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City photos' sheer poetry

AT school, a poet that captured my imagination for a time was Patrick Kavanagh, in particular, his lines about staring into the canal in a sort of vacant stupor. I even lived for a spell on Waterloo Road and often wandered back along the canal banks, past the poet's statue with many others in the wee hours of Sunday morning after a long Saturday night. It's not exactly the most cheery of statues, but the seat always came in handy for a breather. How many people have had a drunken conversation with Paddy, I wonder?

Currach Press recently brought out two books that are worth a look for collectors of books about Dublin: Kavanagh Country, by PJ Browne and Dave Maher (€20) and A Tale of Two Cities by John Hall (€20).


The former charts the life and work of the poet using both text and photographs. It's a hard one to achieve, getting the visual and textual balance right and I feel the photos always have the edge in books of this nature, particularly when the images are as visually strong as they are here.

Regardless, on both fronts, Kavanagh Country is a marvellous book, following the poet's early years to his settlement in Dublin with many locations that have become embedded in the minds of Dubliners. The need for a book on Kavanagh at this juncture? None perhaps. But this will be a worthy addition to any collection, any time.

Just when you thought enough books about Dublin existed out there, along comes A Tale of Two Cities, bravely presenting mono photographs of a city that has long been coloured by property developers and hordes of immigrants. But in an act of hubris -- insanity, some would say -- Hall places photos of the capital, Dublin, alongside those of the 'real capital', Cork.

These are his likes and dislikes -- eccentric at times -- and the juxtaposition of, say, the Guinness and Beamish breweries or the Smithfield Chimney and Cork's Odlums building shouldn't always work but do -- brilliantly. Little commentary is needed to accompany these striking photos, apart from extended captions. And the images vary enough to hold the attention -- some shot at night (St Patrick's St in Cork being my favourite) and others containing the ghosts of passers-by.