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
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