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The Pasha of Byzantium

If one of the functions of art is to help us find transformative moments in day-to-day life, then Paul Durcan’s poetry must rank among the best of contemporary literature.  He is one of the finest and most distinctive voices writing today.

In The Pasha of Byzantium a poem dedicated to a former colleague of mine, Lar Cassidy, Paul noticed that this extraordinarily busy man took time out to enjoy a moment

Edging past a coffee house in Baggot Street – Georgian Fare –

I spot the Literature Officer of the Arts Council in the window

Getting his priorities right

Sipping a white cup of black coffee.

He is beaming at me.

It is this personal, often intense response to everyday life and public events, that resonates throughout his work.

Born in Dublin in 1944, Paul Durcan is the son of a barrister while his mother was the niece of John MacBride, one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. He studied Archaeology at University College Cork.

His first book of poetry, Endsville, was published in 1967; his most recent, Praise in Which I Live and Move and Have My Being, in 2012. He won the Whitbread Award for Daddy, Daddy in 1990 at the midpoint of a career that spans five decades during which he has published over twenty volumes of poetry. Other highlights include Crazy about Women, the 1991 volume based on paintings in the National Gallery in Dublin, and The Laughter of Mothers, in 2008, in which he explored his relationship with his mother. He was Ireland Professor of Poetry from 2004-2007.

Paul Durcan’s work is both outspoken and intimate, ordinary and exotic, real and surreal. Humour is never far away in free verse which is musical, somewhere between jazz and ballads, in the way it uses repetition and variation to explore and shape experience.

His poetry often refers to the particulars of Irish society but not in isolation: Ireland is linked to the world not only as part of contemporary globalisation but also as part of the poet's international world-view and penchant for travel, evident in volume titles ranging from O Westport in the Light of Asia Minor in 1975 to Greetings to Our Friends in Brazil in 1999.

Paul  Durcan appears at the Bluecoat on Thursday 30 October through a first-time partnership between Liverpool Poetry Café, Liverpool Irish Festival and the Bluecoat. An event not to be missed.



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