Do Brendan Kennelly’s Dublin poems capture the character of city life?
There is no doubt that Brendan Kennelly knows Dublin well. He studied there in Trinity College as a young adult, worked in the same college as a lecturer for over thirty years, and has, throughout his lifetime, roamed and become accustomed to the city’s streets. After interviewing the poet in February 2005, Christina Patterson of The Independent newspaper described the man as being ‘like a parody of a poet’. She continued, to justify this, by explaining ‘He really does wander through each street composing poems and reciting other people’s poems and he does observe the world with wide-eyed wonder’.
Kennelly’s willingness to actually explore the streets of Dublin and talk to people, combined with his ability to take in and observe everything around him, have aided the poet in writing countless books of poetry which give accurate and detailed accounts of the character of city life. Inarguably the most famous and, equally, the most controversial of these has been his collection of short poems ‘Poetry My Arse’ which was published in 1995.
This book of poems reads like an ode to the city of Dublin and is a testimonial to his familiarity with this city. Within this book Kennelly’s poems offer various images and depictions, both joyful and depressing, of city life in Dublin. The poet manages to capture the character of city life by writing unconventional poetry and employing colloquialism in using the Dubliner dialogue to speak through the voices of different characters.
Rather than choosing to romanticise the city and write aesthetic verses on its beauty or culture, Kennelly opts to focus on the hustle and bustle of street life. In order to do this though, he feels he needs to break out of established poetic forms and norms so that he can deal with these experiences and aspects of life which other poets wouldn’t dream of writing about. Many Irish reviewers and critics believe that good poetry...