Typescript Draft MS for a book of poetry by Theo Dorgan. With occasional manuscript corrections / suggestions / annotations by Dorgan’s early mentor John Montague, the Typescript MS was held among the private papers of John Montague in his West Cork Home. The typescript includes poems like “Closed Circuit”, “The Promised Garden”. Montague is approving several of the poems by simply applying a tick. John Montague made suggestions in pencil on the structure of “Elegy for a Schoolfriend” and more in depth-suggestions on “Nasty Archer”, “Her Body”,″The Width of a Room Between Us”, “Return”, “Reconciliation”, “Sunday Afternoon”. When asked about helping to date this early draft of his poetry, Theo Dorgan immediately gets back to us and he places it from memory into the early 1980’s. Theo Dorgan was surprised and seemingly chuffed that John Montague held on to this Manuscript and he recalls: “These poems, some in revised versions, make up the backbone of my first published collection, ‘The Ordinary House of Love’.” Dorgan continues: “I’m happy to say that most of them survived Montague’s eagle eye, which was of course a great comfort to me at the time. Still is!” Some of these poems selected had previously been published as broadsheets etc. but the skeleton of the Draft hints already at readying it for publication. Theo Dorgan graciously gives us even more information: “Some of the poems in the eventual book go back to when I was a student, others were definitely written in the second half of the 80s. The bulk of it, however, is in this MS. I base my estimation in part on the fact that what you have is a typescript produced, it appears, on the IBM golfball machine that was the pride and joy of Triskel Arts Centre. That machine was bought in 1980 or 1981, I’m fairly sure of that. I was Literature Officer there, then.” Theo Dorgan was part of John Montague’s circle of mentored poets, even though in an email-exchange with him about this typescript he mentions that “John Montague worked far more with Thomas McCarthy, Maurice Riordan and Gregory O’Donoghue than he did with me, and in many ways Gregory O’Donoghue was at that stage the most accomplished of us all – the only one included in JM’s Faber Book.” What followed then in our conversation with Theo Dorgan is a great example why manuscripts, letters, autographs, typescripts and the connections we often make with documents from the past have such meaning in explaining our emotional ties with people who matter to us on our way of forming personality. They are memories transforming into images, floods of empathy and nostalgia for personal moments lost but treasured because they helped us form our values. Presented with the old typescript, Theo Dorgan’s emotionality is tangible and he confesses more in an internal dialogue with himself and John Montague than with us: “I’m sorry to say that the reason John Montague worked with those others more than he did with me is because, in my shameful, youthful arrogance, I much preferred to trust my own judgement, and also, I suspect, because I was closest to John in temperament and feared coming unduly under his influence. That said, there was no-one whose good opinion of a poem I valued more, and we were close all our lives after. Very likely it was a case of old stag/young stag ! Montague taught us by indirection, he made his extensive library of modern and contemporary poetry available to us without stint, would wait for us to find an affinity (as, e.g. mine with Robert Graves and Galway Kinnell) and would then, in a long, ongoing conversation, help us to understand what it might mean for our own poems that we felt such affinities. A guided companionship in reading and making, if you will.”
Ireland, c.1981-1982. A4. 43 pages typescripts. Paperclipped. Very good condition with only minor signs of external wear. Some fingerstaining and residue of rust from the paperclip. Wonderful and extremely valuable document of not only a collaboration between two of Ireland’s landmark writers but moreover witness to the becoming, the birth of a true poet. Also included (from a different source) is a second printing of the first edition of the subsequent publication “The Ordinary House of Love” – signed by Theo Dorgan. Right at the beginning of the printed version, instead of a dedication to John Monatgue, Theo Dorgan placed a quote from Montague’s poem “Wine Dark Sea”: ‘For there is no sea / it is all a dream there is no sea / except in the tangle / of our minds; / the wine dark / sea of history on which we all turn / turn and thresh / and disappear.’ (Collected Poems, page 255). Provenance of the annotated typescript: From the private collection of John Montague’s papers in his recently sold West Cork Home.
Theo Dorgan (born 1953) is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer, translator, librettist and documentary screenwriter. He lives in Dublin.
