Gabriel Fitzmaurice and John Reidy set out to match verse to pictures
When Michael Brennan of Currach/Columba Press invited me to edit an anthology of favourite poems from the south of Ireland I immediately jumped to the opportunity, writes Gabriel Fitzmaurice.
For the ‘south of Ireland’ I suggested it would have to be the six counties of Munster and the book would include poets born, or brought up, in Munster.
This was because the book, I knew from its antecedent, Best Loved Poems: Favourite Poems From The West Of Ireland would include no more than fifty poems and, were I to choose from all the poets now living in, or associated with, Munster, the book would, of necessity, be a much bigger one.
I recommended that the book would include, also, a significant amount of translations into English of poems originally written in Irish. Michael readily agreed.
In order to give adequate space to the eleven Irish-language poets I chose to represent in the anthology, I very reluctantly decided to include them in English translation only: there are fourteen translations into English in the book; had I to include the Irish originals also, there would have been room for only seven.
Choosing which poems, and poets, to include in an anthology of favourite poems from Munster was a challenge – and a pure pleasure.+4
First of all it was to be a book of favourite poems – favourite poems of mine, poems and ballads that have proved popular with the general public as well as with the poetry reader, poems that have stood the test of time.
In compiling this anthology, I wanted to reflect the passions and preoccupations of Munster women, men and children, passions and preoccupations that would be universal as well as local, passions and preoccupations that would reveal the heart and soul of the place.
Many readers feel, with some justification, that much contemporary poetry is excessively abstruse: indeed, an intrepid correspondent to one of our newspapers suggested that the “solution to [its] cryptic Saturday poems” should be published “perhaps on the puzzles page”!
Well, you won’t find any cryptic poems in Favourite Poems From The South Of Ireland. I chose poems that were accessible, memorable and moving; poems, I hope, that will engage the mind and stir the heart. In recommending a photographer whose images would complement the fifty poems in the anthology, I chose my fellow Kerryman John Reidy of Castle Island, a poet with a camera.
As a newspaper photographer for the past three and a half decades, he has captured athletes, elections, floods, fights, local and visiting politicians, heads of state, porter drinkers, pilgrims, pioneers, poets and potholers through the eyepiece of his cameras.
His brief was to travel the highways and byways of Munster and capture the spirit of the place, not necessarily the iconic, alas often hackneyed, images that appear regularly in newspapers, magazines and books.
He has succeeded magnificently.
The book is available in all good bookshops in Ireland at €24.99.