Michael Kirby

1906-2005; author of autobiographical writings in prose and verse, Skelligside (1990), Skelligs Calling (2003), and Skelligs Sunset (2006), the latter incorporating poems and stories of childhood, writings of young man and a final coming to terms with death.

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(Dublin: Lilliput Press 1990), 143pp.; Skelligs Calling (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2003), xii, 158; Mary Shine Thompson, ed., Skelligs Sunset, with a foreword by Dáithí Ó hÓgáin (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2006), 224pp.

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Brendan Kennelly, review of Skelligs Sunset, in The Irish Times (26 Aug. 2006), “Weekend”, p.10: ‘There is a beautiful ease, a joyous relaxation in his style, no matter what he’s writing about, that suggests a mind and an imagination completely at home in the world they are confronting and creating in a spirit of wonder. I think this is due, in some degree at least, to the fact that his English is enriched by his Irish and his Irish makes space for his Skelligs English. Equally important is the fact that he is a born storyteller, a seanchaidhe, and a contemplative, lucid, musical poet, for the most part, who draws his images from the world about him. [...]’

Further: ‘Kirby doesn’t judge, he presents his own vision, a vision that is both limited and enchanting. He writes of the sea, fishing, mountains, travellers, fortune-tellers, farmers, boats and ships, weddings, money, magic, courts of law, ancestors, emigration, loneliness, sex, marriage, God, knowledge, ignorance, cruelty, puritanism, education, pleasure and peace. What comes across is a humane blend of wisdom and humour, perplexity and determination to learn, trouble and the quest for tranquillity, the words of a man who lived long enough to witness and chronicle old Ireland and modern Ireland in two languages happily dancing with each other in his own mind, his own place.’ Also compares him to Hardy and Wordsworth, Eamon Kelly and Frank O’Connor.

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Thankful: ‘I am thankful for the simple gifts: the ability to see, hear and observe the things of nature, the rocks, bogs, meadows, sand and seashore of my native place, including birds and animals . . . Nature is beautiful, bountiful, fearfully awe-inspiring and mysteriously enigmatic. One part of nature’s scene has held a special fascination for me: the ever-changing sequence of cloud formation. During my years as a fisherman, I developed an admiration for the arch of the sky during sunrise and sundown. / I believe, in my heart and soul, that no human artist can ever emulate patterns that become visible in the embryo of pristine nature.’ (Quoted in Kennelly, review of Skelligs Sunset, in The Irish Times, 26 Aug. 2006, “Weekend”, p.10; written aetat. 97.)