The Passionate Transitory: A Jesuit Metaphysical Poetics of Patrick J. Kavanagh

By Brian F. McCabe.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper demonstrates, through a focused study of the poetry of Irish writer Patrick J. Kavanagh, that the application of religious or philosophical thinking, as a type of lens, yields fruitful results for the study of poetry and its writers. Within the canon of modern Irish poetry, few poets speak as clearly about the nature of the Divine and Transcendent in the world as Patrick Kavanagh. The variety of voices and forms employed in his works reveals the depth of his humanity and spirituality. The body of work presented by Kavanagh in his many poems serves to seat him firmly within the poetic tradition as both a skilled poet and as a deeply spiritual writer. Many who read Kavanagh’s work today may find him foreign in this faithful sensibility; indeed, his own contemporaries (including other Catholics) did not even have the means to access him, for the most part. Kavanagh is not necessarily a poet of placid tone, solely, unwilling to shake readers and wake them up as he beckons them to join him along his journey to recognize the Divine. Rather, Kavanagh writes in such a way as to demand readers’ attention, whether it be to the glories of God in nature, or to the personal struggles of a man encountering his own mortality. While he uses fairly unremarkable language in addressing such personal topics, neither is Kavanagh heavy-handed or preachy, per se, rather employing myriad tones throughout his work: exuberance, steadfastness, realism, joy, and profound awareness of the intimacy of human spirituality. Vividly recognizable throughout the canon of Kavanagh’s poetry, the incarnational moment put to verse (that is, poetic exploration of the admixture of the physical and spiritual life) reveals to readers the presence of the Divine.

Keywords: Religious Meanings and their Human Significance, Modern Poetry, Poetry and Poetics, Irish Poetry, Catholic Writing, Jesuit Spirituality

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 10, pp.93-104. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 631.152KB).

Brian F. McCabe

Doctoral Candidate, English, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA, USA

Brian F. McCabe is a Ph.D. student at Claremont Graduate University, from California’s Monterey Bay Area. Holding master’s degrees in English/Irish Literature and Culture from Boston College and Student Development from Seattle University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Gonzaga University, Mr. McCabe’s experience includes teaching First Year Writing, Literature, English as a Second Language, and over ten years tutoring students. Brian’s interests include modern and contemporary poetry –particularly its intersections with religion and theology, Irish studies, American studies, modern drama, teaching, and designing curricula. Currently, Brian teaches writing at the University of La Verne College of Law, serves as Research Assistant to Professor Claudia Rankine of the Pomona College English Department, and holds the position of graduate student liaison for the Claremont Graduate University Kingsley-Tufts Poetry Award Program.


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