Robert Greacen

1920-2008; b. 24 Oct., Derry; an only child, the son of an alcoholic father (‘Ven’) and a strictly Presbyterian mother; moved to Belfast but spent part of his childhood with relations in Monaghan; ed. Methodist College, Belfast; played role of Father Keegan in John Bull's Other Island (Shaw) in Methody play-reading soc.; grad. TCD; chanced on first issue of The Bell while visiting Dublin, Oct. 1940; attempted with John Gallen to make The Northman at QUB a literary magazine for the whole of Ulster, publishing McFadden and others, 1941; compiled Poems from Ulster (1942), with work by Harold Brooks, Alex Comfort, Maurice James Craig, et al.
reviewed “The Great Hunger” for Horizon [in which it first appeared]; fnd. ed. Ulster Voices Nos. 1, 2 (Spring & Summer 1943), and No. 3 [1943], and Irish Voices, No. 1 (1943), and – most notably – Northern Harvest (1944), containing original writings of Helen Waddell, W. R. Rodgers, John Hewitt, John Irvine, and Maurice J. Craig, with commentary by Robert Lynd, Hugh Shearman, Denis Ireland and H. L. Morrow and ills. by Colin Middleton; ed. with Valentine Iremonger the Faber Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry (London 1949), with an editorial bias towards ‘the young and lesser known’ writers on ‘the contemporary Irish scene’; invited to submit work to Robinson and McDonagh, eds., Oxford Book of Irish Verse (1958), but omitted when he disputed the editors’ choice;
issued his own poetry in The Bird (1941); proceeded to TCD, 1943; issued One Recent Evening (1944) and The Undying Day (1948); on graduation took employment with United Nations Association in London; m. Patricia Hutchins (d.1985) - of Cork ascendancy family and author of James Joyce’s Dublin (1950) and Ezra Pound’s Kensington (1957); lived as school-teacher in London until his return to Dublin on retirement in the late 1980s; issued A Garland for Captain Fox (1975), poems about a wheeler-dealer; also I, Brother Stephen (1978); Young Mr Gibbon (1979); A Bright Mask (1985); Carnival at the River (1990); settled in Dublin, boarding with Beatrice Behan, and using ‘Brendan’s desk’; found Beatrice dead in bed, and moved to new flat, 1995; elected member of Aosdana; winner of Irish Times Literature Prize for Poetry for his Collected Poems 1944-1994 (Oct. 1995) - winner of Irish Times Award for Literature;
Greacen gave readings in America, 1996; issues Protestant Without a Horse (1997), new poems; his papers, mainly correspondence, are held at the University of Ulster (Special Collections); Lunch at the Ivy (2002), containing elegies, launched by Seamus Heaney; issued Shelley Plain: Literary Encounters (2003); issued Selected & New Poems (2006), ed. by Jack Weaver; d. 13 April 2008; there is a bust by Robin Buick. DIW ORM DIL OCIL

