Saturday 22 July 2017

Poet at heart, but doctor by conviction

Micheal Fanning was the author of 10 books of poetry, writes Ulick O'Connor

THERE was an element of the missionary to Dr Micheal Fanning, who passed away on Christmas Eve at the age of 57 in his home of Dingle, Co Kerry. He volunteered as a doctor to work in the Third World, especially in Africa. He was also a director of the Irish branch of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Dr Fanning was a practising GP for 30 years in Dingle, where he was held in high regard. He was a driving figure for the past 15 years behind the Feile na Bealtaine in west Kerry.

Dr Fanning also wrote 10 books of verse, in which he expressed his love for poetry and his wide knowledge of Greek and Gaelic mythology.

Brendan Kennelly has written about him: "Fanning has a daring, adventurous imagination which can slip from west Kerry to Greece with ease, subtlety and conviction . . . Tralee stands side by side with Troy."

Another Irish poet Fred Johnston writes about Fanning's verse: "At a time when the Irish poetry scene comes closer with each public meeting to resemble a minor business corporation, Fanning's poems go somewhere to restoring a basic vital faith."

That Fanning drew from many cultures is evident in his most recent book of poetry, Ghost Trawler. But he is at his best when writing about something that might have caught his eye on the coast of his own county.

Cloud

I am a cloud sliding along.

I am free to live

And love and dance

and move with the wind.

I am alive today,

not yesterday,

not tomorrow.

I am alive now,

the suffering is almost over.

******

The sun, the stars, the wind,

the land, the sea,

The men, the women, and the children -- I understand all.

Now, I change to rain,

so that all can live

And then I become all.

Had Sergeant Death not beckoned, Micheal would surely have gone on to develop his poetic insight into diverse cultures. This was not to be; but from what he has left we can discern how rich the future might have been had he not passed away.

'Ghost Trawler' by Micheal Fanning is published by Somerville Press

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