for music; also The Cotard Dimension (2011); revisited Moscow in 2017; lives in Co. Mayo. DIL OCIL

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Works
Poetry Collections
  • Decimal D. Sec Drinks in a Bar in Marrakesch: A Poem (Dublin: New Writers Press 1970), [2], 8, [2]pp. [ltd. edn. 200].
  • Early Morning Matins [Gallery Books, No. 11] (Dublin: Gallery Press 1972), 3-37pp.
  • Stopping the Lights in Ranelagh (Dublin: Dedalus Press 1987), 55pp. [?with Orla Woods].
  • Miz Moon [Dedalus Press, No. 1] (1988), [22]pp.
  • The Hanged Man was Not Surrendering (Dublin: Dedalus Press 1989), 80, [4]pp. [see note].
  • Notes from the Country of Blood-Red Flowers (Dublin: Dedalus Press 1994), 95pp.
  • Selected Poems [of] MacDara Woods (Dublin: Dedalus Press 1996), 193pp.
  • Knowledge in the Blood: New and Selected Poems (Dublin: Dedalus 2000), 216pp.
  • The Nightingale Water (Dublin: Dedalus 2001), 92pp.
  • Artichoke Wine (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2006), 111pp. [Greek trans. as MAKNTAPA ΓOYNTΣ], Kapaoi aykivápaς 2017].
  • The Cotard Dimension (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2011), 90pp.
  • From Sandymount to the Hill of Howth (Dublin 2014), 18pp. [pamph. for sale at Books Upstairs]
Translations
  • Biglietto di Sola Andata, trans. by Rita Castigli, intro. by Paul Cahill (Faenza: Mobydick Editrice 1998), 89pp.;
  • Pesaro ai miei piedi, trans. Rita Castigli, intro. Paul Cahill (Perugia: Volumnia 1999), 84pp.
  • (ΛσςΡєε
Miscellaneous
  • The King of the Dead, and Other Libyan Tales [by] Redwan Abushwesha; trans. by the author [with], Orla Woods Abushwesha and Macdara Woods; foreword by Pearse Hutchinson (London: Martin Brian & O'Keeffe 1977), 64pp. [see details];
  • ed., The Kilkenny Anthology (Kilkenny County Council 1991), 190pp. [cased];
  • Intro. to Patrick Kavanagh, “The Great Hunger” in Greek] (Athens: Kastaniotis 1999);
  • Intro., Collected Poems of John Jordan, edited with preface and notes by Hugh McFadden; introduced by Macdara Woods (Dublin: Dedalus Press 1989), 138pp. [24cm.];
  • ed., with Jim Vaughan, Present Tense: Words & Pictures: Poems and Photographs from County Mayo (Castlebar: Mayo County Council 2006), ix, 165pp.., ill. [some col.; 24cm.; incls. poems in Irish, German and Polish.]
Discography
  • Voice-Over for Nigel Rolfe Installation, celebrating The Great Book Of Ireland (IMMA, Dublin 1991);
  • “Winter, Fire and Snow” ( Anúna (1995), a song co-written with Brendan Graham and based on Wood’s poem “Fire and Snow and Carnevale”.
 

Incl. in Five Irish poets, ed. David Lampe & Dennis Maloney, with an introduction by Lampe and a preface by Thomas Kinsella (Dublin: Dedalus; Fredonia NY: White Pine Press 1990), 136p. [with Padraig J. Daly, John F. Deane, Richard Kell, Dennis O’Driscoll, Macdara Woods].

See also poems recorded by Harvard Poetry Library & British Council (1970), and by The Irish Writers’ Centre (Dublin Corporation 1997).

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Bibliographical details
The King of the Dead: and Other Libyan Tales [by] Redwan Abushwesha; trans. by the author, Orla Woods Abushwesha and Macdara Woods; foreword by Pearse Hutchinson (London: Martin Brian & O'Keeffe 1977), 64pp. CONTENTS: “First day of awaking after six days of death”; “Eat dates, drink milk”; “The valley blooms in September”; “The cord of sand”; “An Irish Christmas Eve”; “A blind Arab in a London pub”; “The mist”; Walkie-talkie hedgehog”; “Just wait”; “Antonio”; “The king of the dead”; “Fields of anger”; “The first day I went to the to the field”; “The fool”; “The treasure”; “Ink and tears”; “The windmills of Ali Ben Rahal”.

