A tragicomedy in verse which pits the joys of friendship and humour against the madness and melancholy of the festive season, by the much-celebrated Irish poet, Paul Durcan.
Peter Robb (Author) Peter Robb is an Australian author. He was born in the Toorak, Melbourne in 1946 and has lived in Australia, New Zealand, Italy and Brazil. His first book, Midnight in Sicily, won the Victorian Premier's Literary Prize for non-fiction in 1997. His second book, M, a biography of the Italian artist Caravaggio, provoked controversy on its publication in Britain in 2000. A Death in Brazil, his fourth novel, was named The Age's non-fiction book of the year for 2004. He has taught at the University of Melbourne, the University of Oulu in Finland and the Instituto Universitario Orientale in Naples.Paul Durcan (Author) Paul Durcan was born in Dublin in 1944. His first book, Endsville (1967), has been followed by more than twenty others, including The Berlin Wall Cafe (a Poetry Book Society Choice in 1985), Daddy, Daddy (winner of the Whitbread Award for Poetry in 1990), Crazy About Women (1991), A Snail in My Prime: New and Selected Poems (1993), Give Me Your Hand (1994), Greetings to Our Friends in Brazil (1999), The Art of Life (2004), The Laughter of Mothers (2007), Life is a Dream: 40 Years Reading Poems 1967-2007 (2009), Praise in Which I Live and Move and Have My Being (2012), and The Days of Surprise (2015). In 2001 Paul Durcan received a Cholmondeley Award. He was Ireland Professor of Poetry from 2004 to 2007. He was conferred with a DLitt by Trinity College Dublin in 2009 and by University College Dublin in 2011. In 2014 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Irish Book Award. He is a member of Aosdana.
The irrepressible Durcan is up to his tricks again. The 52-year-old Dubliner maintains a reputation as Ireland's most popular and entertaining poet (he famously compared "his love" to a pint of stout) and yet is taken seriously by the Irish literary community as a poet extending the Celtic bardic tradition of the public balladeer. In this booklength poem, Durcan tells of a Christmas Day shared by two Irish bachelors, Paul and Frank: they bring each other gifts; they do not go to Mass; they have a meal; they sing a song or two-all the while reminiscing about old cemeteries, old loves ("Motoring down to Wesport/ And calling in on Mary McBride/ In the Old Rectory/ And taking the kids out for a spin/ All five of them") and the fate of being a poet ("Two men of no property/ Do men rate/ Who have no real estate?"). Durcan can't help but amuse, and yet here, as throughout most of his work, there is the whiff of gratifying guilt, a sense that Durcan finds a certain malicious pleasure in punishing himself with humor, knowing he deserves worse. It's a peculiar Irishness, perhaps, that permeates Durcan's poems, and may be the secret to his popularity. Still, one might question the poet's evocation of a five-year affair with a nun, which might shock the unsuspecting gift buyer ("All she was interested in/ Was making love," he wryly complains). But priests enough wander in and out of this bawdy, blarney tale to suggest that confession is being heard and sins, perhaps, will be absolved. (Dec.) FYI: Durcan's poem "The Goose in the Frost," written in tribute to Seamus Heaney's winning the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature, will appear at the end of this volume.
[A]n intimate soul-searching, by turns painful and savagely funny
-- Dominic Cavendish * Independent *
He is a master of minor tragedies and melancholy, self-mocking humour... It is a beautiful, poignant and wry piece of writing. The firm yet hesitant friendship between these two men is the most genuine note of goodwill you could come across in a whole month of Christmases -- Maggie O'Farrel * Independent *
Melancholy yet achingly funny * Observer *
Like all first-class comedians, he is deadly serious -- Terry Eagleton * Stand *