Sé Merry Doyle’s award winning documentary ‘Patrick Kavanagh – No Mans Fool’ will screen in the Purcell Room on the Southbank Centre London as part of ‘A Green Art’ a Poetry and Film event on the 22nd July 2023 beginning at 12 Noon. The event is hosted in partnership with the Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith. The film is part of ‘The Loopline Collection’ at the Irish Film Archive in Dublin.
In the first half of the event, Cherry Smyth and Craig Jordan-Baker perform If the River is Hidden, a live version of their book which charts the journey of two writers from the source to the mouth of the Bann, Northern Ireland’s longest river.
Their performance is followed by an extended reading from the mesmeric Irish poet, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin. In May 2022, in a special ceremony on Ní Chuilleanáin’s 80th birthday, President Michael D Higgins conferred the gold Torc, marking her election to the position of Saoi of Aosdána, the highest honour an artist in Ireland can ever receive.
After a short interval, film director Sé Merry Doyle introduces his feature-length documentary, Patrick Kavanagh – No Man’s Fool. The film is a rich visual journey, exposing the contradiction that existed between Patrick Kavanagh’s public persona and his poetry – and won the award for best documentary at the Boston Irish Film Festival. The main locations of the film are Kavanagh’s native parish ‘Inniskeen’ in Monaghan and the environs of Baggot Street in Dublin where he lived for most of his life. The rural and urban landscapes are mined beautifully and become the bedrock for the extraordinary readings of Kavanagh’s poems by the gifted actor Gerard McSorley. While McSorley conveys ‘Stoney Grey Soil of Monaghan’ to the background of a rural festival, or ‘If ever you go to Dublin Town’ over evocative shots of the Grand Canal, the poets extraordinary life is explored.
Throughout the film we meet people like the poet John Montague who published the first of Kavanagh’s ‘Collected Poems’ in 1964, the actor T.P.McKenna who gave Patrick shelter for a while in his home remembers him warmly, the poet Mcdara Woods recalls the summer when Kavanagh wrote his Canal Bank poems, Leland Bardwell talks about how people mistreated him and the time she shared a home with him as his health declined. The writer Dermot Healy recalls the first time he heard Luke Kelly sing Kavanagh’s ‘Raglan Road’ All quote freely from his poems and celebrate his genius. And the great man appears himself in ‘Self Portrait’ for RTE television. And we get to meet Deirdre Manifold a former girlfriend of Kavanagh who speaks of the time Flann O’Brien threw a pint in anger at Patrick but the poet grabbed it in midair and drank it.
In 1960 Kavanagh’s most fondly remembered Canal Bank poems were included in his collection ‘Come Dance with Kitty Stobling’ and they propelled him into international acclaim. He was embraced by the Beat poets and his second Collected Poems were published in 1964 by his friend Martin Green in London. In. 1966 The Abbey Theatre staged an adaptation of his novel Tarry Flynn to great acclaim. Another milestone happened in 1966 when he introduced Luke Kelly to an early poem of his and wondered could he set it to a song. The poem was ‘Raglan Road’ and became an international hit and was covered by the likes of Van Morrison, Billy Joel, Ed Sheeran and Sinead O’Connor.
The film features John Montague, Leland Bardwell, Dermot Healy, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, and James Liddy.