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Paddy Bushe
(Ireland, 1948)   
Paddy Bushe

Paddy Bushe was born in Dublin in 1948 and now lives in Waterville, Co. Kerry. A prize-winning poet in Irish and in English, his collections include Poems With Amergin (1989), Teanga (1990), Counsellor (1991), Digging Towards The Light (1994), In Ainneoin na gCloch (2001), Hopkins on Skellig Michael (2001), The Nitpicking of Cranes (2004) and To Ring in Silence: New and Selected Poems (2008).  His most recent collection, On A Turning Wing, was published in 2016 and won the 2017 Irish Times Poetry Now Award.  He also works as an editor and has curated the anthology Voices at the World’s Edge: Irish Poets on Skellig Michael (Dedalus, 2010). He was the recipient of the Oireachtas prize for poetry in 2006 and Michael Hartnett Poetry Award in 2006. He is a member of Aosdána.

I first met Paddy Bushe in the late 1990s when we were both reading poems in the dim and ghostly environment of Crag Cave near Castleisland. He read part of his wonderful collection Hopkins on Skellig Michael, and it made a permanent impression on me. My next encounter with him was in 2004 when I was one of the judges of the Strokestown Poetry Competition. There were over 2000 anonymous entries, but remarkably the three judges were unanimous about the winner: 'Li Bai's Last Poem', a wonderfully graceful and linguistically chaste poem in five sections about the willed death of the drunken poet. Remarkably, when we all turned up to Strokestown, we found that the writer of that poem, Paddy Bushe, was also the winner of the competition for a poem in Irish.

In due course I came to know his poems very well, in English, Irish and beyond (by which, first of all, I mean the Chinese poems that he translated with great accomplishment into English and Irish). Dedalus Press published To Ring in Silence in 2008, a substantial Selected Poems in Irish and English which has been universally recognized as the most remarkable book of poems in both languages since the works of Michael Hartnett. As well as his familiarity with, and versions of Chinese poetry, he has translated the Scots Gaelic poems of Sorley MacLean into Irish. Scots Gaelic is another culture and language with which Bushe is deeply conversant, and versions from it are an important further element in To Ring in Silence. And as well as writing new poems in both languages, he has translated some of the classics of Irish poetry into English.

I first came to know him as a poet and enabler of poetry. But in recent years I have encountered him in wider fields. His interests and achievements extend well beyond poetry – which of course makes him all the more important as a figure within poetry. Bushe is an immensely important poet of place, centred on Waterville and the area of Iveragh on which he is an authority - about its geography, its geology, its wildlife, its cultural narratives and its prehistory. He is recognized as the foremost authority on Sceil Michael, for which he is a spokesman in all its interests. His chapter on the culture of the area in the principal modern compendium on South Kerry is of the first importance.

He is in the best sense a political poet with a wide international reach. His early poems were admired for their concern with ecology. His interests and commitment to the welfare of the environment, both locally and worldwide, have never flagged. He takes on major events fearlessly; in poems like 'The Bombing of Baghdad' the personal, the local and the global are all intricately connected. He is an internationalist, deeply founded in the locality. He is a technically gifted writer who puts those gifts to the best possible use (his multiple prizes, of which the Irish Times poetry award is the most recent of many). I can't think of anyone for whom the context of 'Poetry International' is more appropriate.

© Bernard O'Donoghue

Poems With Amergin, Beaver Row Press, Dublin, 1989
Teanga, Coiscéim, Dublin 1990 
Counsellor, Sceilg Press, Kerry, 1991 
Digging Towards The Light, Dedalus Press, Dublin, 1994
In Ainneoin na gCloch, Coiscéim, Dublin, 2001 
Hopkins on Skellig Michael, Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2001
The Nitpicking of Cranes, Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2004 
To Ring in Silence, New and Selected Poems, Dedalus Press, Dublin 2008
My Lord Buddha of Carraig Eanna, Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2012
On A Turning Wing, Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2016


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