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  • The Bird (Dublin: Gayfield Press 1941), 7pp., ill. [woodcut by Leslie Owen Baxter; see infra; also included in Poetry from Ireland, 1944].
  • One Recent Evening (London: Favil Press 1944 ), 28pp.
  • The Undying Day (London: Falcon Press 1948), 78pp.
  • A Garland for Captain Fox (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 1975), 30pp.
  • I, Brother Stephen (Dublin: St Bueno’s Press 1978) [hand-printed ltd. edns.; var. Profile Poetry].
  • Sunday Bells [Poetry Ireland, No. 3] (Dublin: Poetry Ireland 1978) [1 sh.].
  • Young Mr. Gibbon (Mornington, Co. Meath, Profile Poetry 1979), 47pp.
  • A Bright Mask: New and Selected Poems (Dublin: Deladus Press 1985), 59pp. [infra].
  • Carnival at the River (Dedalus 1991), 51pp. [infra].
  • The Only Emperor [Lapwing Poetry Pamphs.] (Belfast: Lapwing Press 1994), 28pp. [broadsheet in memory Wallace Stephens; var. 1992].
  • Collected Poems 1944-1994 (Belfast: Lagan 1995), 178pp. [216 poems].
  • Protestant Without a Horse (Belfast: Lagan Press 1997), 66pp.
  • Captain Fox: A Life (Belfast: Lapwing Press 2000), 48pp.
  • Lunch at the Ivy (Belfast: Lagan Press 2002), 52pp.
  • Shelley Plain: Literary Encounters (Happy Dragon Press 2002), 18pp.
  • Selected & New Poems, ed. Jack W. Weaver (Galway: Salmon Poetry 2006), 199pp.
Prose (autobiographical)
  • Even Without Irene (Dublin: Dolmen 1969), 116pp., and Do. [rev. & enl.] (Belfast: Lagan Press 1995), 172pp., ded. to Roy McFadden.
  • Brief Encounters: Literary Dublin and Belfast in the 1940s (Dublin: Cathair Books 1991), 47pp..
  • The Sash My Father Wore: An Autobiography (Edinburgh: Mainstream 1997), 224pp. [extended version of Even Without Irene].
Prose (Lit. biog. )
  • The World of C. P. Snow (London: Scorpion 1952), 64pp. [bibl. by Bernard Stone].
  • The Art of Noel Coward (Aldington Kent: Hand & Flower [1953]), 87pp., ill.
  • Patrick MacGill: Champion of the Underdog (Glenties Dev. Assoc. 1981), 16pp.
  • Rooted in Ulster: Nine Northern Writers (Belfast: Lagan Press 2001), 130pp. [deals with Shan Bullock, Forrest Reid, Kathleen Coyle, Joyce Cary, Patrick MacGill, Patrick Kavanagh, Michael McLaverty, John Hewitt and Sam Hanna Bell]
Articles [incl.]
  • ‘A Note on Two Ulster Poets’, in Poetry Ireland, 2 (July 1948), pp.12-15.
  • ‘On Being Young and Foolish in Belfast’, in Rann, 17 (Autumn 1952), pp.13-17.
  • ‘The Poetry of W. R. Rodgers’, in Rann, 14 [Autumn 1954], pp.14-18.
  • ‘The Ulster Quality in Louis MacNeice’, in Poetry Ireland, 8 (Jan. 1950), pp.15-18.
  • ‘William Allingham’, in Irish Writing, 16 (Sept. 1951), pp.47-53.
  • ‘The Belfast Poetry Scene 1939-1945’, in Honest Ulsterman, 77 (Winter 1984), pp. 17-22.
  • ‘In memory of Stephen Spender 1909-1995’ [poem], in Books Ireland (Nov. 1996, p.329).
Reviews [numerous reviews in Books Ireland incl.]
  • ‘An Irish Bennet’, [long review of Sean O’Faolain: A Life by Maurice Harmon, in Books Ireland (Dec. 1994), pp.318-19.
  • review of Schirmer, Reviews and Essays of Austin Clarke, in Books Ireland (Feb. 1996) [see under Austin Clarke].
  • ‘Sixty Years On’, feature-review of Antoinette Quinn, Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 2001), in Books Ireland (Feb. 2002), p.17.
  • ‘Minority Christians’, review of Untold Stories: Protestants of the Republic of Ireland 1922-2002 ed. by Colin Murphy & Lynne Adair, and A History of the Church of Ireland 1691-2001 by Alan Acheson, in Books Ireland (Feb. 2003).
  • review of W. B. Yeats: The Arch Poet by R. F. Foster, in Books Ireland (Nov. 2003), pp.275-76.
  • review of George Russell (AE) and the New Ireland, 1905-1930 by Nicholas Allen, in Books Ireland (April 2003).
  • review of The Ulster Anthology ed. by Patricia Craig, in Books Ireland (Feb. 2007), p.13f.
  • review of The Letters of Bernard Shaw to the Times, 1898-1950 ed. Ron Ford, in Books Ireland (Nov. 2007), pp.255-56.
  • ed., Poems from Ulster ([Erskine Mayne] 1942), 22pp. [viz., Harold Brooks, Alex Comfort, Maurice James Craig, et al.; cover by Leslie Owen Baxter].
  • with Roy McFadden, dir. [ed.], Ulster Voices [Summer 1943: 2nd folio] (Belfast: Ulster Voices Publ.), 5pp. [pamphlet].
  • ed., Northern Harvest: Anthology of Ulster Writing, intro. by Robert Lynd (Belfast: Derrick MacCord [1944]).
  • with Alex Comfort, ed., Lyra, An Anthology of New Lyrics (Billerclay, Grey Walls Press 1944).
  • ed. with Valentin Iremonger, On the Barricades (Dublin: New Frontiers Press 1944),37pp. [see contents].
  • ed. Irish Harvest (Dublin: New Frontiers 1946), 158pp. [see contents].
  • ed., with Valentin Iremonger, Contemporary Irish Poetry (London: Faber [1949]), 173pp. [see contents]
  • ed., Tidings: A Christmas Miscellany (London: Housmans 1954.), 64pp.
  • contrib. to Nancy Cunard, ed., Poèmes à la France 1934-1944 (Paris: Pierre Seghers 1947) [with others incl. Lord Dunsany, Hugh MacDiarmid, Ewart Milne.
  • contrib. to Dedalus Irish Poets, ed. John F. Deane (Dublin: Dedalus 1992), 278pp.

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Bibliographical details
On The Barricades [1944], Robert Greacen, Bruce Williamson, Valentine Iremonger (New Frontier Press [135 Tritonville Road, Sandymount, Dublin 1944), 37pp. Fly-leaf, […] ‘Here they raise, and defend, their first barricades against the low standards, facile half-truths and lack of integrity that have for too long rotted the Anglo-Irish spirit’; epigraphs from Robert Graves and John Dos Passos; Greacen’s contributions, pp.7-16, ‘Dialogue in the Storm’ [Leader of the Crowd v. The Artist]; ‘The Glorious Twelfth, 12 July, 1943’ [‘… while now the Russian plains are stacked with corpses’]; Speech Before Winter’; ‘Written on the Sense of Isolation in Contemporary Ireland’ [invoking Swift, Burke, Goldsmith, Congreve, Moore, and ending ‘So now in days of fevered fret and stress/Let Europe measure our our Irishness’]. Williamson’s contributions, pp.19-27; Iremonger’s contributions, pp.31-37 [Longer poem in ten canto-parts (I-X) of 3-5 quatrains, the first entitled ‘Well, I do Declare’, the ninth (’Evening - Storm Coming Up’, and the tenth ‘The Choice’.]

