The dark sixteenth century

Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín

On Saturday 12 August 1972, when I was seventeen, I was standing in the Market Square in Enniscorthy, around the corner from the Castle, when I saw the poet Thomas Kinsella walking up Slaney Street with his nephew Paul Walsh. That morning’s Irish Times had a review by the poet Michael Hartnett of Kinsella’s new book of poems, a book called Notes from the Land of the Dead. A photograph of the poet had been printed beside the review. One of the sentences of the review read: ‘Notes from the Land of the Dead is the most important book to come out of Ireland or its neighbour island since Yeats’ Responsibilities.’ One of the earlier names for County Wexford was Hy Kinsella, and the name was common in the county still; although Kinsella had been born in Dublin, his roots were here, among the native population. His wife was from outside Enniscorthy. I knew his nephew and so we stopped for a moment to talk. When I mentioned the review, I noticed that the poet did not have anything much to say about it.

Later that day, Paul Walsh came to our house and asked if we had a cassette player. His uncle wanted to borrow it, he said.

Read the rest of this piece in The Dublin Review 43.