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Book Review

If Ever You Go - A Map of Dublin in Poetry & Song

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Publisher: Dedalus Press, hardback & paperback

1 of 1 If Ever You Go - Dublin: One City, One Book 2014.
If Ever You Go - Dublin: One City, One Book 2014.

This year’s choice for Dublin: One City, One Book is a great idea, a tour through the city and its environs, realised through the work of poets and balladeers. The anthology includes an index of place names to steer you to the poems that signal the almost mystical locations of Blackpitts, Golden Lane, Usher's Island and Fumbally Lane. You could spend a useful hour just reading and musing upon this long list of toponyms at the back of the book.

The songs and poems reproduced over 354 pages remind us -and we do need constant reminding - of the brilliant store of verse and song associated with the capital, the slow yield of centuries, and the vibrant spurt of the contemporary.

Popular songs by 'anonymous' include Dicey Reilly and Dublin Jack of All Trades, which latter song was revived by The Johnstons, almost 50 years ago. There are poems, ancient and new as Gaeilge, including two (with translation) by Máirtín Ó Direáin from Inis Mór, who lived for most of his life in Dublin. James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Pádraig Pearse have not been forgotten either.

The vast swathe of contemporary material gathers poems of Dublin by the many bardic blow-ins, including Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Heaney, Michael Hartnett and Paul Durcan. Sample here too the great work of Leland Bardwell, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paula Meehan, Vona Groarke and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, whose poem, Radharc Ó Cában tSíle is translated by Paul Muldoon as The View From Cabinteely.

Brendan Kennelly has celebrated Dublin as only a Kerryman can and you can read him here. Native sons Macdara Woods, Thomas Kinsella and Dermot Bolger  are generously represented. Corkman Theo Dorgan has long made Dublin a home, and his poem Croke Park is a moving paean to all who have passed through that stadium's turnstiles. The best of these poems lift airily above the city, transcending place with vigour and daring.

It hardly needs saying that such literary wealth might well be overlooked as Dublin gets less Dublin, and more somewhere else, if such is possible. Any such dimming of the (Dublin) power grid is well-addressed by this celebratory anthology.

Editor Pat Boran is a Portlaoise man who has lived at 16 Dublin addresses. He refers to “the physical, even dizzying, gravity of place” in his introduction. “The richness or monotony of our environment has an incalculable effect on everything from our present happiness to our future creativity, our general well-being to our ability to adapt to new experiences, " he writes.

 "A description of a place, therefore (especially one like this by many hands) is also a portrait of the people who live there.” Fellow editor Gerard Smyth is a Dublin-man. Both poets contribute memorable poems themselves and each has penned an absorbing introduction which sets the scene. If Ever You Go is a hugely valuable anthology, full of sustenance for the heart and soul. 

Paddy Kehoe 

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