Saturday, 30 June 2012

Tom Duddy, again

So, Irish poets... I have a few favourites. One of them, Peadar O'Donoghue, our Poetry Bus driver and editor, has a book out this year called "Jewel" (available from Salmon Poetry - here). You can read an interview with Peadar about the book here (courtesy of new New Zealander Rachel Fenton) and I am reading it too just now and may well write about it here at some point.

But today I have some sadder news about a different Irish poet... because Tom Duddy has recently died (that's his 2011 Arlen House poetry collection "The Hiding Place" pictured above). I knew Tom had been ill from his very minimal contact with facebook (he wasn't exactly Mr Self-Promotion as a writer) but from what I have read it was still a sudden, somewhat unexpected death when it came (Helena Nelson wrote something about it here). You can read about Duddy's career on his own website or in his obituary in the Irish Times and from them you can see that, although he wasn't one of poetry's most celebrated sons, at 62 years of age he was getting there (just because the poems were so good) and he had plenty of other achievements anyway (a career in philosophy and academia, a family, a good character).

I wrote about Duddy's 2006 HappenStance pamphlet "The Small Hours" on my old blog back in 2009 (here - that pamphlet is now sold out by the way). The poet himself called in at the comments to say hello back then and we exchanged a couple of messages and he seemed a thoroughly nice man. This doesn't necessarily make it sadder that he's died of course (we all will...) and yet I am a little sad (and I'm sure those who knew him well are thoroughly heartbroken). As a tiny tribute I asked permission to reproduce one of my favourites of his poems on here... partly because I too love Robert Frost's poems (they were some of my first contact with poetry) but partly because I like how Duddy is so sensible about writing as a career in this poem. There's no need to get worked up about it (I feel he is saying), just get on with it and you never know what will happen. As one who's been on the "page of doubt" regularly I find this poem very full, very astute. I like too that it's about someone else (and not just his own work). I'm sure Tom Duddy must have been a great teacher... probably a great Dad too. Anyway, here's the poem:

The  Life of Robert Frost
by Tom Duddy

The place at which I keep the marker
in my condensed edition of the life
is the last page of the early years
in which the forty-year-old poet,

not long before the voyage back
to New England, grows dejected
and wonders if he’s lost the gift,
if gift indeed he ever had.

He can’t foresee a summer’s night
in Vermont, seven years on
in 1922, when he’ll work
through the small hours till dawn,

stop for awhile to marvel at
himself and the first light, return
to the table and begin to write
the first words of a perfect poem.

As I switch from the page of doubt
to the page of triumph, back and forth,
like some child with a holographic toy,
I seem compelled to hold the poet

in England, full of doubt, and tilt him
forward to that summer’s night
just long enough for me to glimpse
the way a future shimmers there.

From Tom Duddy's "The Hiding Place" (Arlen House 2011) and "The Small Hours" (HappenStance 2006). The poem is ever so slightly different in the two publications so I have chosen the most recent version.


martine said...

That is really lovely
thanks for sharing

Rachel Fox said...

So many key words in that poem... like "glimpse" for starters!

Crafty Green Poet said...

I've never heard of Tom Duddy before, I'll need to look out more of his work now!

Rachel Fox said...

I came to him via Helena Nelson's HappenStance but as I say that pamphlet is out of print now. There is quite a bit of his work online (on his site for a start) and the other book (with Arlen House) should be available (as far as I know).

Dominic Rivron said...

I don't know Tom Duddy's poems (other than the one you've just posted!)

I'm reading Jewel too - isn't it good?

Rachel Fox said...

Yes and he's so thrilled about it too! A great thing.