Dorgan was born in Cork in 1953 and educated in North Monastery School. He completed a BA in English and Philosophy and a MA in English at University College Cork, after which he tutored and lectured in that University, while simultaneously Literature Officer with Triskel Arts Centre in Cork. He was visiting faculty at University of Southern Maine. He lives in Dublin with his partner, the poet and playwright Paula Meehan.
After Theo Dorgan’s first two collections, The Ordinary House of Love and Rosa Mundi, went out of print, Dedalus Press reissued these two titles in a single volume What This Earth Cost Us. He has also published a selected poems in Italian, La Case ai Margini del Mundo, (Faenza, Moby Dick, 1999).
Dorgan has published to date ten books of poetry and one Novel: The Ordinary House of Love (1990), Rosa Mundi (1995), La Casa ai Margini del Mondo [Translated by M.Giosa (1998)], Sappho’s Daughter (1998), La Hija de Safo [Translated by Francisco Castaño (2001)], What this Earth cost Us (2008), Greek (2010), Making Way (Novel – 2013), Nine Bright Shiners (2014), Orpheus (2018), Bailéid Giofógacha (2019). He also has edited The Great Book of Ireland (with Gene Lambert, 1991); Revising the Rising (with Máirín Ní Dhonnachadha, 1991); Irish Poetry Since Kavanagh (Dublin, Four Courts Press, 1996); Watching the River Flow (with Noel Duffy, Dublin, Poetry Ireland/Éigse Éireann, 1999); The Great Book of Gaelic (with Malcolm Maclean, Edinburgh, Canongate, 2002); and The Book of Uncommon Prayer (Dublin, Penguin Ireland, 2007).
He has been Series Editor of the European Poetry Translation Network publications and Director of the collective translation seminars from which the books arose.
A former Director of Poetry Ireland/Éigse Éireann, he has worked extensively as a broadcaster of literary programmes on both radio and television. His Jason and The Argonauts, to music by Howard Goodall, was commissioned by and premiered in the Royal Albert Hall in 2004. He was the scriptwriter for the acclaimed TV documentary series Hidden Treasures, and a series of texts commissioned from him features in the dance musical Riverdance. His songs have been recorded by a number of musicians, including Alan Stivell, Jimmy Crowley and Cormac Breathnach. He was presenter of Poetry Now on RTÉ Radio 1, and later presented RTÉ‘s TV books programme, “Imprint”. Among his awards are the Listowel Prize for Poetry, 1992 and the O’Shaughnessy Prize for Irish Poetry 2010. A member of Aosdána, he was appointed to The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon in 2003. He also served on the Board of Cork European Capital of Culture 2005. He was also awarded the 2015 Poetry Now Award for Nine Bright Shiners. (Wikipedia)
John Montague (28 February 1929 – 10 December 2016) was an Irish poet. Born in America, he was raised in Ireland. He published a number of volumes of poetry, two collections of short stories and two volumes of memoir. He was one of the best known Irish contemporary poets. In 1998 he became the first occupant of the Ireland Chair of Poetry (essentially Ireland’s poet laureate). In 2010, he was made a Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur, France’s highest civil award.
John Montague was born in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, on 28 February 1929. His father, James Montague, an Ulster Catholic, from County Tyrone, had gone to America in 1925 to join his brother John. Both were sons of John Montague, who had been a JP, combining his legal duties with being a schoolmaster, farmer, postmaster and director of several firms.
John continued as postmaster but James became involved in the turbulent Irish Republican scene in the years after 1916, particularly complicated in areas like Fermanagh and Tyrone, on the borders of the newly divided island.
Molly (Carney) Montague joined her husband James in America in 1928, with their two elder sons. John was born on Bushwick Avenue at St. Catherine’s Hospital, and spent his earliest years playing with his brothers in the streets of Brooklyn, putting nickels on the trolley lines, playing on a tenement roof, seeing early Mickey Mouse movies.
John Montague studied at University College Dublin in 1946. He found an extraordinary contrast between the Ulster of the war years and post-war Dublin, where the atmosphere was introverted and melancholy. Stirred by the example of other student poets (including Thomas Kinsella) he began to publish his first poems in The Dublin Magazine, Envoy, and The Bell, edited by Peadar O’Donnell. But the atmosphere in Dublin was still constrained and Montague left for Yale on a Fulbright Fellowship in 1953.
