Patrick Kavanagh’s poetry is fascinating, universal and enthralling. I think the imagery is powerful and cinematic also. In my opinion there are four poems written by Kavangh which would be essential in a short anthology of his work. They are ‘Inishkeen Road: July Evening’, ‘On Raglan Road’, ‘Advent’ and ‘The Hospital’. These poems show Kavanagh’s development throughout his life and his amazing power of manipulation over the English language. In these four poems Kavanagh deals with themes such as isolation, artistic frustration, anger, vulnerability, transformation, spirituality, love, disappointment and rebirth, Kavanagh also demonstrates a great understanding of words and imagery in these poems which are vivid and memorable.
Patrick Kavangh’s earlier works such as ‘Inishkeen Road: July Evening’, demonstrate the poet’s sense of isolation and frustration. ‘Inishkeen Road’ is a particularly good example of this as it is about the difficult existence of the poet and his desire to attend the country dance in ‘Billy Brennan’s barn’. I could understand the poet’s feelings here because as a teenager in Ireland today the main goal is to ‘fit in’ with ones peers. ‘I have what every poet hates in spite of solemn talk of contemplation’, I really admire the poet’s honesty here as he expresses his sense of isolation and the feeling that he is different from all the others in Co. Monaghan. The sibilance in the line ‘a footfall tapping secrecies of stone’ is wonderfully evocative. I could empathise with Kavanagh here. He felt that he was missing the key to unlocking the meaning of ‘the wink-and-elbow language of delight’ and the ‘half-talk code of mysteries’. This is a universal theme as it is something that all young people fear.
Kavangh employs a wonderful and effective allusion in the third line of the second stanza, ‘Oh, Alexander Selkirk knew the plight of being king and government and nation’. This is a fantastic image of a man stranded on an island completely alone and demonstrates beautifully how the poet felt at home in Monaghan. I find it truly amazing that Kavangh could create such evocative imagery of dreadful isolation at such an early stage of his career. It is also very moving that he expresses the fact that his exclusion was not voluntary but that he felt compelled to stay away. He had to stay in his ‘mile of kingdom’ where he was ‘king of banks and stones and every blooming thing’. These final lines of the poem are crushingly, uncomfortable honest and convey his deep sense of frustration and isolation. ‘Inishkeen Road’ is a poem which is poignantly moving and an anthology of Kavanagh’s works would suffer without it. Taken from a purely aesthetic point of view, this poem is fantastic. From the perspective of the universal experience of suffering and loneliness it is astonishing. I’m not the world’s greatest fan of poetry but reading this poem was like listening to a friend in distress.
I was interest in the poet’s ability to discuss difficult personal issues such as heartbreak with such candour in ‘On Raglan Road’. This ballad tells the story of a failed love affair. The tone is one of loss and disappointment. This poem is a great example of pathetic fallacy. The poem is set ‘On Raglan Road on an Autumn day’ which suggests the love is transitory and will not last. The poet’s use of language here is remarkable, especially the use of symbolism to describe the woman he has fallen for, ‘her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue’. Kavanagh uses her hair as a symbol for a ‘snare’ which is a trap used to catch animals. He sensed danger but ignored it, ‘I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way’. Love, a universal theme, is a wonderful emotion, and the poet captures the magic of love in the description of it as ‘the enchanted way’. However, Kavanagh’s poem moves to the season of winter in the second stanza and pathetic fallacy is apparent again.
‘On Grafton Street in November we tipped...
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