Irish Harvest (Dublin: New Frontiers Press 1946), 158pp. CONTENTS [chiefly extracts]: Hubert Butler, “Report from Dublin -- The Teaching Brigade”; -- Blanaid Salkeld, “Error”; Mary Lavin, “The Story of the Widow’s Son”; Geoffrey Taylor, “Country Walk”; Lennox Robinson, “Class Conscious”; William Walsh, “A Gentleman of Old Dublin”; John Hewitt, “First Corncrake”; Donagh MacDonagh, “Duet for Organ and Strings”; George Hetherington, “Feathers”; Patrick Greer, “The Room”; Robert Greacen, “The Undiscovered Island”; R. M. Fox, “The New Ireland”; Elizabeth Bowen, “A Love Story”; Seán Jennett, “I Sought in Anger”; Michael McLaverty, “The Mother”; Bruce Williamson, “Homage of War”; Patricia Hutchins, “Art Here”; Valentin Iremonger, “Poem”; Seán O’Faolain, “The Man Who Invented Sin”; Roy McFadden, “The Orator”; Michael O’Beirne, “No Recording Angel”; Helen Waddell, “Seisin”; Sam Harrison, “Rain”; L.A.G. Strong, “Mr Mangan's First Love”; Forrest Reid, “A Garden by the Sea”.

Contemporary Irish poetry, ed. by Robert Greacen & Valentin Iremonger (London: Faber & Faber 1949), 173pp. CONTENTS: Poems by John Boyd, G.M. Brady, Austin Clarke, Rhoda Coghill, Maurice Craig, Leslie Daiken, Denis Devlin, Padriac Fallon, Maurice Farley, Robert Farren, John Gallen, Robert Graves, Robert Greacen, Sam Harrison, George Hetherington, John Hewitt, Pearse Hutchinson, Valentin Iremonger, Sean Jennett, Freda Laughton, C. Day Lewis, Donagh MacDonagh, Patrick MacDonogh, Louis MacNeice, Roy McFadden, Patrick Maybin, Colin Middleton, Ewart Milne, Nick Nicholls, D.J. O’Sullivan, W.R. Rodgers, Blanaid Salkeld, Geoffrey Taylor, Bruce Williamson.

Contribs. as per list on the dust-jacket: Michael MacLaverty, LAG Strong, Seán O’Faoláin, Elizabeth Bowen [‘A Love Story’], Lennox Robinson, Helen Waddell, Forrest Reid, Seán Jennet, Donagh McDonagh, Mary Lavin, Hubert Butler [‘The Teacher Brigade’, a memoir]; Blanaid Salkeld [‘Error’, poem - ‘I fell in with a poet tribe’]; Geoffrey Taylor, John Hewitt, George Hetherington [a three-part poem], Bruce Williamson, Val Iremonger [‘Poem’ - actually his ‘Icarus’, on p.123].

Honest Ulsterman (contributions)

POETRY: ‘Witness’ (No. 22, 37); ‘Tomorrow Evening About Eight’ (No. 27, 28); ‘The Girl from Schaffhausen’ (No. 32, 4); ‘The Letter for Robert Nye’ (No. 35, 29); ‘Wee Jimmy’ (No. 41, 22); ‘Knowing and Not Knowing’ (No. 44, 27); ‘A Poet Dying’ in memory of Clifford Dyment (No. 46, 16); ‘Carnival at the River’ (No. 91, 121); ‘The Metal Birds’ (No. 99, 28); ‘Watching’ (No. 99, 29). PROSE: ‘John Gallen, A Memoir’ (No. 37, 12); ‘Denis Ireland, A Memoir’, obituary (No. 44, 27); ‘The War Years in Ulster 1939-45’ (No. 64, 17); ‘The Belfast Poetry Scene 1939-45’ (No. 77, 17-22); ‘John Hewitt, a Memoir’, obituary (No. 84, 8) [see Tom Clyde, Index to The Honest Ulsterman, 1995, pp.30-31].

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Bibliographical details
A Bright Mask: New and Selected Poems
(Deladus Press 1985), 59pp. [for John Boyd, Le temps passe, l’amitié reste], contains poems from prev. collections, One Recent Evening (1944), The Undying Day (1948), A Garland for Cpt. Fox (1975), I, Brother Stephen (1978), Young Mr Gibbon (1979), and new poems.

Carnival at the River (Dublin: Dedalus 1991), 51pp. [photo port.] [for Derek Stanford]; includes poem “John Hewitt”’, p.31 [‘He and McFadden try to break / The mould of bigotry’]. Biog. note, p.51.

Fortnight Review (May 1995), p.37 contains ‘Cremation’, ‘The Photographer’, ‘Captain Fox’, A Page from Captain Fox’s Notebook’ […Zythum - ancient Egyptian beer. Last bloody word’], ‘Father and Son’; ‘Church and Covenant’ [‘… I lack their bigot pride / Their Certainty of Truth / I chose a slacker way, / An anxious tolerance.’), with a photo-port., appeared in Fortnight Review (May 1995), p.37, with a citation from an unnamed review by Conleth Ellis claiming he runs the gamut (or gauntlet) of human emotions and responds with the subtlest of sardonic satire.

Fortnight Review, No. 344 (Nov. 1995), [Poetry] p.39, contains ‘I. M. Spender 1909-95’; ‘At Brendan Behan’s Desk’ [incl. the phr. ‘… a Protestant without a horse’]; ‘Elegy, Elegie by Maurice Gilliams, a version’; ‘In the Train’; ‘Haiku’.

