THE TRIBUNE by Gerald Dawe
(Poetry Ireland News September/October 2013)
I was very honoured at the Cúirt International Literature Festival in Galway this year by the unveiling of a plaque of my poem ‘The Tribune’ outside the offices of The Connacht Tribune, and mightily chuffed that it will be there for people to check on as they walk along Market St in the heart of Galway. It was an initiative inspired by Tom Kenny of Kenny’s Bookshops and Gallery, an institution of the west; by The Connacht Tribune; the Mayor of Galway, who kindly assisted in the unveiling; and by the inestimable James Harrold.
When the literary supplement, ‘Writing in the West’, was established all those years ago in 1979, it was down to the newspaperman Sean V Fahy, the dapper editor of The Connacht Tribune. That started my contact with the west of Ireland’s great newspaper. I recall with much affection calling into the offices regularly during the late 1970s and early 1980s and sorting out, as we called it, ‘the page’. The platform for creative and critical writing that the page provided was thanks entirely to Sean’s initiative and the support of the board of The Connacht Tribune – from a slight ‘Poet’s Corner’ to a full literary supplement was a big step to take, but he handled it with finesse.
The work of Michael Gorman and Eva Bourke who took on editorial duties after me meant that ‘Writing in the West’ lasted well into the 1980s and became an important local focus for what would become Galway’s lively literary scene. ‘Writing in the West’ contributed to that development and The Connacht Tribune should, collectively, take a bow for so doing. And a particular thanks from me for funding the beautiful stonework of the plaque by local masons, Fahy’s of Woodquay. Along with other plaques placed around Galway, there’s a poetic route being sketched which other towns and cities might like to follow. The poem, ‘The Tribune’, was part of ‘In the Country’, a sequence of poems that came at the end of my second collection, The Lundys Letter (Gallery Press) published in 1985. Since starting work on a memoir of the time, I’ve been thinking a lot about the late 1970s and 1980s and it strikes me just how much of my writing is indebted to the streets and canal-ways around St Nicholas Church, of there and thereabouts and of travelling throughout the west of Ireland, particularly Galway and Mayo – often thanks to the good offices of the then regional arts officer, Helen Bygrove, and the very early days of the ‘Writers in Schools’ scheme; but also to Seamus O’Grady, director of the Extra-Mural Department of what was then, UCG. On one such occasion, journeying to Clifden – to, I don’t doubt, Brendan Flynn’s great community school – I took the long bus trip around. It was from that bus-ride that ‘The Tribune’ emerged some time later.
Gerald Dawe’s Selected Poems was published last year by Gallery Press. The Stoic Man: Poetry Memoirs is due for publication in 2014. He lives in Dublin and is Professor of English at Trinity College, Dublin.