29 May 2022

John McDonagh

Writer, critic, and academic, who will speak about the Romantic Poets at the City Library this week, for Poetry Month

John McDonagh

BORN in Galway, I largely grew up in Dublin and went to primary school in Firhouse, Tallaght; with my secondary education taking place in Belvedere College, Dublin.

Later, I graduated with a BA and later a H Dip in Education from University College Dublin (UCD) followed by an MA and a PhD from Warwick University, in the UK. Today, I am a senior lecturer in the Department of English Language and Literature at Mary Immaculate College .

Teaching has always been in my family, (and on both sides!).

My mother was a principal in a primary school in Blanchardstown, Co Dublin, and my father was the Head of Education in Carysfort College. The latter was a primary school inspector (so we moved around as a family quite a lot!). I qualified as a secondary school teacher in 1985 and, after a two-year stint in Bray, Co Wicklow; I worked in Istanbul, Turkey for a year. Later, I taught in Newbury and Birmingham in the UK before moving into third level education at the University of Warwick in the mid-1990s. I have always enjoyed teaching and find it a real privilege to be lecturing at Mary I. The students there are enthusiastic and the quality of educational provision is excellent. I believe teaching to be one of the most important jobs an individual can do. I always hated the old adage about those who can and those who can’t teach. What a load of rubbish! Some of the most important people in our lives are teachers, the ones who motivated us to be the people we are today. Education lies at the heart of society, and teachers lie at the heart of everything.

There are very few downsides to being an academic.

Every day you are exploring great works of literature and working with like-minded people. Most students at third level have chosen to be there and this is reflected in their desire to succeed. I have also been involved with the Erasmus and Erasmus+ programmes and have been lucky enough to have visited a variety of universities abroad, establishing academic links and facilitating student exchanges. Most recently I was in Morocco and it was wonderful to see the enthusiasm and linguistic abilities of the students there. At postgraduate level it is very rewarding to work with people who are developing an expertise in their chosen fields. In fact, many former students have gone on to have successful academic careers abroad and that is a real pleasure to see.

To date I have published five books, mainly in the field of poetry criticism.

Although not officially classed as creative writing, I believe that good criticism adds hugely to our enjoyment and understanding of literature, and as such, is a very important element of the creative process. Academic writing can open-up new markets for creative writers in that an interpretation and analysis of a literary work should enhance our understanding. Writers and critics have nothing to fear from each other. We are all creative, whether we know it or not. Creativity takes many forms and it is up to us to acknowledge it in others.

The poet Brendan Kennelly has been a great influence on my academic life.

This interest dates from my very first forays into literary criticism as a postgraduate, to the publication of my first book, ‘Brendan Kennelly – A Host of Ghosts’, (2004). His intellectual generosity and personal support have been of great benefit to me over the years and I feel that he has a body of work that is comparable to any of his contemporaries. I have also written books on the poetry of Michael Hartnett and Paul Durcan, two important Irish poets who have not received the critical attention they deserve.

Dr John McDonagh will give a public talk on the Romantic Poets on Thursday, April 12 at the Granary Library as part of the Limerick Writers’ Centre ‘April is Poetry Month’ extravaganza. For more info about this and other events please contact Dominic Taylor, on 087 2996409 or email:limerick

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