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James Liddy

James Liddy

James Liddy

James Liddy was born in Lr. Pembroke St., Dublin, in 1934. His parents hailed from the cities of Limerick and New York. He lived in Coolgreany, County Wexford, intermittently from 1941 to 2000. His books include Blue Mountain (Dolmen), A Munster Song of Love and War (White Rabbit), Corca Bascinn (Dolmen), Baudelaire's Bar Flowers (Capra/White Rabbit), Collected Poems (Creighton University), Gold Set Dancing (Salmon, 2000), I Only Know that I Love Strength in My Friends and Greatness (Arlen House). For over 20 years, he lived in Milwaukee where he was a Professor in the English Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and taught creative writing, and Irish and Beat literature. James Liddy: A Critical Study, by Brian Arkins, was published by Arlen House in 2001. James Liddy died at his home in the United States on Tuesday 4th November 2008 after a short illness.

Obituaries for James Liddy

from the Milwaukee- Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, 11th November 2008

Irish poet Liddy was 'classic Bohemian'
By Alan J. Borsuk of the Journal Sentinel

"Hey, ho, Liddy don't go" - that was a line in the chorus of a song by McTavish, a Milwaukee Irish music band, that paid tribute to James Liddy.
The song, from the 1990s, called Liddy "the king of the rovers." Mark Shurilla, the band's leader, said the line about not going was referring to the many nights Liddy, an internationally known poet, would hold court at local pubs, telling stories, giving erudite discourses on history, literature, politics or just about any other subject. When he got up to leave, people pleaded with him to stay. Often, he would.
But now he is gone, and it is a great loss to the cultural scene in Milwaukee, in the eyes of many local poets and others. Liddy, 74, died Wednesday, two months after being diagnosed with renal cancer.

"He was like your ultimate Irish convivial spirit who would just love to hang around with everybody," Shurilla said.
Jim Hazard, a Milwaukee poet and writer, called Liddy "a classic Bohemian." Hazard said Liddy loved to be in a university classroom, working with students, which he had done at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee since 1976. But he loved more to be in a saloon or restaurant where he could hold forth and often get many others involved in the conversation.

Susan Firer, Hazard's wife and Milwaukee's official poet laureate, said: "He knew more than anyone I've had a chance to spend a long time with. . . . He was one of the great conversationalists in the city." She added, "You never wasted your time when you were with James."

Asked for key words to describe him, her list included: Irish, Catholic, gay, beat. He was influenced by many great poets, from Walt Whitman to Allen Ginsberg, and he knew more poets, both personally and professionally, than anyone else she knew, Firer said.

Liddy was born and raised in Ireland and was steeped in its literature and culture. He moved to San Francisco and later Milwaukee to teach, write and enjoy life.
"He was sort of ecstatic about daily life," Hazard said. "Ordinary people, ordinary places were wonderful."

Liddy found Milwaukee to be very similar to Dublin, similar in size, climate and a culture built around pubs, said Shurilla.

Liddy traveled back and forth between Milwaukee and Ireland often and was well known in both: A major piece on his death appeared last week in the Irish Times, a Dublin newspaper. The newspaper called Liddy "one of Ireland's leading poets."

Liddy had his quirks - he didn't own a television or a car - and he definitely had his prickly side, friends said. While he loved almost everybody, he could also be demanding.

Hazard said: "For all his sweetness or his idealism, he really could be angry. It was righteous anger. . . . Mostly it was at crassness or stupidity and also at any unprofessional waiter or waitress. Never was a man more outraged, walking in fury across a restaurant with napkin under his chin, to demand the right service."
Jim Chapson, Liddy's partner for more than 40 years, said Liddy greatly valued the role he could play as a mentor to students.

Numerous books of Liddy's work have been published, and he helped many other poets and writers get their work into print, friends said.

Drew Blanchard, a graduate student in creative writing and Irish culture at UWM, said that as soon as he came to Milwaukee in 2006, Liddy began helping him - taking him to lunch, giving him books to read, helping him get his own work published.

Liddy taught courses that included poetry, creative writing, beat literature and Irish literature at UWM.

David Brannan, who said he had been close to Liddy since 1984, said, "This is going to leave a real hole for people in their lives. He just had so much influence."
Chapson said Liddy will be buried Saturday in Ireland. A memorial service in Milwaukee is being planned.