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Terence Brown, ‘Robert Greacen and Roy McFadden, Apocalypse and Survival’, in Northern Voices, Poets from Ulster (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1975), pp.128-40 [infra]; Rory Brennan, ed., Robert Greacen, A Tribute at the Age of Seventy (Poetry Ireland. 1990), 34pp. See also reviews, infra. See also John Brown, ed., In the Chair: Interview with Poets from the North of Ireland (Galway: Salmon Press 2002); Maurice Harmon, ‘ Sing your own song’, review of Robert Greacen, Selected & New Poems, in The Irish Times ( 9 Sept. 2006), Weekend [infra]; Hugh McFadden, review of Selected and New Poems, in Books Ireland (Feb. 2007), p.15-16.

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Terence Brown, ‘Robert Greacen and Roy McFadden’, Northern Voices (1975), pp.128: quotes Greacen, ‘Since the generation of Joseph Campbell and AE, until the late thirties, there was an almost complete blank in poetic utterance and drama. No middle generation of quality had arisen to whom the younger writer could look for guidance, not to speak of inspiration. this indeed was perhaps to a certain extent advantageous, as elsewhere the slightly older generation acts frequently as a brake on new talent. […] Commercialism, with its rough edges unsmoothed by the graces that money can buy, lack of true values and isolation, due to an absorption in domestic quarrels that originated several centuries ago, make life extremely difficult for the sensitive young Ulsterman. His early impulse is to break free, cut himself off completely from such a smothering atmosphere. Later, he learns to modify his attitude and even to find certain good positive traits in his environment.’ (‘The Poetry of W. R. Rodgers’, Rann, No. 14, p.14); [aspired in Northman to] ‘act as the bridgehead between Ireland and Great Britain, and to suck the best out of the English, the Gaelic, and the Anglo-Irish culture’. Bibl. incl. ‘Fragments of an Editorial’, The Northman, Vol. XI, No. 1 (Winter 1941-42), 1; ‘A Survey of Ulster Writing’, The Northman, Vol. XI, No. 2 (Winter 1942-43), cp.10. Further, quotes Greacen: ‘There seems to be a literary ferment in Belfast comparable with the upsurge in creative writing that characterised the period of the Second World War. Does violence stimulate creativity? Perhaps it does in the sense that whn life and limb are in danger we tend to concentrate more on permanent raather than temporary values. Or more prosaically, is it that when people must perforce stay at home a number of them take to poetry to while away the long evenings?’ (Letter to the Irish Times, 18 June. 1974; cited in Brown, op. cit., p.213).

Katie Donovan, ‘A Poet and a Pacificist’, interview with Robert Greacen: ‘I think I’m a frustrated fiction writer’; parents hailed from Monaghan and Fermanagh; ‘different from today’s crop of Northern poets. They came up from the Sixties, with the Civil Rights Movement. By then I had been living in London for a long time.’; first five years in Derry with maternal aunts and grandmother; moved back with parents, setting up business in Belfast; father ‘drank and found fault with everything’; influenced by MacNeice and Spender; collaborated with Alex Comfort on Lyra (British and Irish poets); no poetry for 20 years; studies of Coward and Snow; ‘in the 1970’s, ‘My8 subject matter had changed, my tone was more ironic and sophisticated’; poems on Capt. Fox, who first emerged in his letters to English critic Derek Stanford; darig, irreverent, mysterious character; ‘Fox at fifty, twice as creative as at twenty-five/No talent buried in the earth’; Carnival by the River (1990); &c.

Liz Curtis, ‘I am from Creggan’, interview with Greacen, in Fortnight (May 1996), pp.33-34: Greacen speaks of father as ‘feckless alcoholic Orangeman who beat his wife and eventually separated from her; his education paid for by aunts; compares himself to Fred Uhlman whose life was determined by doing the opposite to his father; quit Belfast for good, 1943; compares himself to Sam McAughtry ‘who feels both British and Irish’; ‘liberal with a small “l”’; poem selected at 20 by Frank O’Connor; remembers Patrick Kavanagh: ‘I got to know him well because I was staying in a boarding house in Ballsbridge, and he came and stayed there for a period. He was detested by the other people! There were one or two students like me, there were some commercial travellers, and two or three school-teachers. In those days we would have used the word “genteel” about them. They would unfailingly say, “Good morning”. And Kavanagh would clump in at breakfast time and go to a table and open a newspaper. Sometimes he would speak to me and sometimes not. He was quite boorish. But to be fair to him, he would sometimes be very nice to me. I think he was very moody.//He was a very good poet. The other people in the boarding house used to say, “How can a man like that be a poet? Because they thought of a poet as a man who would probably have a university education, and would have good manners.’ the interview took place at at the Bangor Arts Festival The Crazy Knot exhibition of paintings, based on poems incl. his own.

Kevin Kiely, review of Robert Greacen, Lunch at the Ivy (Belfast: Lagan Press), in Books Ireland (March 23003) notes that the poems chiefly deal with the literary milieu of London from 1936 incl. Clifford Dyment and Alex Comfort, poet and later author of The Joy of Sex and with whom Greacen edited an anthology supervised by Eliot. Kiely remarks: ‘The whole collection bristles with a kind of tongue-in-cheek obituary or notes towards such.’

