seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of David Whyte, Anglo-Irish Poet

David Whyte, Anglo-Irish poet, is born in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, England on November 2, 1955. He has said that all of his poetry and philosophy are based on “the conversational nature of reality.” His book The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America (1994) topped the best-seller charts in the United States.

Whyte’s mother is from Waterford, County Waterford, and his father is a Yorkshireman. He attributes his poetic interest to both the songs and the poetry of his mother’s Irish heritage and to the landscape of West Yorkshire. He grows up in West Yorkshire and comments that he had “a Wordsworthian childhood,” in the fields and woods and on the moors. He has a degree in marine zoology from Bangor University, a public university in Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales.

During his twenties, Whyte works as a naturalist and lives in the Galápagos Islands, where he experiences a near drowning on the southern shore of Hood Island. He leads anthropological and natural history expeditions in the Andes, the Amazon and the Himalayas.

Whyte moves to the United States in 1981 and begins a career as a poet and speaker in 1986. From 1987, he begins taking his poetry and philosophy to larger audiences, including consulting and lecturing on organisational leadership models in the United States and UK exploring the role of creativity in business. He has worked with companies such as Boeing, AT&T, NASA, Toyota, the Royal Air Force and the Arthur Andersen accountancy group.

Work and vocation, and “Conversational Leadership” are the subjects of several of Whyte’s prose books, including Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as Pilgrimage of Identity, The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship, and The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of The Soul in Corporate America which tops the business best seller lists, selling 155,000 copies.

Whyte has written ten volumes of poetry and four books of prose. Pilgrim, published in May 2012, is based on the human need to travel, “From here to there.” The House of Belonging looks at the same human need for home. He describes his collection Everything Is Waiting For You (2003) as arising from the grief at the loss of his mother. His latest book is Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, an attempt to ‘rehabilitate’ many everyday words we often use only in pejorative or unimaginative ways. He has also written for newspapers, including The Huffington Post and The Observer. He leads group poetry and walking journeys regularly in Ireland, England and Italy.

Whyte has an honorary degree from Neumann College, Pennsylvania, and from Royal Roads University, British Columbia, and is Associate Fellow of both Templeton College, Oxford, and the Saïd Business School, Oxford.

Whyte has spent a portion of every year for the last twenty five years in County Clare. Over the years and over a number of volumes of poetry he has built a cycle of poems that evoke many of the ancient pilgrimage sites of The Burren mountains of North Clare and of Connemara.

Whyte runs the “Many Rivers” organisation and “Invitas: The Institute for Conversational Leadership,” which he founds in 2014. He has lived in Seattle and on Whidbey Island and currently lives in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. He holds U.S., British and Irish citizenship. He is married to Gayle Karen Young, former Chief Talent and Culture Officer of the Wikimedia Foundation. He has a son, Brendan, from his first marriage to Autumn Preble and a daughter, Charlotte, from his second marriage to Leslie Cotter. He has practised Zen and was a regular rock climber. He is a close friend of the late Irish poet John O’Donohue.


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Birth of Poet Michael Hartnett

Michael Hartnett, Irish poet who writes in both English and Irish, is born in Croom Hospital in Croom, County Limerick, on September 18, 1941. He is one of the most significant voices in late 20th-century Irish writing and has been called “Munster‘s de facto poet laureate.”

Although Hartnett’s parents’ name is Harnett, he is registered in error as Hartnett on his birth certificate. In later life he declines to change this as his legal name is closer to the Irish Ó hAirtnéide. He grows up in the Maiden Street area of Newcastle West, County Limerick, spending much of his time with his grandmother, Bridget Halpin, who resides in the townland of Camas, in the countryside nearby. He claims that his grandmother is one of the last native speakers to live in County Limerick, though she is originally from northern County Kerry. Although she speaks to him mainly in English, he listens to her conversing with her friends in Irish, and as such, he is quite unaware of the imbalances between English and Irish. When he begins school, he is made aware of the tensions between both languages, and is surprised to discover that Irish is considered an endangered language, taught as a contrived, rule-laden code, with little of the literary attraction which it holds for him. He is educated in the local national and secondary schools in Newcastle West. He emigrates to England the day after he finishes his secondary education and goes to work as a tea boy on a building site in London.

Hartnett has started writing by this time and his work comes to be known of the poet John Jordan, who is professor of English at University College Dublin. Jordan invites him to attend the university for a year. While back in Dublin, he co-edits the literary magazine Arena with James Liddy. He also works as curator of James Joyce‘s tower at Sandycove for a time. He returns briefly to London, where he meets Rosemary Grantley on May 16, 1965, and they are married on April 4, 1966. His first book, Anatomy of a Cliché, is published by Poetry Ireland in 1968 to critical acclaim and he returns to live permanently in Dublin that same year.

Hartnett works as a night telephonist at the telephone exchange on Exchequer Street. He now enters a productive relationship with New Writers Press, run by Michael Smith and Trevor Joyce. They publish his next three books. The first of these is a translation from the Irish, The Old Hag of Beare (1969), followed by Selected Poems (1970) and Tao (1972). This last book is a version of the Chinese Tao Te Ching. His Gypsy Ballads (1973), a translation of the Romancero Gitano of Federico García Lorca, is published by the Goldsmith Press.

In 1974 Hartnett decides to leave Dublin and return to his rural roots, as well as deepen his relationship with the Irish language. He goes to live in Templeglantine, five miles from Newcastle West, and works for a time as a lecturer in creative writing at Thomond College of Education, Limerick.

In his 1975 book, A Farewell to English, Hartnett declares his intention to write only in Irish in the future, describing English as “the perfect language to sell pigs in.” A number of volumes in Irish follow including Adharca Broic (1978), An Phurgóid (1983) and Do Nuala: Foighne Chrainn (1984). A biography on this period of his life entitled A Rebel Act Michael Hartnett’s Farewell To English by Pat Walsh is published in 2012 by Mercier Press.

In 1984 Hartnett returns to Dublin to live in the suburb of Inchicore. The following year marks his return to English with the publication of Inchicore Haiku, a book that deals with the turbulent events in his personal life over the previous few years. This is followed by a number of books in English including A Necklace of Wrens (1987), Poems to Younger Women (1989) and The Killing of Dreams (1992).

Hartnett also continues working in Irish, and produces a sequence of important volumes of translation of classic works into English. These include Ó Bruadair, Selected Poems of Dáibhí Ó Bruadair (1985) and Ó Rathaille The Poems of Aodhaghán Ó Rathaille (1999). His Collected Poems appear in two volumes in 1984 and 1987 and New and Selected Poems in 1995.

Hartnett dies from Alcoholic Liver Syndrome on October 13, 1999. A new Collected Poems appears in 2001.

Every April a literary and arts festival is held in Newcastle West in honour of Hartnett. Events are organised throughout the town and a memorial lecture is given by a distinguished guest. Former speakers include Nuala O’Faolain, Paul Durcan, David Whyte and Fintan O’Toole. The annual Michael Hartnett Poetry Award of € 4,000 also forms part of the festival. Funded by the Limerick City and County Council Arts Office and the Arts Council of Ireland, it is intended to support and encourage poets in the furtherance of their writing endeavours. Previous winners include Sinéad Morrissey and Peter Sirr.

During the 2011 Éigse, Paul Durcan unveils a bronze life-sized statue of Hartnett sculpted by Rory Breslin, in the Square, Newcastle West. Hartnett’s son Niall speaks at the unveiling ceremony.