Augustus Young

CriticismExtracts from the criticismNotes

1943- ; [pseud; real identity withheld at request of writer’s publisher]; b. Cork, son of medical professor; studied medicine in London, 1967; visited Shaw at Ayot St Lawrence; lived in Notting Hill bed-sit amid Bohemian life; met George Barker and others through an employee at the publisher Hutchinson; qualified in medical science as an epidemiologist, initially returned to Ireland after training and later worked at Romford Hospital, London;
his early collections Survival (1969) and On Loaning Hill (1972) represent a conscious departure from the ‘reach for the shovel’ tendency in Irish writing; worked with Brian Coffey on translations of Brecht and Mayakovski in the 1970s; with issued Rosemaries: A Verse Sequence (1976), published in Brian Coffey’s Advent Book, being verse-memories of childhood and younger days in Ireland; early poems anthologised by John Montague (Faber Book of Irish Verse, 1974);
published trans. from Irish and Portuguese incl. ABC da Inflacäo / ABC of Inflation (1991), a version of the political ballad poetry of the Brazilian streets; contrib. obituary of Brian Coffey to The Guardian (21 April 1995); living in High Down in 1997-2002, and issued Days and Nights of Hendrum (2002), memoirs of that period; also Lightning in Low Places (2000), 13 poems based on memories of childhood, and published by Cranagh Press [Univ. of Ulster, Coleraine]; issued Light Years (2002), a gathering of short autobiographical pieces, or ‘auto-fictions’, prev. printed in little magazines;

issued Storytime (2005), a further autobiographical volume; also The Nicotine Cat and Other People: Chronicles of the Self (2009), further memoirs; lives ‘a curious town on the French-Spanish border’; issued The Secret Gloss (Dec. 2008), a film play on the life and work of Søren Kierkegaard, and Diversifictions (2009), a reworking of Mayakovsky’s “A Cloud in Pants”; adaptations of Brecht, and “The Long Habit of Living”, a poem-sequence on mortality. DIL

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  • Survival (Dublin: New Writers’ 1969), [2], 11, [3]pp., ill. [John Maher and Michael Smith]; [ltd. edn. of 250; 14 poems];
  • On Loaning Hill [Zozimus Ser.] (Dublin: New Writers’ 1972), 80pp. [ltd. edn. of 250; c.100 poems];
  • Rosemaries: A Verse Sequence (Southampton: Advent 1976), 20pp., [ltd. end. of 300; 4 sects.], and Do. [another edn.] (Labyrinth Press 2009), [extracts];
  • Tapestry Of Animals (London: Menard 1977), 13pp.[ill. Brenda Rudolf; for children];
  • The Credit: A Comedy Of Empeiria ( London: Menard 1980), 35pp. [in ottava rima];
  • The Credit: Book Two, Book Three (Southampton: Advent; London: Menard 1986), 71pp., [ill. John Parsons];
  • Lightning in Low Places (Coleraine: Cranagh 1999), 19pp.
  • Days & Nights in Hendon (London: The Menard Press 2002), [q.pp.; 14 elegies.]
  • trans. Dánta Grádha: Love Poems from the Irish 1350-1750, ed. Thomas Francis O’Rahilly [1916] (London: Menard; Southampton: Advent 1975), 22pp., ill. [calligraphy by Dennis Hadfield], and Do. [rev. edn.] (London: Menard 1980), 24pp. [incls. extra poem and revisions];
  • Adaptations (Dublin: Hardpressed Poetry 1989), 12pp. [ltd. edn. 120 copies; 5 poems by Brecht and an extract an adaptation of Mayakovsky’s “Interlude”];
  • trans. ABC da inflacao = ABC of Inflation, by José Neves da Silva (Belfast: Honest Ulsterman Publications 1991), 10pp.;
  • ed. & trans., Lampion And His Bandits: The Literature of Cordel in Brazil (London: Menard 1994), 73pp., ill. [A. Jones; incls. a quasi-cordel on Brian Coffey];
  • ‘Poems from Irish’, adapted by Augustus Young, in The Honest Ulsterman, 46, 23 (q.d.) [see Tom Cyde, Index of Honest Ulsterman, 1995];
  • Diversifications: Mayakovsky, Brecht & Me (UK & USA: Shearsman Books 2009), 87pp. [reworking of Mayakovsky’s “A Cloud in Pants”; adaptations of Brecht, and “The Long Habit of Living”, a sequence on mortality.]

Also adaptations of Bertolt Brecht, Gérard de Nerval, Tristan Corbière and Charles Baudelaire in Take Five 07 ((London: Elliott & Thompson 2007).

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The Secret Gloss: A Film Play on the Life and Work of Soren Kierkegaard (London: Elliott & Thompson 2009), 104pp. [pub. 11 Dec. 2008]

  • ‘Augustus Young’, in Krino, ‘The State of Poetry’ [Special Issue], ed. Gerald Dawe & Jonathan Williams (Winter 1993), pp.64-68;
  • “Dram, Duggan and Love Darcy”, in Books Ireland [May 2000], “New Writing”, pp.148-49.
  • “Sunday Afternoon by the Sea in Argèles” [For M, 1984-2012], in The Irish Times (1 Dec. 2012), Weekend, p.11.
  • Light Years [The Enitharmon/London Mag. Edns] (London: The Menard Press 2002.), 312pp.; [ ‘Living in England’; ‘The Bohemian Life’; ‘Requiescat in Pace’];
  • Storytime (London: Elliott & Thompson 2005), 159pp.
  • The Nicotine Cat and Other People (2003) [cover by Paula Rego].

