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Ó Direáin brings The West to life at the Glucksman Library, UL

Author: Michelle Breen
When: Thursday, April 18, 2019 - 16:45

The Glucksman Library is currently hosting an exhibition about the life of the Galway Poet Máirtín Ó Direáin (1910 – 1988). The exhibition entitled Máirtín Ó Direáin Fachta File/ Reluctant Modernist was curated by Síobhra Aikin, PhD researcher  and editor of Máirtín O Direáin’s  Essays based in the Centre for Irish Studies, NUI Galway,  to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Ó Direáin’s death in March 1988. The exhibition is on display at the foyer of the Glucksman Library, University of Limerick throughout April and May.

Beautifully illustrated with archival material, its curator, Síobhra Aikin, points out “While Ó Direáin is considered to be the ‘father of modern Irish poetry’, his legacy has arguably been overlooked.” Isabel Ní Riain interpreted his life and writings in 2002 in Carraig agus cathair: Ó Direáin. This exhibition will provide a new biographical and historical context, to enlighten our understanding of his poetry and essays to encourage further research. Posters on his experience as a young actor with An Taibhdhearc Theatre in Galway, his involvement with the rights of Post Office workers and his role as President of Cumann na Scríbhneoirí (The Writers’ Association) in Dublin demonstrate his commitment to a modern Ireland.

An Islandman, Ó Direáin was a native of the Gaeltacht island of Inis Mór in the the Aran Islands and championed Irish language poets in the twentieth century.  A noteworthy theme of Ó Direáin’s poetry concerns the strains between traditional and modern ways of life and the urban rural divide almost certainly reflecting his life experience.  Louis De Paor explains that Ó Direáin moved from ‘the traditional Irish speaking community in which he grew up to the English-speaking town of Galway and ultimately to life as a bureaucrat in Dublin among “the scurrying Lilliputians of the metropolis, the seangánfhir or ant people”.

Ó Direáin’s poems are just as relevant in the Ireland of today as they were half a century ago and stand behind the idea of poetry as a timeless art form that allows people to externalise their thoughts.

Members of the public are invited to the Glucksman Library to view this exhibition of Máirtín Ó Direáin’s work and enjoy it – tá súil againn go mbainfidh sibh sult as!

The Glucksman Library is grateful to our NUIG colleagues for allowing this exhibition to be “temporarily exiled in Munster”. In collaborations such as these, the university libraries and archives will encourage further scholarship and exploration of the value of poetry and literature in teaching, research and  learning.

Good Reads

Ó Direáin, Máirtín. (2018) Máirtín Ó Direáin: Selected Poems/ Rogha Dánta Frank Sewell (eag. & aistritheoir) An Spidéal, Cló Iar-Chonnacht.

Ó Direáin, Máirtín (2018) An Chuid Eile Díom Féin: Aistí le Máirtín Ó Direáin.  Eag. Síobhra Aiken, An Spidéal, Cló Iar-Chonnacht

De Paor, L. (2016) Leabhar na hAthghabhála / Poems of Repossession, Hexham, Northumberland :   Bloodaxe Books.

Ní Riain, Isobel. (2002) Carraig agus cathair : Ó Direáin . Baile Átha Cliath: Cois Life Teoranta.

Pól Ó Muirí (2018) ‘Máirtín Ó Direáin remembered: patrols, paramilitaries and poetry’ Irish Times 19 March. [available at https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/m%C3%A1irt%C3%ADn-%C3%B3-dire%C3%A1in-remembered-patrols-paramilitaries-and-poetry-1.3429848] (accessed 16 April 2019)