Full title: “Poetry’s advocates don’t need to go on the defensive: it speaks for itself”
‘A man . . . innocently dabbles in words and rhymes and finds that it is his life . . .” That well-known remark of Patrick Kavanagh’s now strikes a particular note as I arrive at the publication of my eighth collection of poetry, 46 years after my first apprentice poems appeared in the New Irish Writing page of the Irish Press at an age when I had little sense of what I was half-blindly stumbling towards or where poetry would lead.
That poetry has occupied such a central place in my life in those intervening years – reading it, writing it and writing about it – warrants a self-reminder of what exactly set in motion this way of seeing the world, and why, after a lifetime, poetry still holds its attractions for me, is still “the realm where miracles happen”, as the American poet William Stafford said.
The answer as to what set it in motion is a simple one: it was the spell cast by a teacher, in my case in a Dublin classroom of the 1960s. The teacher’s name was Jack Hoey, and his English classes were a crucial and seminal influence, the opening to an inner life that has been a blessed alternative to what might have been a less enhanced life.