Maurice Harmon, ‘Sing your own song’, review of Robert Greacen, Selected & New Poems, in The Irish Times (9 Sept. 2006), Weekend: ‘There is an elegance in Robert Greacen’s first two collections, One Recent Evening (1944) and The Undying Day (1948), even though loneliness lurks beneath the surface. Despite that promising beginning it was not until 1975 that he published A Garland for Captain Fox which was followed, in 1979, by Young Mr. Gibbon . In these he creates a mysterious, elusive figure who, it is thought, has connections in high places, “the link-man, in touch with numerous capitals”. Greacen enjoys the suggestion of endless adventure. The manner is ironic and playful. / Not that he ignores the “sour realities” of a Derry childhood. In Carnival at the River (1990) he tackles a family remarkable for austerity and rectitude. Being dour and disciplined, they lack the inventiveness and flair of Captain Fox and in truth Greacen prefers to write about his clever fellows, Fox, Kinsky and Carrington-Smythe of the Foreign Office. / It turns out they were wrong about Fox. He was the classic Englishman, “Well-spoken, modest, tolerant”. But when Hubermann writes his life unknown things emerge: both parents Jewish, both survivors of the Holocaust. Now Fox is a hero, “A self-invented twentieth-century man / Whose business was never my business”. / It is good poetic fun and Greacen carries it off with style, although the note of sadness returns with the awareness that the dreams of youth have not been realised. […]’ (See full text, in RICORSO Library, Criticism > Reviews, via index, or direct.)

Jack W. Weaver, ‘Ulster’s Nine Lives’, review of Rooted in Ulster, in Irish Literary Supplement (Fall 2002): ‘Although we know Robert Greacen primarily for his poetry - at age 82 he has produced eight separate volumes and keeps publishing and collecting and was given the Irish Times Literary Prize for Poetry in 1995 - he has amassed a considerable body of prose also of high quality. His prose career includes two autobiographical volumes, Even Without Irene and The Sash My Father Wore, two works which trace his literary career. As biographical writer, he produced three more books: The Art of Noel Coward, The World of C. P. Snow, and Patrick Gill: Champion of the Underdog. As co-editor he published Lyra (with Alex Comfort) and Contemporary Irish Poetry (with Valentin Iremonger). As sole editor, he issued Poems from Ulster, Northern Harvest: An Anthology of Ulster Writing, and Irish Harvest: An Anthology of Poetry and Prose. In his latest book-length effort, Rooted in Ulster, he uses editorial and critical talents again to acquaint readers with Shan Bullock, Forrest Reid, Kathleen Coyle, Joyce Cary, Patrick MacGill, Patric k Kavanagh, Michael McLaverty, John Hewitt, and Sam Hanna Bell. While some achieved fame in either Dublin or London and are of varying international significance, the nine all have Ulster links, represent a variety of Northern Ireland experiences, and are writers Greacen is interested in. Readers of this essay may not know all of them, but can remedy that by quickly browsing Greacen’s volume. [...]’ (Read more online at Find Articles online; accessed 10.05.2010.)

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St Andrew’s Day” [Elegy for Patricia Hutchins]: ‘It’s 2 p.m. at Ladbroke Grove. I board a bus. / The mourners are gathering at Glengarriff. / Is it drizzling there? I hear the rain / Touch-typing an elegy on the bay waters. / Though in her will she said “No flowers” / Our daughter will place veronica on the coffin / Borne through the woods to the old Killeen. / Will the funeral go to plan, discreetly, / Even in the drizzle I imagine falling / On the lands of Gael and Planter? / I say a London goodbye to a lost wife, / Remember our time of roses, promises, / The silvered sea at Ardnagashel, / Earrings of fuchsia in the hedgerows, / Hope arching, like a rainbow, over all.’ (Quoted in Hugh McFadden, review of Selected and New Poems, in Books Ireland, Feb. 2007, p.15.)

The Bird”: ‘I loved the man who lay in the cheap coffin. / It was he who first showed me the damp, stereoscopic fields / Of County down; and now he was away to farm / The curving acres of his jealous God ./ I loved the ploughing of his sung-augt brow, / and the hay-lines, and chicken feathers in his hair / That was hay itself.’ (from The Bird, 1944); also ‘[T]the barbarous shrieking red / Of Belfast’s trams of childhood’ (“Belfast Revisited”).

The past invades the present, / The present lives in the past / The future will never come.’ (‘Protestant without a Horse’, 1997; cited in review, Books Ireland, Dec. 1997, p.332).

A Reply to Meg”: ‘As for myself Nations be damned A plague on tribes Passports, border guards slogans on the wall. I’m only myself. Trust no nation’s will. Outgrow your tribe. Listen to your heartbeat Sing your own song As best you can.’ (Quoted in McFadden, Hugh McFadden, review of Selected and New Poems, in Books Ireland, Feb. 2007, p.15-16.)