See also contributions to Cyphers, Sniper Logic, Books Ireland, London Magazine, Hopscotch, Modern Poetry in Translation, Leviathan Quarterly, Arete, Ars Interpres, Stand, An Sionnach, New Hibernia Review, Temporel, Golden Handcuffs, Carte Allineate, &c). 

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Michael Smith notices On Loaning Hill in ‘The Contemporary Situation in Irish Poetry’, in Douglas Dunn, Two Decades of Irish Writing (1975), [q.p.]; [q.a.], review of Lightning in Low Places, in Books Ireland (March 2000), p.81; Kevin Kiely, review of Light Years, in Books Ireland (Sept. 2002), pp.201-02 [extract]; Kevin Kiely, review of Diversifications, in Books Ireland (Sept. 2009) [see extract]. See also review in Cork Review (Winter 2002), and sundry book notices [attached].

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[q.a.], review of Lightning in Low Places, in Books Ireland (March 2000), ‘These few poems were worth waiting for, we’d say. They are mostly about his parents and his growing up, and they have rhythms that make them seem like songs of consequential rhymes of childhood, which amounts to something quite different from his previous work.’

Peter Reading, reviewing of Augustus Young, Light Years, with John Montague, Company in Times Literary Supplement (12 April 2002), remarks that Young’s book ‘rambles in a quasi-experimental manner (at times Young recalls a diluted Flann O’Brien) towards its retrospective conclusion - early friendships, family lore, first loves, recollections of a dead father (“halycon days waiting in the estuary inlet for the appearance of a kingfisher”). The final remark is dismissive: ‘These acounts of the formative years of two interesting literary Ersemen contain much entertaining reading.’ (TLS, p.22.) [See more.]

Light Years (2002): Some Reviews
[supplied by author]

Alannah Hopkins, reviewing Light Years in The Irish Times (27 April 2002) [Weekend], remarks that the ‘tantalising short extracts’ which have previously appeared in small magazines now appear in hard covers; the poet’s name is a pseud. for an epidemiologist, taken from Dryden’s MacFlecknoe - the King of Fools who ‘like Augustus / Young was brought to rule and had governed long’; emig. to London, 1967, aetat 23, with medical degree; research post in Romford Hosp.; book in sections: “Tales form the Sixties”; “The Bohemian Life”; “Resquiscat in Pace”, a return to Cork grandparents he never knew. Remarks, ‘I have not laughed so much since my first reading of The Third Policeman’ but adds that ‘[p]erhaps the allusive, highly-wrought prose of Augustus Young is an acquired taste’, and notes that the phrase ‘oddly beautiful’ keeps recurring, styling the book ‘an oddity, but a beautiful oddity’.

Kevin Kiely, ‘Slippery Slopes of Parnassus’, reviewing Light Years in Books Ireland (September 2002), writes: ‘If you have read Beckett’s Murphy and Burgess’s Enderby this is somewhere in between but strictly a memoir and easier to place with the latter title, since the hero is a poet-drudge who finds some solace in the science laboratory. James Hogan, twenty-something son of a history professor from UCC, reflects on his past while flying out from Cork on a Viscount. He is London bound for a spell in a purgatorial bohemia and scoops of childhood pour from his memory as he sips his drink high in the clouds.’ [See longer extracts, attached].

Kevin Kiely, ‘reviewing Diversifications: Mayakovsky, Brecht & Me, in Books Ireland (September 2009), quotes: ‘I owe my corps more than a throw of the dice. / Some analyse ecologique would be nice’ - and remarks: ‘One needs to get into Young’s crank-angst to find the laughs. He aches with old age and suddenly there is nothing to laugh at, “No mad arias, only some quiet weeping” - which is the refrain in “Melancholy Truce”. His language is unobtrusive, there is no droning. He deals in delivery not self-conscious deliberation. One wishes him more mad arias and less weeping, or a bearable blend of both. The main ballast in this collection comes from Mayakovsky’s “A Cloud in Pants”. There is no fuss about fidelity to translation or the usual apologies by poets for content lost in translation which is usually a tedious self-admiring practice as with someone taking ten minutes to describe a simple poem that takes less than a minute to read. You can expect Mayakovsky to arrive with truckloads of nihilism. Young does not sugar the pill. [...] Brecht’s song translated as “What Keeps Man Alive” (1928) states: “What keeps mankind alive is keeping humanity repressed.” It is al satisfyingly savage. [...].’ (p.184.)

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The “Augustus Young” webzine [online] contains a portrait by John Parsons, c.1975) together with a listing of the works and collections and several extracts in prose and verse.

Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (1979), remarks, ‘... absolute lack of poetic technique to focus his wit, but his cleverness of conception and terseness of language can sometimes overcome his technical deficiencies. His translations from Irish do, however, rise to some formal strength’

John Montague, ed. , Faber Book of Irish Verse (London: Faber 1974) anthologises ‘‘The Last Refuge’’; ‘‘After Five Years’’ and ‘‘Elegy for a School-friend’’.

Sean Dunne ed., Poets of Munster: An Anthology (London: Anvil 1985), includes excerpts from ‘‘Mr. Thackeray on Cork’’.

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Pseudonym - searchers for the source of the writer's pseudonym should consult John Dryden's MacFlecknoe in which the following:

All human things are subject to decay.
And when fate summons, monarchs must obey.
This Flecknoe found, who, like Augustus, young
Was called to empire, and had governed long;
In prose and verse was owned, without dispute,
Through all the realms of Nonsense, absolute.
This aged prince, now flourishing in peace,
And blest with issue of a large increase.
Worn out with business, did at length debate
To settle the succession of the State:
And, pondering which of all his sons was fit
To reign, and wage immortal war with wit.
Cried, ’Tis resolved; for nature pleads that he
Should only rule, who most resembles me.

My italics [BS]