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Alter Egos - I Am Done Watching This

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Poets Are Born Not Paid

So I ask Houlihan about Paddy Kav. Dead Beat is starved for the stories, you see.

"I was lucky," he tells me. " I discovered Patrick Kavanagh at an early age, first in The Irish Press -- and later in magazines. Here was real poetry -- and it was about the world that I knew. In later life he used to say that he should have remained in Monaghan rather than come to Dublin. He would have made a fortune in smuggling during the war years -- or so he said. Of course he wouldn't -- some people are born not to make fortunes.

He came to Dublin because he wished to meet people with whom he could converse. Back in Monaghan he had plenty of neighbours who could talk all day and night -- but not about poetry.
Dublin attracted him as London had attracted Samuel Johnson and Oliver Goldsmith -- it was an intellectual capital -- kind of. It wasn't the heartland of mental and spiritual ferment that Kavanagh had visualised -- in many ways it was a petty town. Times were bad: most people were poorly paid -- and worked at jobs they deemed beneath them. There was much bitterness, born out of frustration. Kavanagh encountered back biting and front biting. In his own words, "The standing army of Irish poets was never less than five hundred." Alas -- many of them weren't poets at all. "Poets are born, not made" is an old saying. It could be rewritten as "Poets are born, not paid."

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