Padriac Colum (1881-1972) at the age of twenty-three was already a gifted, prolific, and versatile writer. He was a major contributor to the Irish national Theatre Society, founded by William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, AE, and others, and he himself was one of the founders of the immortal Abbey Theatre.
Unlike other leading figures of the Irish Literary Revival, Colum alone was Roman Catholic, peasant born, and country bred. AE convinced the young writer that he had a mission as a poet: to portray the fundamental nature of the Irish peasant experience as only Colum could.
Colum’s first book of poems, Wild Earth (1907), forms the foundation of his poetic canon, expressing the clarity, strength, and vitality of his unique voice. Although he wrote over sixty books, including plays, fiction, biography, folklore, and children’s stories, it is as an Irish lyric poet that he will be remembered. His poetry depicts the nobility of men and women who lived in the ancient ways, close to the sky and the soil, and who were inherently endowed with the elemental understanding of life and death and the eternal cycle of the seasons.
In 1914 Colum and his wife, the talented critic, Mary (Molly) Maguire, decided to visit America. They stayed on in New York City, initially because of the war, in voluntary exile.
After Molly’s death in 1957, Colum’s poetry entered a new phase, and in a sense, he became a visitor to his own memories, telling stories about his longtime friends, such as James Joyce and Arthur Griffith, in Irish Elegies and Images of Departure, published when he was in his mid-eighties. Simultaneously personal and universal, these poems are a moving farewell to art and to life.
Sanford Sternlicht is emeritus professor of English at Syracuse University. His books include Selected Short Stories of Padraic Colum ; Selected Plays of Padraic Colum; John Galsworthy; and R.F. Delderfield.
Series: Irish Studies
5.5 x 8, 116 pages