Archives: Lamont Poetry Library (Harvard U); RTE Radio; Alliance Française, Dublin; Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut; University of Michigan at Flint [60-min. video in Visiting Writers Series, 1989] De La Salle University, Philadelphia, 1995; University of Southern Georgia 1996; University of Massachusetts, 2002/3; Emerson College Boston, 2003.

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Criticism
See Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, ‘Borderlands of Irish Poetry’ in Contemporary Irish Poetry: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Elmer Andrews (London: Macmillan 1993), pp.25-40.

Michael Smith, ‘The Contemporary Situation in Irish Poetry’, in Two Decades of Irish Writing, ed. Douglas Dunn (1975), cites Woods.

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Commentary
Bernard O’Donoghue, review of Macdara Woods, The Nightingale Water and Knowledge in the Blood: New and Selected Poems, in The Irish Times (7 April 2001), refers to 1996 Collected Poems, and remarks: ‘[Woods] has reached mastery in The Nightingale Water; makes comparison with Kennelly and Durcan; ‘his heart has always been in the right place, even when it was on his sleeve.’ Further:

‘Macdara Woods has been an absorbing and relatively unplaceable presence in Irish writing since the 1970s, because the internationalising tendency of his poems to push the boundaries of Irish poetry outwards was always balanced by a rooted use of Irish language and tradition.
  These two new books offer variations on this balance: Knowledge in the Blood adds nearly fifty pages of new poems to those available to the 1996 Selected, and is accompanied by the powerful new sequence, The Nightingale Water, which centres on the harrowing events surrounding the poet's mother's strokes and death.
 One of Woods's most striking capacities has been to write the long poem, a form traditionally thought impossible in the modern age of confessional lyric. Reading these books together now, the most substantial earlier long poems, such as “Above Pesaro, June 1993”, read like an apprenticeship that has reached mastery in The Nightingale Water.’
 [...] Woods’s poems have always been absorbing in their twists and turns. But this steadily pursued sequence seems much his strongest achievement to date.’ (Quoted on the Macdara Woods website - online; accessed 06.09.2011.]

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Tom Clyde, reviewing Stopping the Lights in Ranelagh, in Fortnight [Belfast] (Feb. 1988), writes: ‘t is 15 years since Macdara Woods’ last collection, and well worth the wait for one of the most individual voices in Irish poetry, if not an easy one. He writes like no one living [...] There is a sense of having come through a storm, of a common humanity neither bland nor mushy.’

Pádraig J. Daly, reviewing The Hanged Man Was Not Surrendering, in Poetry Ireland Review, 28 (Spring 1990), writes: ‘Woods is different [...] He changes perceptions, breaks the moulds by which we shape received reality.’ (pp 101-03.)

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Ciaran O’Driscoll reviewing The Hanged Man Was Not Surrendering, in Cyphers, 34 (1991), writes: ‘I characterised Woods’s poetry [review of Stopping the Lights in Ranelagh] as having a centre of gravity in the present moment, as being “the poetry of unmediated experience”. In this collection, while the centre of gravity has certainly shifted, there are still many poems which would fit my erstwhile description; poems such as “Santa Maria Novella”, perfectly poised between pathos and the humour of the absurd [...] we are returned as a gift those countless moments of waiting of which our lifetime often seems to be almost totally composed.’ (pp.51-54.)

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Thomas McCarthy, reviewing Notes from the Countries of Blood-Red Flowers, in Poetry Ireland Review, 42 (Summer 1994), writes: ‘In the best poem in the collection, “Above Pesaro June 1993” [...] Woods returns to Italy, to the earth above Pesaro where he reconstructs a very fine “geography of yearning”. He teases out the myths that bind families, he interrogates childhood and faces disappointment. The whole poem boils down to one marvellous metaphor. (pp.72-73.)