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Brief Encounters, Literary Dublin and Belfast in the 1940s (Cathair Books 1991) - Extracts:
Robert Lynd, the gentle essayist and convert to Home Rule, whose father had been a minister at May St. Presbyterian Church. Lynd had found success in London. Rumour had it that he was a hard drinker who once said to a fellow boozer in a Fleet St. tavern, ‘do you realise that we are the kind of men our mothers warned us against?’ [10]
[Greacen was deeply impressed by Forrest Reid’s Apostate.] But the novels, unlike Apostate, disappointed me. They seemed, for all their lyrical charm and their fastidious sentence construction, to be too limited. […] outside the magic years of adolescence, Forrest Reid seemed to be at a loss. His adults did not ring true. At the time I sensed this but did not know why, for homosexuality was something I knew nothing about, not even the word itself. [10-12]
Sam [Hanna Bell] shared a flat with Bob Davidson in Wellington park in Belfast […] still a remnant of Scots accent for he had been born of Irish emigrant parents in Glasgow where his father worked as a journalist […] worked for the Canadian Steamship Co. in their Belfast offices and during the War years he was in Civil Defence […] encouragement from Sean O’Faolain […] through the good offices of Louis MacNeice [got] a permanent job in the BBC in N. Ireland […] Summer Loanen (Mourne Presss 1943) […] died 1990 [before] the film version of December Bride […] The Hollow Ball, on football; A Man Flourishing, on 1798; ed. literary section of Ulster Tatler; commuted Belfast-Notting Hill Gate and later Belfast-Ballsbridge. [17-19]
Cecil ffrench Salkeld […] father in law of Brendan Behan […] 43 Morehampton Rd. […] mother acted in the Abbey […] married to Englishman in the Indian Civil Service; studied art in Kassel, Germany (of Grimm Bros. fame); spent much of his time in bed, reading, writing, and chatting; RHA; his local, Reddin’s Donnybrook; Salkeld lived with his mother Blanaid - a friend of Ernie O’Malley and others - at 43 Morephampton Rd.; he was a friend of Flann O’Brien and became a char., Cashel, in At-Swim-Two-Birds. Kate O’Brien wrote of him, “He was a man of too many gifts - none of them sufficiently strong to control him. […] He seemed to me to have a contempt for life - which in a man so gifted was especially sad. The invalidism of his later years was deplorable, but must have been an expression of wounded pride, a refusal to complete […] Yet he must be said to have had a good life.’ Wrote and produced at the New Theatre a play, A Gay Goodnight, with an amateur company (the title from Yeats, ‘...The second best’s a gay goodnight and quickly turn away.’). [23ff]
Valentin Iremonger, Dept of Ed., with Joseph O’Neill; lived in Sandymount; Member of the New Theatre, inclined to the Left; produced a collection, On the Barricades (New Frontiers Press) with Greacen; from Catholic Irish stock; learned Irish, and translated Michael McGowan’s The Hard Road to Klondike; Irish diplomatic service; also with Greacen, ed. Contemporary Irish Poetry (1949), for Faber - Uncle Tom’s Cabin - but without a contribution from Kavanagh. [26-27]
Mary Davenport O’Neill; posh Kenilworth Sq., Yeats’s consultant when writing A Vision; her Thursday At Home attended by Yeats, AE, et al. [28-29] Joseph O’Neill; AE prefaced Land Under England, ‘... how was I to know for all the torrent of picturesque speech and prodigality of humour, that, within that long head and long body, there were other creatures than those he exposed to me? […] How was I to know that he had it in him to imagine and write Land Under England? [30]
Arland Ussher described his own essays as ‘philosophical belles lettres’; his articles appeared in New English Weekly, ed. AR Orage; Three Great Irishmen; The Face and Mind of Ireland; The Magic People (Jews).
Hubert Butler, An outspoken speech in Dublin in 1952 was considered by some to be an affront to Catholicism and, worse still, an insult to the Papal Nuncio who was present on the occasion. / This was when Hubert shocked the predominantly Catholic adience by speaking frankly of the forced conversion to Catholicism and the eventual massacre of thousands of Orthodox Serbs by the Croatian regime that collaborated with the Nazis. (Sean O’Casey refers to this incident in his autobiography.) The furore split the Kilkenny Arch. Society and forced Hubert to withdraw from it int the life of a scholarly squire. He set about writing a book - as Patricia had prescribed years earlier - and this turned out to be Ten Thousand Saints. It meant further controversy, this time with the scholars rather than the saints of Holy Ireland. [35]
Greacen reviewed [Patrick] Kavanagh’s The Great Hunger for Cyril Connolly; Kavanagh was unimpressed by his degree of enthusiasm for it. His marriage to Patricia Hutchins is cited at p.31. [End]

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Even Without Irene: An Autobiography (Belfast: Lagan Press 1995), 173pp.; ded. Roy McFadden, friend and poet. ‘Forrest Reid was what? A private man, yes, a private man who allowed only a few to cross the threshold of into his interior world. Belfast knew him not and he had no wish to know Belfast. […] The boy who rode away from Ormiston Crescent was a somewhat different one from the boy who arrived with glowing face and high hopes on a close June evening. […] Yet all those years after meeting Forrest Reid, I find pleasure in recalling tht I knew, however slightly, the author of Apostate. Nor do I forget that the young Reid once saw Oscar Wilde - an unlikely figure among the linen merchants and the shipyard workers of Belfast - climb up and sit beside the coachman on the box seat of a carriage. [Even without Irene, an atobiography, Lagan press, 1995, 132] […] pale shepardess [137]; enrolled in Fac. of Arts; met McFadden at discussion group of Peace Pledge Union, autumn 1939; ‘Roy’s inner reality still rests in that he is a poet; and his outer reality consists in his day-to-day work as a solicitor, an inner and an outer world. He manages to fit together the two sides of his personality, and so create for himself a satisfying and vital life-style.’ [Cont.]

