Irish Independent

Honour for poet on his own stony grey soil

**Photo from the Patrick Kavanagh, 1904-1967 site where you can learn more about the poet.

WHEN poet Patrick Kavanagh first visited Aras An Uachtarain, he wore a green woolly jumper and arrived somewhat the worse for drink.

Such was the recollection of President Mary McAleese, as she laid a wreath of white lilies on the grave of the literary genius yesterday to mark the centenary of his birth.

"The upshot was some rather pompous missives sent to the president, saying Patrick Kavanagh should not be invited again," she said. "I feel rather horrible about that. That's not who we are as a people. Maybe he'll forgive a president now, as I am here today at his grave."

Standing in the hilly churchyard in Inniskeen, Co Monaghan, as the late afternoon sun slanted from a blue November sky, President McAleese read aloud his poem 'The Inniskeen Road'. The President felt recognition for his work had come very late, saying: "He had to wait a long time for the warmth and affection of the Irish people to express itself, but I think it has been expressed now, particularly in this generation."

Also at the graveside were two of the poet's nephews, Andrew Quinn and Fr John Quinn.

Fr Quinn said the presidential visit was an honour for his late uncle, and said she had accurately pinpointed the struggle Patrick Kavanagh had for appreciation of his work, which includes 'Stony Grey Soil' and 'Raglan Road'.

Andrew Quinn's wife, Maureen, said she had one abiding memory of the poet in her youth.

"He took me and my mam to Clery's in Dublin, to buy us raincoats. But when we came to the till, he didn't have any money. So mammy had to buy them instead," she smiled.

Patrick Kavanagh, who died in 1967, now rests in a modest grave under a small wooden cross.

The church has become the Patrick Kavanagh Centre, run by curator Emily Cullen. She said the beauty of Kavanagh's work was in his pioneering focus on "what was under our noses".

Last night his fellow poet Seamus Heaney delivered a keynote address entitled 'Patrick Kavanagh's Essential Gesture'.

The Patrick Kavanagh weekend will continue today with a performance from actor TP McKenna.

Helen Bruce

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