Brian Lynch


1945- ; ed. The Holy Door (1965), quarterly journal; issued Endsville (1966) with Paul Durcan; also No Die Cast (1969); worked with Irish Govt. Information Officer of Dept. of Justice as spokesman for Att. Gen. Declan Costelloe and adviser to Alan Dukes during 1970s; participated in Sunningdale Conference delegation, 1973; issued further collections, Outside the Pheasantry (1976); Perpetual Star (1980); nominated for Harveys’ Award, 1980, and winner of Hennessy Award for first published short story; issued Beds of Down (1983); winner of Jacobs Award for Caught in a Free State (RTÉ 1984), a study of German spies in wartime Ireland; elected to Aosdána, having secured a nomination from Samuel Beckett, 1985; issued New and Revised: Poems 1967-2004 (2004); wrote Caught in a Free State (1983) for RTÉ series, winner of the Jacobs Award nd Banff International TV Festival Best Drama Award, 1984; other his plays incl. Crooked in the Car Seat (Dublin Th. Fest. 1979) and Days Lost Behind the Curtain (1985);
worked as sub-ed. on Irish Press until its cessation in 1995; scripted film, Love and Rage (dir. Cathal Black, 1998); issued Pity for the Wicked (2005), a longer poem dealing with the IRA campaign, with an introduction by Conor Cruise O’Brien and published by the newly-established Duras Press (Killiney); The Winner of Sorrow (2005), a first novel, dealing with the life of William Cowper the mentally-disturbed English poet (b.1731) and author of “The Castaway”; writer in residence at Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park; he gave the presentation address to Seamus Heaney as winner of Irish Times Poetry Now Award, June 2010; The Woman Not the Name was launched by Paul Durcan at Little Museum, Dublin, 30 Oct. 2013; wrote an obituary on Aidan Higgins, 3 Jan. 2016; Lynch lives in Co Wicklow; Lynch keeps up a memorial record of terrorist deaths in Northern Ireland on Facebook (at 2021); he is a member of Aosdána.

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  • with Paul Durcan, Endsville (Dublin: New Writers’ Press 1967), 59pp.;
  • Beds of Down (Dublin: Raven Arts 1983), 46pp.;
  • trans., with Peter Jankowsky, Sixty-Five Poems [of] Paul Celan (Dublin: Raven Arts 1985), 88pp.;
  • No Die Cast (New Writers’ Co-op. 1969), [12]pp. [ltd. edn. 75];
  • Outside the Pheasantry (Gorey: Funge Arts Centre 1976), 16pp., ill. [by Paul Funge];
  • Perpetual Star (Dublin: Raven Arts 1980), 47pp.;
  • Voices from the Nettle-way (Dublin: Raven Arts 1989), 60pp.;
  • Poesie a Lerici (TCD: Dept. of Italian 2003), 59pp. [chapbook of reading in Lerici, Spezia];
  • New and Revised: Poems 1967-2004 (Dublin: New Island Press 2004), 120pp.;
  • Pity for the Wicked, with a preface by Conor Cruise O’Brien (Dublin [Killiney]: Duras Press 2005), 78pp.
  • The Winner of Sorrow (Dublin: New Island Press 2005), 300pp. [on William Cowper]
  • The Woman Not the Name (Dublin: Duras Press 2013), 342pp.
  • Crooked in the Car Seat (Dublin Th. Fest. 1979);
  • Days Lost Behind the Curtain (1985);
  • Caught in a Free State (1983) [screenplay about German spies in Ireland];
  • Love and Rage (1999), dir. Cathal Black.
  • ed., The Holy Door (1965) [journal];
  • intro., Tony O’Malley, with contribs. by Aidan Dunne (Aldershot: Scolar Press [assoc. with Butler Gallery] 1996, 2004 &c.), 324pp. [3 edns. to 2012];
  • Easter Snow: An Island off Ireland (Bremen, die horen/Galway, Salmon Press, 1992);
  • Playtime: paintings by Gene Lambert, poetry by Brian Lynch (Dublin: New Island Books/RHA Gallagher Gallery 1997);
  • Intro. [contrib. opening essay] to Michael Cullen, ed. John O’Regan (Gandon Press 2007).
  • [...]
  • Obituary on Aidan Higgins, Irish Independent (3 Jan. 2016) - as attached.]

Num. reviews incl. notice of Dawe, Ledger [ … &c.], with works of other poets, Irish Times (24 Feb. 1996); … &c.; ‘Monarch of all he surveys’ [Brian Lynch from Farmleigh Hse.], in The Irish Times (28 July 2007), Weekend; review of Graven with Diamonds: The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt, by Nicola Shulman, in The Irish Times (7 May 2011), Weekend Review, p.12; ‘Will and Grace’, review of Jack Holmes and His Friends, by Edmund White, in The Irish Times (21 Jan. 2012), Weekend, p.11 [‘White’s major failing: ... like a drunken athlete, capable of making a dash forit but unable to walk straight’]. See also review of Brendan Kennelly, Familiar Strangers: Selected Poems of Brendan Kennelly (2004) - as infra.

