Patrick Kavanagh was born on 21 October 1904 in Mucker, Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan. Having attended the local national school, Kavanagh worked as an apprentice shoemaker to his father and then on the small family farm. His first collection of poems was published while he was still working on the farm. In 1939, Kavanagh moved to Dublin, where he became a full-time writer, contributing articles and poems to a number of publications and writing as a film critic for the Catholic journal 'The Standard'. From 1963 to his death he had a weekly column in the RTV (now RTÉ) Guide.
The long poem 'The Great Hunger', published in 1942 and the novel 'Tarry Flynn' published in 1948, challenged the romantic pastoral visions of the Irish Revival writers with a semi-autobiographical depiction of the misery of the bachelor farmer. Kavanagh validated the trivial detail of modest rural life as subjects for poetry and thereby, allowed later Irish poets of a rural background to find their own voice, most notably Seamus Heaney.
Following a serious illness in 1955, Kavanagh spent much of his convalescence on the banks of Dublin's Grand Canal. Here, Kavanagh experienced a spiritual awakening and his poetry flourished with a new strength of purpose:
"For many a good-looking year I wrought hard at versing but I would say that, as a poet, I was born in or about nineteen-fifty-five, the place of my birth being the banks of the Grand Canal."
(Self-Portrait: Patrick Kavanagh)
'Come Dance With Kitty Stobling', the collection of poems written at this time which includes 'The Canal Bank Sonnets', was acclaimed by critics.
Patrick Kavanagh died of pneumonia in 1967.
Extracts of Patrick Kavanagh's writings are published here by kind permission of the Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Trust.
The extract of Paul Durcan's poem 'November 1967' appears courtesy of Paul Durcan.
In his debut television appearance, Kavanagh reflects on the self.
Tim O'Keeffe explains his part in having 'Collected Poems' by Patrick Kavanagh published while working for McGibbon & Kee in London
Seamus Heaney describes how he first came to read Kavanagh and how Kavanagh's work taught him "that nothing is trivial", and that the ordinary or common place is as important as the largest theme.
Talking to Professor Augustine Kavanagh, Dr. Peter Kavanagh talks about his relationship with his brother and his realisation that Patrick was a genius.
Brendan Kennelly talks about his great love for Patrick Kavanagh as a person and as a poet.
A Patrick Kavanagh column for the RTÉ Guide which is devoted entirely to the subject of himself.
In the radio documentary 'Gods Make Their Own Importance', Kavanagh's sisters and a neighbour talked to Tom McGurk about the poet's early days.
For the 1966 television documentary, 'The Writers – Patrick Kavanagh', Kavanagh returned to his home place of Inniskeen.
Kavanagh reflects on the lines of his poem 'Inniskeen Road' as he walks along the road.
Patrick Kavanagh's interest in reading outweighed his interest in farming. Neighbours recount stories of how Kavanagh had no idea about farming.
Kavanagh describes what he calls the "literary metropolis" and literary scene in Dublin at the time of his arrival in the city that would become his home for almost 30 years.
In this second documentary of a two part series, Tom McGurk examines the 1930s to the 1960s in the life of poet Patrick Kavanagh. Kavanagh as an exile in Dublin.
If Dublin became Kavanagh's town, then the environs of Baggot Street became his parish. Here he was known and took an interest in the lives of the locals.
Patrick Kavanagh reflects on his time working as a film critic and a possible lost career in the media.
Benedict Kiely recalls Patrick Kavanagh's time as film critic for 'The Standard'.
The first edition of Patrick Kavanagh's column in the RTV Guide is presented here. The column initially began as a film criticism page but over time became an opportunity for Kavanagh to comment on whatever took his fancy.
Commendations and criticism of Patrick Kavanagh's column in the RTV Guide.
Patrick Kavanagh takes a passing glance at the latest phenomenon from Liverpool - the Beatles.
In early 1955 Patrick Kavanagh spent time in hospital having undergone surgery for lung cancer. In 'Hospital Notebook', recorded for radio, Kavanagh reflects on his hospital experiences.
Patrick Kavanagh believed that following his illness in 1955 he was reborn as a poet. He explains how he had a revelation while lying on the banks of the canal and his belief that little he wrote before was poetry.
Writer and painter John Ryan and Kavanagh's brother Peter reflect on the Patrick Kavanagh's belief that he was reborn as a poet on the banks of the canal.
Poets Brendan Kennelly and Seamus Heaney compare the poetry of Kavanagh's earlier and later life.
Kavanagh's wife, Katherine, Therese Cronin, Joan Ryan and Leland Bardwell talk about the poet's relationship with women.
Joan Ryan remembers her first meeting with Patrick Kavanagh and having tea with him in Mitchell's.
Patrick Kavanagh met Katherine Moloney, a friend of Therese Cronin and Leland Bardwell, in London in 1957. Barland says of Katherine, "She did so much for him and I think it's often overlooked."
Benedict Kiely recalls Patrick Kavanagh first showing him the words of 'On Raglan Road' and trying out how it would sound sung to the air of 'The Dawning of the Day'.
Writer Benedict Kiely tells Ciarán Mac Mathúna how he thinks he was the first person to see the words of 'Raglan Road' written out.
Luke Kelly explains how he met Patrick Kavanagh in The Bailey pub in Dublin. During this encounter Kavanagh told him he had a song for him.
Patrick Kavanagh met Hilda Moriarty in 1944. She was a 22-year-old medical student at University College Dublin. Kavanagh, who was 20 years older, became obsessed with Hilda Moriarty. His love was unrequited and she later married Donogh O'Malley (who became a Fianna Fáil Minister for Education).
Just days after the death of Patrick Kavanagh, Diarmuid O’Muirithe talks to Kavanagh’s old friends about him in McDaid’s pub, Harry Street, Dublin.
Patrick Kavanagh's sisters Annie and Mary recall the poet expressing the wish to be buried in his home place.
Tomás Mac Anna, Peter Kavanagh, Katherine Kavanagh and Dr Richard Riordan talk of Kavanagh's illness and death.
Michael O’hAodha writes a tribute to the poet, the critic and the man.
The funeral of Patrick Kavanagh as the poest is laid to rest in his native Inniskeen on 2nd December 1967.