Saturday 18 November 2017

Christy's Lisdoon song gets academic approval

Breda Heffernan and John Spain

A landmark anthology of Irish poetry is set to be published charting our greatest writers such as WB Yeats, Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Heaney . . . and Christy Moore.

Eyebrows have been raised at the inclusion of the singer songwriter among these illustrious bedfellows in the 'Penguin Book of Irish Verse'.

While his legions of fans know Moore can wax lyrical with the best of them, his famous ballad 'Lisdoonvarna' has now got the academic seal of approval as a work of poetry.

The weighty tome, which runs to 1,000 pages and is one of the most prestigious anthologies of Irish poetry ever published, culminates with the frenetic and chaotic music festival anthem.

The singer, now poet, who is on holidays in west Cork, said he was thrilled to be included alongside greats such as Oscar Wilde and James Joyce.

"It's gratifying to be included. I feel a bit of my work has been honoured. I don't take this lightly at all. I'm very proud, in fact."

Patrick Crotty, editor of the anthology and a world authority on Irish poetry who is professor of Scottish and Irish literature at the University of Aberdeen, said that it was a "privilege" to end the book with 'Lisdoonvarna'.

He described the song as a "burlesque on 1980s Irish public life".

Author Colm Toibin also supported the inclusion of the song, which captures the heady atmosphere of the annual Co Clare music festival.

"The lyrics of 'Lisdoonvarna' are tremendously clever, it's a brilliant ballad, and it belongs in the anthology," he said.

These days Christy often changes the lyrics during his live performances in order to keep the song relevant. But it is the original version that is in the anthology, full of references to the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He wrote the song at the request of the festival organisers. Christy says on his website that he first performed it the week before he was to join Rory Gallagher at the Lisdoonvarna festival in 1983.

"The original version was more chaotic and referred to a series of events that took place on the way down to west Clare. There was a break-in to Portlaoise Prison to serenade friends, a savage feed at the old treaty stone diner in Limerick where a card school broke out and Dickie Rock went all in on a pair of threes," he recalls.

None of that made it into the final version of the song, but 'Lisdoonvarna' is full of references to the characters and chaotic behaviour at the festival some 30 years ago.

The new collection from Penguin UK will be published in London on September 30 and will cost €50. Heaney, who has written the preface for the book, said: "It is by far the most comprehensive and confident anthology of Irish poetry yet."

It's a long way from Clare to here: Review Page 12

Irish Independent

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