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Bibliographical details
Pity for the Wicked, with a preface by Conor Cruise O’Brien (2005) - Duras Press notice - ‘Pity for the Wicked began as a reflection on Bloody Sunday, the IRA murder of Patsy Gillespie (the so-called Human Bomb) in 1990, and the loyalist murder of Margaret Wright in 1993. But because the writing coincided with the IRA ceasefire, the Canary Wharf bombing and the murder of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, these events are dealt with in the poem. The Introduction brings the theme up to date, including the Northern Bank robbery and the murder of Robert McCartney, but pays particular attention to the shooting of the RUC reservist Alice Collins, the Omagh bombing and the claims made for the peace process by former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald. An appendix describes how the Margaret Wright section of the poem was banned on the grounds that it might have libelled her murderers. A further appendix reproduces Dáil exchanges about Omagh and asks questions about meetings between Real IRA Chief of Staff Michael McKevitt and the Taoiseach’s adviser Martin Mansergh.’ Conor Cruise O’Brien writes: I believe that the publication of Brian Lynch’s book will contribute to the isolation of Sinn Féin-IRA, and their eventual disappearance from the political map of Ireland.’ [Publicity material.]

The Woman Not the Name (2013) - Duras Press notice: ‘Will Ferris, a singer songwriter and boxer from Cork, has a secret past for which he has already paid a heavy price. But things are looking up a weekly gig in a Dublin pub leads to an appearance on The Late Late Show. Fame brings Will admiration, sex and success, but his enemies are gathering... A dark yet comic love story, The Woman Not The Name fuses a moral tale with the myth of Orpheus.’

[ See the Duras Press webpage - online; accessed 19.11.2016; also Amazon Books - online; accessed 30.07.2017. ]

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See Maurice Hayes, ‘A Tract for the Times: Lynch’s poem on the North’, review of Pity for the Wicked, in The Irish Independent (q.d.; in 2005); also ‘Poet on a poet’s life’, in Books Ireland (Nov. 2005), p.253.

Paul Franz, review of Winner of Sorrow, in Harvard Review (6 March 2015): ‘[...] Lynch’s work is remarkable not only for its sustained, subtle evocation of Cowper’s emotional and imaginative life, but also for the light it shines on the figures surrounding him, many of whom appear - if at all - in historical and biographical records as only the faintest names and snatches of writing and reported speech. Despite the book’s structure of frame and flashback, its world is not exclusively seen through Cowper’s eyes. Instead, Lynch’s constantly shifting perspective animates his narrative with the interests, fears, and desires of even his most minor characters. This sense of the inner dimension of shared experience, combined with his dramatist’s ear, make Lynch a master at staging conversations, in all their cross-purposes, omissions, and unforeseen connections. / It is this underlying empathy, combined with the clarity, resonance, and wit of its language, that establishes the continuity between The Winner of Sorrow and Lynch’s earlier work as a translator (of Paul Celan) and poet (his Poems: New and Renewed appeared in 2004). This unusual novel should lead readers not only back to Cowper, but also to the distinctive earlier works of Brian Lynch." [End.]

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[ There is a Brian Lynch website. ]

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The Firefly and the Coin”: ‘A firefly flew into the room, / A coin fell off the bed. / One rang, one wandered through the gloom, / Which made me turn my head? // The glower plotted up a cone, / The coin a spiral drew. / Neither acted on its own. / I paused, and so did you. // The spinning money got the drift, / And yawned from side to side. / The gleaming intervals grew swift. / Then both together died. // The flashing ceilinged and went out / Just as the whirring.stopped. // Your hand, moth pale, lit on my mouth. / And so the penny dropped.’ (From New and Renewed Poems 1967-2004; printed in The Irish Times, 31 July 2004).

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Gerald Dawe, review of Pity for the Dead, in The Irish Times (4 June 2005), Weekend: […] ’The voice that comes through Lynch’s poem is convincing, both in its strengths and in its weaknesses. [… It] is also unique in its unflinching condemnation of the Provisional movement and its leadership, and of the moral responsibility of the Southern state (and “almost the entire intellectual class”) for both. Framed within an historical narrative that many will utterly reject, Lynch’s response to the “peace process” and what he calls its “anti-language … excavated of meaning”, is shaped by indignation and outrage at the moral free-fall he associates with those compromises […] that the Irish state has made, under different administrations, with the Provisional movement. […] / As a substantial part of our civic past has been perverted by political violence, Brian Lynch’s poem refuses to let those whom he considers direclty responsible slip by without “the repentence of the killers […] we have not heard the remorseful word.”. […] Nor should the “political and moral catastrophe” be further compounded by “our efforts to conciliate the murderers”, since “we were tainted by their shame”. The “stern memory which Lynch insists upon is what makes Pity for the Wicked such a deeply troubling work, both as self-doubting poem and as politically charged document, not so much a wake-up call as a shattering alarm in the middle of the night. [Quotes: ’I’d written verse - what match was that for screams, / For cries of real death? No match was made.’].

Maurice Hayes, ‘A Tract for the Times: Lynch’s poem on the North’, review of Pity for the Wicked, in The Irish Independent (q.d. 2005): ‘Brian Lynch in this reprint of his long poem about the North, originally published in 1998 and now republished with an added preface by Conor Cruise O’Brien, an introduction and appendices, preserves an ancient and necessary verse form. His poem burns with anger and outrage, with the savage indignation that lacerated the heart of Swift. We expect satirists to expose hypocrisy, injustice, corruption, to rage, to caricature and to lampoon. We do not expect them necessarily to be fair. In this long poem Brian Lynch does Irish society a service by tearing the mask from murder and terror, by dispelling the fog of romanticised amnesia in which horror is embalmed as history is rewritten to justify a campaign of murder, by trying to restore the meaning of language. […., &c.]’ (For full text, see infra.)

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