I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized No Pact With Progress

No Pact With Progress

Marion Kelly
A Rebel Act: Michael Hartnett’s Farewell to English, by Pat Walsh, Mercier Press, 256 pp, €14.99, ISBN: 978-1856359672 To the extent that a sequence of ordinary words is a poem, it is not only a response to the sacred and an address to the day in which we live but also an address to a time that is always to come. ‑ Kevin Hart, The Dark Gaze, Maurice Blanchot and the Sacred The “Rebel Act” from which Pat Walsh’s book takes its title was announced from the stage of the Peacock Theatre at an event organised by Goldsmith Press on June 4th, 1974. Michael Hartnett informed the audience of his resolution to cease writing and publishing in English, stating that his “road towards Gaelic” had “been long and haphazard” and until then “a road travelled without purpose”. He reassured them that he had realised and come to terms with his identity while acknowledging that his “going into Gaelic simplified things” for him and provided answers which may be naive but at least give him “somewhere to stand”. Walsh’s book sets out to give us the story of his life up to and after that decision. Hartnett was born in Newcastlewest in 1941 and fostered out some four years later to his grandmother, Bridget Halpin, outside the town in Camas, Templeglantine. To this formative period, as his longtime friend Paul Durcan observed, he would return again and again “as if to a well”. Hartnett’s grandmother seemed to him a very “Gaelic nineteenth century woman, a woman out of time”. She moved naturally between Gaelic and English, impressing upon Hartnett the sense that two different times co-existed in her. In her he found a convergence of the ancient and the modern, an apparent harmony between the chthonic pagan past and the time they lived in. This was a fact of both literal and metaphorical significance in the development of Hartnett’s voice. Like Lorca, whose work he translated, he was closer to the suppressed, hence to him truer, pagan rituals because they had more grounding in the natural world of myths and stories. He has immortalised this period in his lines All the perversions of the soul I learnt on a small farm how to do the neighbours harm by magic how to hate. I was abandoned to their tragedies, minor but unyielding. Hartnett’s passion for continuity can be seen in his warm remembrance…

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