Even Without Irene: An Autobiography (1995) - cont.: Greacen edited The Northman with John Gallen; friends also with Leslie Gillespie and McFadden. [140] included contribs. from Henry Treece and Alex Comfort; local contribs. incl. Denis Ireland, John Irvine, J. H. Scott, and Harold Brooks. ‘We reprinted a furious attack, contained in a letter to me, on a pamphlet I had recently edited, Poems from Ulster. This came from an irate St John Irvine who lived in the far reaches of Devonshire. [141]; ‘Poems of mine began to appear in the Dublin Bell and London and elsewhere. [Charles] Wrey Gardiner, editor of the then influential Poetry Quarterly, gave me a lot of encouragement. Through my contact with Wrey, I met the versatile scientist-writer Alex comfort (then a militant pacificist [141] reading medicine at Trinity College, Cambridge) and the two of us were soon hard at working editing an anthology of contemporary verse for Wrey’s brave little ware-time venture, the Grey Walls Press. This emerged in 1941 as Lyra, A Book of New Lyric, for which we were lucky enough to obtain an introduction by Herbert Read. [142]; scamped my university work […] joined the local PEN Club […] [where he] met the novelist Michael McLaverty who had just published his fine lyric novel, Call My Brother Back. [142]; Jack Holland, journalist and fiction writer, encouraged by Michael McLaverty [142]. [Cont.]

Even Without Irene: An Autobiography (1995) - cont.: McLaverty and his wife Mollie at home at Deramore Drive off Malone Rd. The White Mare publ. by Rowley’s Mourne Press. ‘The short story proved to be Michael’s true metier.’ [143]; university flat of Sam Hanna Bell and Bob Davidson. Greacen gives an account of literary coterie at Campbells coffee shop, soldierly, full-figured and genial-faced Denis Ireland, the essayist and wit, whom some people still call Captain Ireland because of his service in the First World War […] closely followed by his friend William Conor […] Richard Rowley - the pseudonymous businessman called Williams who has started a publishing firm, the Mourne Press, which is devoted to making writers like McLaverty and Sam Hanna Bell better known. […] … Denis knows his USA […] With some care he avoids politics, though we all know him to be something of a white blackbird, that is, an Ulster Protestant - Presbyterian in fact - with strong nationalist sympathies, a sort of throwback to the radical Presbyterians of the late 18th c. who supported the demands of their Catholic fellow-countrymen for reform. [146] [Cont.]

Even Without Irene: An Autobiography (1995) - cont.: F. L. Green, known as Laurie; film version of Odd Man Out, with Tomelty; Diana Wynward in film of his On the Night of the Fire; Green starts twitting me on the so-called Ulster Renaissance’, and then tell me about his latest project. “I’m writing’, he says, what you and your friends should be writing, about the real dramas going on here. You people ignore what’s going on on your own doorstep.” [147] Gerry Morrow and H. L. ‘Larry’ Morrow; Ulster Group Theatre incl. two or three who hope to write the Great Ulster Novel. /…/ As I cross the road an American jeep flashes past. It has just missed me by inches. A coal-black GI shouts at me in a Deep South accent, “Hi, bud, mind ya step!” I follow a dream in Royal Avenue, Belfast, even in the middle of a great war. Even without Irene. [chp. end]’ 1943, proceeded to TCD to study Diploma in Social Studies. Salked family [150-51] Notes comments on Cecil Salkeld by Kate O’Brien, ‘He seemed to me to have a contempt for life - which in man so gifted was especially sad. The invalidism of his later years was deplorable, but must have been an expression of wounded pride, a refusal to compete Yet he must be said to have had a good life.’ [151] One Recent Evening accepted by Falcon Press, headed by young army officer Peter Baker, later to join forces with Gardiner’s Grey Walls press; Yorkshire-Irish typographer and poet Sean Jennett left Faber & Faber to join the house. [151] The Undying Day designed by Jennett sold wretchedly. [Cont.]

Even Without Irene: An Autobiography (1995) - cont.: Close literary friend Valentine Iremonger […] Dept. of Education […] introduced [Greacen] to Mary O’Malley who started the Lyric when she moved to Belfast [152] Geoffrey Taylor, formerly Phibbs, had once been one of a menage à trois with Robert Graves and Laura Riding in London but, by the time we knew him, he was a very respectable man of letters […] really encouraged young poets […] [152] On the Barricades […] a selection of our most militant poems together with some by Bruce Williamson […] came out under the imprint of New Frontiers Press and carried Val’s address in Tritonville Rd in Sandymount. […] Though Val was afluent Irish speaker, he often railed against Irish language activists. [153] Greacen gives an account of Maurice Friedman, a Dublin Jew who succeeded as a bookseller in London, setting up as publisher in Dublin, and producing [Frank] O’Connor’s Midnight Court; then Irish Harvest for Greacen and Valentin. [Cont.]

