Poetry Ireland Review Issue 3 Editorial

Issue 3

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 3 :

Edited by John Jordan


This issue of the Review, intended as a small tribute to the memory of Padraic Colum, who was born in Longford on December 8, 1881 and died in Connecticut on January 11, 1972, may have an ancillary cultural reference. 1981 saw the publication of An Biobla Naofa and for a little while, but one hopes much more, attention was drawn to the great Protestant divine Bishop Bedell, whose Old Testament in Irish was to appear in 1685, almost half a century after his death. Colum's Kilmore, the fifth of his Noh plays, which is printed for the first time in this issue, is as much a homage to Bedell as it is to Franciscan scribes, the Presbyterian insurgents of Ninety Eight and the pioneer collector of traditional Irish airs, Edward Bunting, Kilmore has never been produced on stage so far as I know but was broadcast by RTE Radio in 1968 and repeated in 1971. It may, possibly, be Colum's last completed play. From a chat I had with him in the Spring of 1966, sitting in St Stephen's Green, I know that he was then at work on it and attached much importance to its ecumenical significance, and the necessity for recognition by all communities of Bishop Bedell's work.

This was during or shortly after the Lantern Theatre's production of The Challengers, being three of his Noh plays, Glendalough, Monasterboice, and Cloughoughter, linked by three matching preludes. The Pike Theatre had produced the first of the Noh plays Moytura during the Theatre Festival of 1963.

Even at that stage Padraic Colum had been writing intermittently for the stage for some sixty years. He is best known of course for his three so-called "Abbey" plays: Broken Soil (produced at the Molesworth Hall in 1903, after his anti-recruiting play, a one-acter The Saxon Shillin' had been rejected: as The Fiddler's House produced first by the Theatre of Ireland in 1907 and not until 1919 at the Abbey) The Land (at the Abbey in 1905) and Thomas Muskerry (at the Abbey in 1910). But the early" Abbey" plays and the late Noh plays are not the full extent of Colum's work for the theatre. From my own notes I glean the following: In 1912 he published a play on a Persian theme The Desert and in 1917 a new version as Mogu the Wanderer. This was produced at the Gate Theatre in 1931 as Mogu of the Desert (Almost certainly this was a further revision). We know too that in 1910 he wrote a one-acter The Destruction of the Hostel for the boys of Pearse's St Enda's (published in A Boy in Eirinn, 1913), that in 1912 Sinn Fein published his Irish folk version of The Second Shepherd's Play from the Wakefield Cycle, that The Irish Review of 1912 published under the name of "Walter Mennloch" an extract from a play called The Empress. But I can find no record in print of The Grasshopper adapted with E. Washburn Freund from Hermann Keyserling, produced at the Abbey in 1922. He published Balloon in 1929, a full-length play. But where are his adaptation with Vladimir Orloff of Alexander Blok's The Show-Booth and his little miracle play The Miracle of the Corn which I saw presented in the late forties at the Abbey by Austin Clarke's Lyne Theatre Company? There must be much more ... Readers may well ask why bother about Padraic Colum's work for the theatre. The answer, as I see it, is simple: if he is worth our interest as a poet, then everything he wrote must interest us.

Padraic Colum would have rejoiced over An Duanaire, 1600-1900, Poems of the Dispossessed, the joint work of Seán Ó Tuama and Thomas Kinsella, published in mid-198l. He would have welcomed the exquisite combination of textual scholarship and poetic sensibility. In this issue of the Review his Kilmore is followed by versions from the Irish of the seventh to the late twelfth or early thirteenth centuries by Thomas Kinsella: hints of what we may expect should An Duanaire be succeeded by volumes dealing with the centuries before 1600.

Reference to Sean Ó Tuama, himself an original poet and dramatist (as well as being an erudite and quite unchauvinist critic of Gaelic literature) leads me to note the appearance of the sixth number of Innti, which began as a broadsheet at University College, Cork in 1970, appeared in a larger format in 1971, sputtered out as a booklet in 1973, and arose again in 1980 as a small book, and now with its third issue in that form, looks as if it has come to stay. lnnti, edited by Michael Davitt, Gabriel Rosenstock and Proinsias Ni Dhorchai, (two of whom were among the begetters in those blissful Corkonian days when Ó Riordain and Ó Riada were on call) carries a fervent notice of An Duanaire by Liam Ó Muirthile (another begetter) which ends "We are only beginning the process of repossession". But of course its chief interest must be its eighteen poets (including Máirtin Ó Direáin, Máire Mhac an tSaoi and that formidable young lady Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill). I must, though, draw special attention to a comprehensive interview with Éoghan Ó Tuairisc: novelist, dramatist, and poet in English and Irish. I am tempted to exceed this magazine's brief and quote Mr Ó Tuairisc on subjects other than verse. It may be legitimate to record that when in 1964 he published two books of verse on the same day: within a fortnight Lux Aeterna, in Irish, had gained him £400, and The Weekend of Dermot and Grace by the end of the year had brought in £12. Innti 6, handsome, exquisitely, printed, sells at £ 1.99 inc. V.A.T.

Tomás MacSiomoin was the subject interviewed in Innti 5: this is the place to apologise for the appearance of his name on the cover of PIR 1, and the malignant intruders into his text in PIR 2. It is less easy to excuse the mish-mash made of Lorna Reynold's poem in PIR 1. In "My Mother Remembers" stanza 2, line 3, 'the frenzy' should read 'with frenzy', stanza 5 should end at 'marry'; stanza 6 line 2, should end with 'thinking' not 'taking'.

And I end thinking how Padraic Colum must have felt when confronted with the gibberish served up as Roger Casement's most famous poem, "In the Streets of Catania" in The Irish Review for September, 1912.


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