Patrick Kavanagh Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Patrick Kavanagh was the fourth of ten children of James Kavanagh, a shoemaker, and his wife, Bridget. The Kavanagh home was in Mucker, a townland of Inniskeen, County Monaghan, near the Armagh (and now Northern Ireland) border. The boy attended Kednaminsha National School until he was thirteen, when he was apprenticed to his father’s trade. Later, he worked a small farm purchased in the nearby townland of Shancoduff. His first literary influences were the school anthologies that featured Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Kingsley, William Allingham, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Thomas Moore, and his earliest poems were written in school notebooks. As he worked on his small farm, he nurtured his taste on magazines picked up at fairs in the town of Dundalk. His keen observations of country life, its customs, characters, and speech patterns, together with his growing awareness of his sensitivity that set him apart from his peers, are well set forth in his account of his early life, The Green Fool. Many of his early poems appeared in the 1930’s in The Irish Statesman, whose editor,Æ (George William Russell), was the first to recognize and cultivate the peasant poet. Æ introduced him to modern world literature, providing him with books, advice, payment, and introductions to the Irish literary establishment. Of the books given him by Æ, Gil Blas of Santillane (1715, 1724, 1735), Ulysses (1922), and...

(The entire section is 598 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Patrick Kavanagh (KAV-uh-nuh) is recognized as an important post-Yeatsian poet, one who is credited by both critics and fellow poets with having freed Anglo-Irish poetry from the inhibiting shadow of William Butler Yeats. Kavanagh chose to reject the tradition generated by the Irish Literary Revival and sought his own poetic identity with its simple, courageous faith in a personal comic vision. As an autodidact with an Irish rural background oriented more toward the nineteenth than the twentieth century, Kavanagh is to a considerable extent unique among modern poets, and his poetic voice is an unusual and original one.

Kavanagh was born in Inniskeen Parish, County Monaghan, Ireland, on October 21, 1904, the fourth child and first son of James Kavanagh, a shoemaker and farmer, and his wife, Bridget Quinn. He attended the nearby Kednaminsha National School, where he was a disinterested student; he ended his formal schooling at age thirteen but not before schoolbooks had introduced him to poetry. His father apprenticed him into the shoemaking trade, and in 1926 Kavanagh’s parents bought for him a small farm in nearby Shancoduff. His interests in reading and writing continued to grow, however, and they drew him away from cobbling and farming.

Kavanagh began writing verse when he was twelve, recording in rhyme interesting local events. In 1927 Kavanagh bought a copy of The Irish Statesman in which he read a poem by Æ (George William Russell). Æ’s mysticism stirred Kavanagh’s poetic imagination. He sent some poems to Russell, who rejected the initial group but encouraged him to write more. When Kavanagh visited Dublin in 1930, Russell gave him works by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and the Irish writers James Stephens and George Moore, as well as copies of Poetry. From the reviews in Poetry Kavanagh learned of the various poetic movements, including Imagism and modernism. He had also read extensively from a neighbor’s library.

His literary activities rapidly...

(The entire section is 830 words.)