Even Without Irene: An Autobiography (1995) - cont.: Greacen and Valentine’s Contemporary Irish Poetry was taken up by Faber after meeting with Eliot in London (‘Uncle Tom’s cabin’); Patrick Kavanagh’s sly refusal to be included by asking too high a price, causing resentment; 154-55]; Receives fan letter and invitations to Kenilworth Sq. from Mary Devenport O’Neill; the formality of her home and the silence on her husband who always made it apparent that he was his wife’s guest; Mary as consultant to Yeats for A Vision, fact ‘recorded in a notebook of Yeats’s now in the NLI’[156] felt that I rish writers were much to concerned with ‘the mist that does be on the bog’ […] chimed with my own view and she urged me to say so in public. [156] Greacen reviewed Kavanagh’s Great Hunger for Horizon; Robert Farren was the poet whom Kavanagh most despised; on Patrick and Peter Kavanagh [164-65] ‘He had the education, Paddy had the genius’. [164] Gogarty suit effecting the withdrawal of the Green Fool arose from the allegation that the woman who opened the door of his house was his mistress. [Errata: Oscar Bergin for Osborne.] (For full notes, see infra.)

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Prococious: ‘Before I was 21 I had poems in The Bell and Horizon […] I was in the poetry business […]. In my mid-thirties I ditched poetry. Or did poetry ditch me? The reasons are too complex to go into here. Unexpectedly at fifty plus I felt the urge again and created the character Captain Fox. For nearly twenty years I’ve been writing poems again. Obviously the virus of my youth has not been eradicated.’ (Autobiographical note in Gerald Dawe, ed., Dedalus Irish Poets, Dedalus Press 1992), p.14.)

Belfast: ‘Belfast, unlike Dublin, could hardly be called a cit of wits and poets, though indeed we had a few dedicated spirits. The hand of Protestantism had grasped our community firmly and made it worthy if not virtuous, hard-working and thrifty’; confirms that Irene was a ‘blonde, tall, slight-breasted girl, greatly interested in literature but neither doomed nor bouyed by literary aspiration […] She was my pale shepardess. But now she had cast me out of her life in favour of a man who, I understood, was an engineering student.’ incls. mention of Roy McFadden, Leslie Gillespie, Michael McLaverty, Denis Ireland, and Joe Tomelty; ‘the important thing is to write poems, not to want to be a poet. Poetry matters, not poets.’ From Even Without Irene, quoted in Fred Johnston review, of Collected Poems, 1944-1994, in Books Ireland, Sept 1995, p.201-03; p.203.)

Poetry: ‘Poetry for me is to some extent a venture into therapy, and attempt to sort out the tangle of events and impressions and frustrations that we call life.’ (Collected Poems, 1995 [Intro.]; quoted in Johnston, op. cit., 1995)

Rattle of the North: Greacen reviews Patricia Craig, ed., The Rattle of the North (Blackstaff 1992), Greacen writes. ‘In 1944 I edited an anthology of Ulster writing - mainly prose - called Northern Harvest. It was the only book in existence which brought together writers of the older generation and the young hopefuls. […] I managed to get an introduction out of Robert Lynd, then a notable man-of-letters and essayist in London. / Lynd wrote, ‘No such collection as this of Northern Irish literature could have been made when I was a boy in Belfast […] the omens for the future are good ..’ (Books Ireland, Oct. 1992).

Sixty Years On’, feature-review of Antoinette Quinn, Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 2001), in Books Ireland (Feb. 2002), p.17 [full-page]: Greacen was invited by Cyril Connolly to review The Great Hunger for Horizon, giving rise to Kavanagh’s calling him a ‘Protestant bastard’ afterwards. Notes that the rumoured that the Leader profile was written by Valentine Iremonger.

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Frank Ormsby, ed., Northern Windows, An Anthology Of Ulster Autobiography (Blackstaff 1987), extract from Even without Irene (1969), here pp.146-58.

Belfast Public Library holds On the Barricades (1944); Northern Harvest (1944); Irish Harvest (1949), in 1956 CAT; Greacen and Iremonger, V. Contemporary Irish Poetry [ANTH] (1949).

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Roy McFadden, “The Grand Central Hotel (for Robert Greacen)”: ‘[…] Reluctant activist, / What forced you to declare / Your singlemindedness before / A crowd you still mistrust? / It wasn’t love. No; rather more / Distaste, and loyalty, and being there.’ (In Ormbsy, ed., Poets of the North of Ireland, 1990.)

John Hewitt: Greacen writes to The Irish Times defending Hewitt against charges of bigotry by Thomas Kinsella in The Dual Tradition: ‘[…] I never heard him utter a sectarian word or cast aspersions on the “native” Irish […] one of the most remarkable and tolerant Northerners of this century [… &c.]’ Note also taht Greacen wrote a futher letter in support of another by Patrick Close, occasioned by a review of Kinsella contributed to the Irish Times by Gerald Dawe (See Greacen, in The Irish Times, 18 August 1995, “Letters”).

William Oxley, ‘On not Going to Howth’ (Books Ireland, Nov. 1997), ‘thinking / of Yeats, Kavanagh, Joyce’, incl. lines on meeting Robert Greacen, ‘last met in grubby Notting Hill / an exile returned after years and years / as an elder statesman of irihs poetry, he winding-up / by incredible chance living in Behan’s old flat: / a poet writing a a playwright’s desk! / But such is the small world of literature— / its imagination, its coincidences, its dreams.’ (p.303.)

Maurice Friberg: Reviewing David Marcus, Buried Memories (2004), Greacen reveals that his Irish Harvest was financed by Maurice Friberg, a Jewish Dubliner who was a bookseller in London and afterwards a publisher in Ireland. (Books Ireland, Nov. 2004.)

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