As much as he lived a Bohemian lifestyle, he remained deeply involved in and knowledgeable about the Roman Catholic Church, friends said.

Hazard said in recent weeks, Liddy felt "this great peacefulness at the end of his life." His attitude, Hazard said, was, "I'm ready for the next thing, and it's going to be good."

from The Irish Times, Saturday 8th November 2008

One of the most independent poets of his time

James Liddy: With his friend and mentor Patrick Kavanagh, he shared an unwavering hostility to bourgeois valuesJames Liddy: With his friend and mentor Patrick Kavanagh, he shared an unwavering hostility to bourgeois values

JAMES LIDDY: James Liddy who has died aged 74, was one of Ireland's leading poets and the creator of a body of work unique in both contemporary Irish and American literature. A professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he had worked in the United States for more than 40 years.

Mary Cloake, director of the Arts Council, said: "James Liddy was one of the most independent, engaging and original poets of his time, [whose] poetry revealed a consistent intellectual and emotional curiosity."

The poet Gerard Dawe described him as a cosmopolitan man who provided a valuable link between the "Patrick Kavanagh generation" and a group of younger poets who came to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s. "Those who were close to him were extremely fond of him. There was an emotional engagement. People in his circle felt strongly about him. That's rare enough today," he said.

His publications include Esau, My Kingdom for a Drink (1962), In a Blue Smoke (1964), Blue Mountain (1968), A Life of Stephen Dedalus (1969), Baudelaire's Bar Room Flowers (1975), Corca Bascinn (1977), Comyn's Lay (1978), Chamber Pot Music (1982), At the Grave of Father Sweetman (1984), A White Thought in a White Shade/New Selected Poems (1987), Art is Not for Grown-Ups (1990), In the Slovak Bowling Alley (1990), Collected Poems (1994), Epitaphery (1998), Gold Set Dancing (2000) and I Only Know That I Love Strength in My Friends and Greatness (2003). The Doctor's House: An Autobiography was published in 2005.

Interviewed for Studies in 1996, he said: "I will have to say straight away that being queer, like being Irish and being Catholic, has charted my imagination."
His gay sensibility began to emerge in the poetry collection A Munster Song of Love and War (1971), while his novel Young Men Go Walking (1986) is notable for its open celebration of homosexuality.

Born in Dublin in 1934 to a New York-born mother and a father from Limerick, he grew up in Coolgreany, Co Wexford, where his father was the dispensary doctor. Educated at Glenstal Abbey, University College Dublin and King's Inns, he practised law until the early 1960s when he became a fulltime writer.

After a spell in Spain, in 1967 he went to lecture at San Francisco State College, living in the Haight-Ashbury area. He eventually made his home in Milwaukee.
Baudelaire, Whitman and Kerouac were influences, while the work of William Blake, particularly The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, appears to have had a great impact on his imagination.

With his friend and mentor Patrick Kavanagh, he shared an unwavering hostility to bourgeois values.

He described the world as a "prison/Run by elderly bores" and bureaucrats who stand in the way of "the revolution we imagine/in which each of us will love/the other . . . " He favoured poems of "emotional intelligence" in which the "language and imagery are clear and evocative yet mysterious".

He rejected the idea of "the poem waiting there to be put together by the Department of English grammatical kit" in favour of "responsibility to the poem" in which the poem is founded on its allegiance to the imagination.

With Michael Hartnett and Liam O'Connor he co-edited the journal Arena, which he also funded, and was a contributor to a number of literary magazines including Aquarius, The Dubliner and Kilkenny Magazine. A former chairman of the Gorey Arts Centre, he edited the Gorey Detail . More recently he was associated with a Milwaukee journal, the Blue Canary , and was an occasional reviewer for The Irish Times.

An authority on James Joyce, he proposed in 1982 that Beresford Place should be renamed Nora Barnacle Place, but the proposal was turned down by Dublin City Council.

A US citizen, he was a member of Aosdána. The second volume of his autobiography, The Full Shilling , is forthcoming. He is survived by his sister Nora and his partner, Jim Chapson.

James Liddy: born July 1st, 1934; died November 4th, 2008
This article appeared in the print edition of the Irish Times

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