seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of William Wall, Novelist, Poet & Short Story Writer

William “Bill” Wall, Irish novelist, poet and short story writer, is born in Cork, County Cork, on July 6, 1955.

Wall is raised in the coastal village of Whitegate, County Cork. He receives his secondary education at the Midleton CBS Secondary School in Midleton. He progresses to University College Cork where he graduates in Philosophy and English. He teaches English and drama at Presentation Brothers College, Cork, where he inspires Cillian Murphy to enter acting.

In 1997, Wall wins the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award. He publishes his first collection of poetry that same year. His first novel, Alice Falling, a dark study of power and abuse in modern-day Ireland, appears in 2000. He is the author of four novels, two collections of poetry and one of short stories.

In 2005, This Is The Country appears. A broad attack on politics in “Celtic Tiger” Ireland, as well as a rite of passage novel, it is longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards. It can be read as a satirical allegory on corruption, the link between capitalism and liberal democracy exemplified in the ‘entrepreneurial’ activities of minor drug dealers and gangsters, and reflected in the architecture of business-parks and sink estates. This political writing takes the form of “an insightful and robust social conscience”, in the words of academic John Kenny. Kenny also focuses on what he sees as Wall’s “baneful take on the Irish family, his fundamentally anti-idyllic mood” which has “not entirely endeared Wall to the more misty-eyed among his readers at home or abroad.” The political is also in evidence in his second collection of poetry Fahrenheit Says Nothing To Me. He is not a member of Aosdána, the Irish organisation for writers and artists. In 2006, his first collection of short fiction, No Paradiso, appears. In 2017, he becomes the first European to win the Drue Heinz Literature Prize.

His provocative political blog, The Ice Moon, has increasingly featured harsh criticism of the Irish government over their handling of the economy, as well as reviews of mainly left-wing books and movies. Many of his posts are satirical. He occasionally writes for literary journals, writes for Irish Left Review, and reviews for The Irish Times. His work has been translated into several languages. He has also appeared on the Irish-language channel TG4, such as in the programme Cogar.

He is one of the Irish delegates at the European Writers Conference in Istanbul in 2010.

Described by writer Kate Atkinson as “lyrical and cruel and bold and with metaphors to die for,” critics have focused on Wall’s mastery of language, his gift for “linguistic compression,” his “poet’s gift for apposite, wry observation, dialogue and character,” his “unflinching frankness” and his “laser-like … dissection of human frailties,” which is counterbalanced by “the depth of feeling that Wall invests in his work.” A review of his first novel in The New Yorker declares “Wall, who is also a poet, writes prose so charged—at once lyrical and syncopated—that it’s as if Cavafy had decided to write about a violent Irish household.” In a recent review, his long poem “Job in Heathrow,” anthologised in The Forward Book of Poetry 2010 but originally published in The SHOp, is described as “a chilling airport dystopia.” Poet Fred Johnston suggests that Wall’s poetry sets out to “list the shelves of disillusion under which a thinking man can be buried.” For Philip Coleman, “Ghost Estate is a deeply political book, but it also articulates a profound interest in and engagement with questions of aesthetics and poetics.”

Wall is a longtime sufferer of adult-onset Still’s disease (AOSD) and describes his efforts to circumvent the disabling effects of the disease using speech-to-text applications as “a battle between me and the software.”


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Birth of Poet John Montague

john-montagueIrish poet John Montague is born on Bushwick Avenue at St. Catherine’s Hospital in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, on February 28, 1929. His father, James Montague, an Ulster Catholic, from County Tyrone, had come to the United States in 1925.

Life in New York is difficult during the Great Depression, so John and his two brothers are shipped back to Ireland in 1933. The two eldest are sent to their maternal grandmother’s house in Fintona, County Tyrone, but John is sent to his father’s ancestral home at Garvaghey, then maintained by two spinster aunts.

John studied at University College Dublin in 1946. Stirred by the example of other student poets he begins to publish his first poems in The Dublin Magazine, Envoy, and The Bell, edited by Peadar O’Donnell. But the atmosphere in Dublin is constrained and he leaves for Yale University on a Fulbright Fellowship in 1953.

A year of graduate school at University of California, Berkeley convinces Montague that he should return to Ireland. He settles in Dublin working at the Irish Tourist Office. In 1961 he moves to Bray, County Wicklow. A regular rhythm of publication sees his first book of stories, Death of a Chieftain (1964) after which the musical group The Chieftains is named, his second book of poems, A Chosen Light (1967), Tides (1970).

All during the 1960s, Montague continues to work on his long poem, The Rough Field, a task that coincides with the outbreak of the Northern Ireland civil rights movement. A Patriotic Suite appears in 1966, Hymn to the New Omagh Road and The Bread God in 1968, and A New Siege, dedicated to Bernadette Devlin which he reads outside Armagh Jail in 1970.

In 1972, Montague takes a teaching job at University College Cork, at the request of his friend, the composer Seán Ó Riada, where he inspires an impressive field of young writers including Gregory O’Donoghue, Seán Dunne, Thomas McCarthy, William Wall, Maurice Riordan, Gerry Murphy, Greg Delanty and Theo Dorgan.

Montague settles in Cork in 1974 and publishes an anthology, the Faber Book of Irish Verse (1974) with a book of lyrics, A Slow Dance (1975). Recognition is now beginning to come, with the award of the Irish American Cultural Institute in 1976, the first Marten Toonder Award in 1977, and the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award for The Great Cloak in 1978.

In 1987, Montague is awarded an honorary doctor of letters by the State University of New York at Buffalo. He serves as distinguished writer-in-residence for the New York State Writers Institute during each spring semester, teaching workshops in fiction and poetry and a class in the English Department of the University at Albany. In 1998, he is named the first Irish professor of poetry, a three-year appointment to be divided among Queen’s University Belfast, Trinity College Dublin, and University College Dublin. In 2008, he publishes A Ball of Fire, a collection of all his fiction including the short novella The Lost Notebook.

John Montague dies at the age of 87 in Nice, France on December 10, 2016 after complications from a recent surgery.