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Mairtin O'Direain  ~  Aran Islands

Máirtín O Díreáin (1910 - 1988) has been called "Ireland's unacknowledged poet Laureate". His poems, most of which were inspired by life on Aran were all written in Irish, but many have been translated into English.
Born in Sruthán, Inishmore, Aran Island the son of a small-farmer Martin spoke Irish only until his mid-teens. He joined the postal service in Galway in January 1928. He acted in the Gaelic Theatre (Taibhdearc) from1928 to 1937. He then transferred to Dublin in 1938 and transferred to the Department of Education, Dublin in 1937. He was appointed Register of National College of Art from 1948-55.

Máirtín O'Díreáin born on the Aran Islands
A chance attendance at a lecture in 1938 inspired him to write poetry. He produced Coinnle Geala (1942) and Dánta Aniar (1943), at his own expense; both expressing nostalgia for Aran life. Rogha Dánta, was issued in1949, adding fourteen poems to earlier pamphlets, and regarded as a landmark in modern poetry in Irish. He became increasingly concerned with the conflict of rural and urban, traditional and modern. Ó Mórna agus Dánta Eile (1957), the title poem being an apologia for an oppressive native landlord and hereditary chieftain an account of his cattle driven over a cliff by the islanders during the Land War (as narrated in Feamainn Bhealtaine) having inspired the poet to learn more of him. He won the Ossian Prize for Poetry, Freiherr von Stein Foundation, Hamburg (£5,000!) and represented Ireland at the Warsaw Autumn Poetry Festival, 1977. A brother Tomás is also a poet.

He left the island in 1928 to work in the Post Office in Galway city, and there became involved in Irish-language theatre through the Gaelic League. He transferred to the Civil Service in Dublin in 1938 and began to write poems, publishing two collections, Coinnle Geala (1942) and Dánta Aniar (1943), at his own expense. Rogha Dánta (1949) is a landmark in modern poetry in Irish, while Ó Morna agus Dánta Eile (1957) established him as a poet with a powerful and distinctive voice. Ó Direáin's work advances from nostalgic recollections of life in Aran to a later exploration of an urban environment, using bleak imagery based on the uncompromising landscape of the island. The poem 'Stoite' in Rogha Dánta engages with the theme of uprooted man adrift from the moral sanctions of traditional rural life, a subject that receives its most exhaustive treatment in Ar Ré Dhearóil (1963), where he explores a moral crisis inherent in 'an chathair fhallsa' (the false city). Attractively simple in theme and language, his work shows a capacity for acute observation. A striking feature is the repeated use of a simple vocabulary in which words such as cloch, cré, carraig, and trá (stone, clay, rock, and strand), serve to evoke the values which the poet sees as being eroded by modern urban society. Ó Direáin received awards from the Irish-American Cultural Institute Award, and the Freiherr Von Stein Foundation, Hamburg, as well as an honorary degree from NUI. He remained in the Civil Service until his retirement in 1975, and died in Dublin.

The son of a small-farmer, Máirtín Ó Díreáin spoke only Irish until his mid-teens. He worked as a civil servant from 1928 until 1975. His main works include the poetry collections Rogha Dánta (1949); Ó Mórna agus Dánta Eile (1957); Ar Ré Dhearóil (1962); Cloch Choirnéil, (1967); Crainn is Cairde (1970); Dánta 1939-79 (1980); Ceacht an Éin (1984); Béasa an Túir (1984); Tacar Dánta/Selected Poems (1984); Craobhóg: Dán (1986). His autobiographical essays are collected as Feamainn Bhealtine (1961). His awards include the An Chomhairle Ealaíon/The Arts Council Awards (1964 and 1971); the Butler Prize, with Eoghan Ó Tuairisc (1967); the Ossian Prize for Poetry, FVS Foundation, Hamburg (1977).


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