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HOW WE STOOD OUR ROUNDS: BOHEMIAN DUBLIN IN THE SIXTIES JAMES LIDDY we have Proust’s word for it, backed up by Beckett, that voluntary memory does not hold a candle or a glass to the involuntary kind as a means of evocation. But for me involuntary memory is not a rare experience, as far as Dublin is concerned. We Irish are consumed with spontaneous reminiscences , and perhaps this could be the tasteless gift at the heart of our culture. Yet, there seems something occult, as well as native, in unquenchable , unforsakeable, but unbidden reenactments of the past—textes pour quelque-chose. “When I grew up” is always coming to an end. I want to ask the ghost of W. B. Yeats, “How many times have Greece and Rome died?” For the burial of the Fifties and Sixties Dublin, I refer to a pronouncement by the art critic of the Irish Times on the death of the painter Patrick Collins, on March 2, 1994. Brian Fallon says of Collins, “He also mixed easily with poets and writers generally, and was central in the now vanished Dublin bohemia which included Patrick Kavanagh and many more.” “Now vanished,” the perfect undertaker’s phrase. One notices in Fallon’s sentence that Kavanagh preempts other Wgures in the Dublin of my youth. He was, as often naively but comically narrated in his verse, the god of the scene. By the time I met him in 1956, he had transferred from the cafe to the bar. Of my friends recalled here, Kavanagh was the nativeborn presentation; Liam Miller fashioned the youthful succession to the elder poet; and Anthony Kerrigan was the Christopher Columbus who arrived on our shore to Wnd the indigenous literary set he had partly imagined. Anthony Kerrigan was the laureate translator. He put Miguel de Unamuno into English, a seven-volume Collected Works. He did Wve books of Jorge Luis Borges, Wction and poetry. He gave the English-speaking world Reinaldo Arenas’s El Central and most importantly Camilo Jose HOW WE STOOD OUR ROUNDS: BOHEMIAN DUBLIN IN THE SIXTIES 7 Cela’s The Family of Pascal Duarte, that Goyaesque portrait of minimal domesticity. Three years before his death, Kerrigan was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts senior fellowship in literature and a grant of $40,000. He was, of course, a poet in both his languages, English and Castilian; without that he could not have been a laureate translator. Not the least part of him was his manner of a postwar bohemian—apocalyptical , magniWcently brazen, ready to intervene in the aVairs of the great with aplomb, and disturbed, but lucidly and craftily so. I noticed the resemblance between John Berryman and Kerrigan when they joined forces, in Dublin’s chaotic nights of the late Sixties, and charged. They gave no quarter , at least not to themselves. They were aWcionados of Ireland—Kerrigan under the shadow of Borges, Berryman in the augury of Yeats. They felt they were among their own people, a presumption readily disputed by Patrick Kavanagh and his court. This in no way compromised the fun Kerrigan and Berryman had near the banks of the Grand Canal. Dublin is a one-poet town, and they didn’t care. Probably driven by the whimsy of being born from an Irish-sounding father in such an American-sounding place as the Canal Zone, Tony Kerrigan arrived in Dublin, where Christian Brothers-fed armies used to clash by night. He appeared with his wife Elaine at the yellow brick tower of Stephen Dedalus and walked up the winding Buck Mulligan stairs. Zero Mostel had just been there casting Leopold Bloom’s voice up the chimney. Tony, already myopically eloquent under youthfully fringed white hair, prayed at the stations of the waistcoat, the cane, and death mask. I was late that day opening the tower, delayed by the hardy business of buying poems, from Kavanagh in McDaid’s, for my new magazine Arena. We had concluded with “luck money” and a handshake. I was the second—the summer—curator of Joyce’s Martello Tower. It had just been opened in the great unresisted cultural Xow of the Sixties. The nation was full...


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