Thursday, November 06, 2008

James Liddy, 1934-2008

James Liddy died yesterday in Milwaukee. He was a great poet, who for me was also a great personal and poetic friend. This is sad news. I send my condolences to his friends and family.

James Liddy was born in Lr. Pembroke St., Dublin, Ireland, in 1934 and lived in Coolgreany, Co Wexford, intermittently from 1941 to 2002. He taught in San Francisco; Binghamton, New York; Portland, Oregon; NUI Galway (Ireland), and since 1976 in Milwaukee where he passed away after a short illness. His parents hailed from the cities of Limerick and New York. Over a literary career spanning 50 years he published widely and to great acclaim. His many books include among them Blue Mountain (Dolmen, 1968), A Munster Song of Love and War (White Rabbit, 1971), Baudelaire’s Bar Flowers (Capra/White Rabbit, 1975), Corca Bascinn (Dolmen, 1977), A White Thought in a White Shade (Kerr’s Pinks, 1987) Collected Poems (Creighton University Press, 1994), Gold Set Dancing (Salmon, 2000), I Only Know That I Love Strength in My Friends and Greatness (Arlen House, 2003, which included my Afterword), On the Raft with Fr. Roseliep (Arlen House, 2006), Wexford and Arcady (Arlen House, 2008), and The Askeaton Sequence (2009). With Paul Vogel he has published two books of Mandelstam versions, Sophias and Death Row.

Liddy had a long and prestigious career as a professor and critic in the English Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee teaching creative writing and Irish and Beat literature. James Liddy: A Critical Study by Brian Arkins was published by Arlen House in 2001 and Honeysuckle, Honeyjuice: A Tribute to James Liddy, which I edited, appeared from the same publisher in 2006. The first volume of his memoir, The Doctor’s House: An Autobiography was published by Salmon in 2004, with volume two, The Full Shilling, forthcoming from Salmon.

His work continues to have a deep and long-lasting influence on a number of generations of Irish, American, and international writers and readers.

I measc laochra na nGael go raibh sé.

Two from James’ book Epitaphery (White Rabbit Press, 1997):

“Translate into Triestino for my Epitaph”

I was bad as I lay back in my mother’s womb,
moreover she was a bad Catholic:
one of the kings of the fairies is dead,
in the suburbs the wives finish wine.

*

“Translate into Hebrew for my Epitaph”

I wake up drunk in the morning
and want to write in praise of Christ
but I grow sober and cold: May I
be able to mount the church steps
without a premonition of apocalypse,
may I hire enough moonlight for myself
so a star floats out of a chalice,
be ready to return to my mother’s womb
for more.

*

The Irish Times full obituary
The Irish Times short obituary
Poetry Ireland notice
The Irish Arts Council notice
David Chirot’s piece
Karl Saffran’s piece
Philip Casey’s piece
alt.obituaries piece

6 comments:

Elizabeth Cooney said...

I covered a story for the Irish American Post on a sean-nos convention Professor Liddy hosted at UWM and I am devastated to learn of his passing. We met at Paddy's Irish Pub in Milwaukee and he bought me my first (of many!) Guinness. The community has lost an amazing contributor and man. My heart goes out to his family.

Anonymous said...

I am very sad to read of the lost of your good fiend , Mike. He was a great poet and fine scholar and though he now has gone over to the grey world in order to share a pint with a throng of Bards and Heroes , James Liddy remains , contradicting the final voice of Dubliners , a palpable force to anyone who has ever read his golden words. Liam M.

Anonymous said...

Very sad indeed. I'd known James since 1976 and today am having a hard time wrapping myself around the news of his death. While the rest of us aged and got tossed around by life, James seemed unchanged through the years.

My thoughts and prayers are with Jim, Nora and every one who like me is stunned by this loss.

Great picture of James with St Barbara btw !!

Nancy

I'm picturing James in heaven chatting it up with Janet Dunleavy, heads inclined toward each other...and once again excluding Gareth

David Brannan said...

Amazing photo and a fitting tribute.

Join us tonight at the County Clare!

Anonymous said...

many pints flowed my car from pubs to racine dreams...you were my stellar passenger in the night's fun pub crawl...mid nineties... weekly class after class every exam an exemption...only once, james, did we ever run a stopsign (near the constant reader) - may God be merciful from here!

john dey

Kevin T. McEneaney said...

James was loose chemicals of intellect, often creating spontaneous combustions, a shaman of the next next round, a man who might take offense but forget it the next day. He made poetry of life and his written work functioned as casual sides more brilliant than the studied foppery of those licked academia's boots. --Kevin T. McEneaney