John had already met Saul Bellow at the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies and now he worked with Robert Penn Warren as well as auditing the classes of several Yale critics, like Rene Wellek and W. K. Wimsatt. He extended his sense of contemporary American literature, attending Indiana Summer School of Letters where he heard Richard Wilbur, Leslie Fiedler, and John Crowe Ransom, who like the Irish poet Austin Clarke, encouraged Montague, finding him a job at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1954 and 1955.
From Iowa to Berkeley, a year of graduate school convinced Montague that he should return to Ireland. He sailed back to France that summer, to marry his first wife, Madeleine, whom he had met in Iowa, where she was also on a Fulbright; they settled in Herbert Street, Dublin, a few doors down from Brendan Behan. Working by day at the Irish Tourist Office, Montague at last gathered his first book of poems, Poisoned Lands (1961).
That year he also moved to Bray in which he went to St Brendan’s and forgot to hand up his essay to Mr.Meyler, to a small studio a block away from Samuel Beckett, with whom he slowly became on good drinking terms. There, he also met another neighbour, the French poet Claude Esteban, with whom he became friends – Montague recently translated into English and published some of his poems.
A regular rhythm of publication saw his first book of stories, Death of a Chieftain (1964) after which the musical group The Chieftains were named, his second book of poems, A Chosen Light (1967), Tides (1970), the latter both also published by Swallow in the U.S.
All during the 1960s, Montague continued to work on his long poem, The Rough Field, a task that coincided with the outbreak of the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland. A Patriotic Suite appeared in 1966, Hymn to the New Omagh Road and The Bread God in 1968, and A New Siege, dedicated to Bernadette Devlin which he read outside Armagh Jail in 1970. In 1972, the long poem was finally published by Dolmen/Oxford and Montague returned to Ireland, to live and teach in University College Cork, at the request of his friend, the composer Seán Ó Riada, where he inspired an impressive field of young writers including Gregory O’Donoghue, Sean Dunne, Thomas McCarthy, William Wall, Maurice Riordan, Gerry Murphy, Greg Delanty and Theo Dorgan. In a birthday tribute for his 80th, William Wall wrote: “It would be impossible to overestimate his influence on the young writers who went to UCC (University College Cork) at that time.” The Rough Field (1972) was slowly recognised as a major achievement.
Settled in Cork with his second wife, Evelyn Robson, Montague published an anthology, The Faber Book of Irish Verse (1974) with a book of lyrics, A Slow Dance (1975). Recognition was now beginning to come, with the award of the Irish American Cultural Institute in 1976, the first Marten Toonder Award in 1977, and in 1978, the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award for The Great Cloak, “the best book of poetry in two years” according to the Poetry Society of Great Britain. A Guggenheim in 1979 and 1980 enabled Montague to complete his Selected Poems (1982) and his second long poem, The Dead Kingdom (1984) both co-published by Dolmen (Ireland), Oxford (England), Wake Forest University Press (US) and Exile Editions (Canada).
In 1987, Montague was awarded an honorary doctor of letters by the State University of New York at Buffalo. Governor Mario M. Cuomo presented Montague a citation in 1987 “for his outstanding literary achievements and his contributions to the people of New York.” Montague serves as distinguished writer-in-residence for the New York State Writers Institute during each spring semester, teaching workshops in fiction and poetry and a class in the English Department of the University of Albany.
In 1995, Montague and his second wife, Evelyn, separated, and he formed a partnership with American student Elizabeth Wassell (later to be author of The Honey Plain (1997)). He has 2 daughters with Evelyn, Sibyl and Oonagh. In 1998, Montague was named the first Irish professor of poetry, a three-year appointment to be divided among The Queen’s University in Belfast, Trinity College Dublin, and University College Dublin. He held this title from 1998 to 2001, when he was succeeded by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. In 2008, he published A Ball of Fire, a collection of all his fiction including the short novella The Lost Notebook. Montague died at the age of 87 in Nice on 10 December 2016 after complications from a recent surgery. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth Wassell, daughters Oonagh and Sibyl and grandchildren Eve and Theo. Montague’s poems chart boyhood, schooldays, love and relationships. Family and personal history and Ireland’s history are also prominent themes in his poetry.
Montague is noted for his vowel harmonies, his use of assonance and echo, and his handling of the line and line break. Montague believes that a poem appears with its own rhythm and that rhythm and line lengths should be based on living speech. (Wikipedia)