Fred Johnston, reviewing Notes from the Countries of Blood-Red Flowers, in The Irish Times (11 June 1994), writes: ‘“Blues Note for John Jordan” echoes Jordan’s own in-hospital ruminations, which in turn echoed Clarke’s “Mnemosyne Lay in Dust”. It is not merely survival poetry; Woods elevates his experience, expands it, imbues it with force, makes it regenerative: “And still we carry on/ while there is sunlight in the corridor [...]”.’

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Philip Casey, reviewing Notes from the Countries of Blood-Red Flowers, in Cyphers, 40 (1995), writes: ‘Few if any of the memories here are cosy and some are bitter, but they are confronted, interrogated and made part of the whole, the bitterness transmuted into a healthy anger, with certain details surfacing through the book, in some instances almost becoming a refrain. The physical countries themselves, especially Italy, inspire descriptions of directness and simplicity’ (pp.57-59).

James Liddy, reviewing reviewing Selected Poems in Poetry Ireland Review, 51 (Autumn 1996), writes: ‘This poetry has run counter to the grain. It is lush, surreal, linguistically rhetorical. This is not a domesticated poetry, the kitchen doesn’t unravel its somnolent marvels here nor do family memories overcrowd the page [...] The sixties section retains the charm of that decade of elaborate chimeras, the post-World War II global aesthetics, and poems like “To be Pinned on the Cathedral Door” and “Cauchemar is a White Horse” retain original heat.’ (pp.24-27.)

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Pat Boran, reviewing Knowledge in the Blood in Sunday Tribune (April 2001), writes, ‘Macdara Woods is another poet for whom the notion of “voice” seems almost inadequate. Confident that a certain dislocation can lead to the heart of things, Woods shies away from the neat closure, preferring instead that overlapping and echoing of senses that is almost his hallmark.’

Brian Coates (Limerick U.), reviewing The Nightingale Water and Knowledge in the Blood, in Poetry Ireland Review, 71 (Winter 2001), writes, ‘The curt, abbreviated pressure of these lines, a constant trait in the work of Macdara Woods, pushes the text out to demand a co-creative act of reading. [...] The freshness of the early work and its easy rapport with the new poems indicate Woods's ability to stride the time. [...] The poems of the sixties [...] deal with the London Irish scene through a melancholy geography: Lavender Hill, Clapham High Street, Mortlake, Richmond, Cheam; these places evoke dreams of Meath and Leeson Street, Clew Bay and County Mayo.’ (p.109-12.)

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References
COPAC (Manchester) lists Decimal D. Sec. drinks in a bar in Marrakesch: A Poem (Dublin: New Writers’ Press 1970), 8pp.; Early Morning Matins [Gallery Books, No. 11] (Dublin: Gallery Press 1972), 37pp.; The Hanged Man was Not Surrendering (Dublin: Dedalus 1990), 80pp.; Ed., The Kilkenny Anthology (Kilkenny County Council 1991), 190pp. [cased]; The King of the Dead: and Other Libyan Tales [by] Redwan Abushwesha; trans. by the author, Orla Woods Abushwesha and Macdara Woods; foreword by Pearse Hutchinson (London: Martin Brian & O'Keeffe 1977), 64pp.; Knowledge in the blood: new & selected poems (Dubli: Dedalus Press 2000), 216pp.; Miz Moon [Dedalus Press, No. 1] (1988), [22]pp.; The Nightingale Water (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2000), 92pp.; Notes from the Countries of Blood-Red Flowers (c.1994), 95pp.; Selected Poems (Dublin: Dedalus Press 1996), 193pp.; Stopping the lights in Ranelagh (Dublin: Dedalus Press 1987), 55pp. Also, contents of The King of the Dead, as supra.]

Website: The author has an official website domain at www.macdarawoods.ie at another extant page - connected with the Eilis Dillon Writing Pagtes - at eircom.net and its tinet proxy - online; last checked 05.09.2011].

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Notes
Bibl. vars.: The author’s website [as supra] gives publication of The Hanged Man was Not Surrendering (Dublin: Dedalus) as 1989 and The King of the Dead and Other Libyan Tales as 1978 - both contrary to COPAC [as supra].

Glucksman Ireland House (Centre for Irish Studies; NY Univ.), hosted a reading of Selected Poems on 28 March 1996.

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