Lifestyle – Retired orthodontist Des Kavanagh has just published his debut poetry collection, at the age of 83. The longtime Galway resident who is originally from Donegal has been writing for years but had no plans for a book until his lifelong friend, the poet and critic Seamus Deane, convinced him to do so. The poems in Binnion Road draw on his many life experiences and are complemented by illustrations from artist Joe Boske. Des tells BERNIE NÍ FHLATARTA how it came about.
It is no surprise to anyone who knows him that city resident and retired orthodontist Des Kavanagh writes very good poetry — the question is why it’s taken him so long to publish his debut collection.
There are a variety of reasons why he didn’t have the time — a busy career combined with family life and his involvement with the McGlinchey Summer School, which he co-founded, in his native Inishowen in Donegal and his years associated with the Clifden Arts Festival, where he is renowned as co-host of the ‘Reading in the Bookies’ group of writers and singers.
Probably the main reason that it took Des until the age of 83 to publish his debut poetry collection is his modesty.
He has always loved English and writing and initially toyed with the idea of going into journalism after he finished secondary school at St Columb’s College in Derry. His father Patrick was a schoolteacher who instilled in him the love of good writing. Patrick himself wrote a book based on the story of local man Charles McGlinchey and his family, The Last of the Name.
Although Des was always writing his thoughts in either prose or poetry, he admits he was very shy at showing them to his two best friends and former classmates, who happened to be the poets, Séamus Heaney and Séamus Deane.
It was Séamus Deane, who was also a novelist and critic, who encouraged Des to publish his work and even wrote the introduction to the new collection called Binnion Road. It’s named after one of the poems in the book about a tree-lined route from Des’s home village of Clonmany to the nearby sea shore.
Years earlier, Séamus Deane had connected Des with the playwright Brian Friel who loved the manuscript of Patrick’s memoir of Charles McGlinchey’s life, editing it for publication and writing the introduction. Charles McGlinchey (1861-1954) had lived on the Inishowen Peninsula all his life and was a neighbor of the Kavanaghs. On his regular visits to Patrick, Charles shared memories of his life and times, which. Patrick committed to paper. These became The Last of the Name.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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