Gabriel Fitzmaurice's children's poems are much-loved 

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Gabriel Fitzmaurice's children's poems are much-loved 

Gabriel Fitzmaurice has published his last book of children’s poems 30 years after publishing his first

OVER 30 years after his first collection of poetry, Rainsong, was published, Moyvane’s Gabriel Fitzmaurice is still going strong. Three decades on, he has over 50 books to his name, including 13 collections of poetry for children.

Will you be my friend?, Gabriel’s most recent collection for children was launched earlier this month in Listowel and is a collection of  over 100 of his best-loved poems for children, but also includes almost 30 new poems.

But his first poem for children dates back to his early days as a teacher in Moyvane NS.

“Those were good times in education,” he explains. The “New Curriculum” of 1971 was up and running in our national schools. It was a child-centred and child-friendly curriculum full of new, exciting subjects like speech and drama. Creativity was encouraged in both teacher and pupil. I loved it.”

“I was particularly excited by the possibilities of introducing new poetry, in Irish and English, to the girls and boys in my care. Then along came An tOchtapas, Gabriel Rosenstock’s landmark collection of poetry for children, published in 1977. It consisted of 14 short, humorous poems in the Irish language and my pupils loved them. At the same time I was running out of new poems to bring to my pupils so I decided to write my own.”

That first poem was Charlie McRory but hundreds have followed since, ranging from the silly to the serious, from the sad to the happy, from the naughty to the nice.

Fellow poet  Eilís Ní Dhuibhne who is the newly appointed Chair of Irish Poetry, has said of Gabriel: “(He) is the children’s poet who, more than any other, strikes a true chord in the childlike heart.”

In this new and selected collection, Gabriel continues his fascination with childhood, family, school, animals, the seasons and festivals of the year, but all recounted through the eyes of a child.

But, he says, it is likely to be his final collection for children. “I haven’t written a new poem for children in over two years,” he says. “That is a long time.”

“I have written out my own childhood when I was the crossest child in the village,” he continues. “I have written out my 35 years teaching. I have written out my two children. And I am not teaching any more.” So yes, he thinks, this is finally it as far as poems for children are concerned.

However, he laughs: “I suppose it’s a case of never say never. 

He continues to conduct workshops with children however and his writing for adults continues.

Will you be my friend? For the Young and Young at Heart Is published by Liberties Press