Marianne Mays

The Prodigious Prodigal

Taking a cue from the title of Augustus Young’s latest publication, The Prodigal’s Progress, one might see James Hogan’s long writing career as a ‘prodigy’s progress’. By his own account in Light Years (and in Heavy Years, recurrence being one of his features), the boy James was something of an enfant terrible, endlessly running, like the young Prodigal, ‘charging around with no obvious purpose’; and also something of an Infant Prodigy, winning music competitions and writing poems – his first publication was a poem in a Cork newspaper when he was thirteen. It was to ‘save his family from embarrassment’ that he felt the need of a pen-name: and he found one while reading Dryden’s MacFlecknoe:

This Flecknoe found, who, like Augustus, young

Was called to empire….

James dived in and, discarding the comma and adding a capital, came up with a name both ‘sportif ‘and declarative of ambition. Ever since, his work has been prodigious in its energy, its range, its sheer productivity and variety. Formal and thematic boundaries are continually pushed around, word play is constant and insistent.

We – Jim and myself – were introduced to James by Brian Coffey. Jim met James regularly on his frequent trips to the British Museum; I occasionally tagged along – for instance, to a memorable reading by Ed Dorn. To me, he and Margaret were an exotic pair who spent their vacations in remote parts of Brazil, where as a paramedic he pulled out infected teeth and set broken limbs. Brazilian cordels were not up my street at that time, and it was not until I read Light Years that I became a regular reader/follower of his work.

The year before Margaret’s death we spent a few days with them in Port Vendres. They were wonderful hosts, showing us around their territory – one evening a puppet theatre performance in the main Place; one day a trip through the mountains to the Spanish border; morning swims; delicious lunches put together by Margaret—and we witnessed the relationship that underlies m.emoire in all its glory. m.emoire is quite simply a marvellous book. Many poets have written movingly about their dead wives, but I know of none that provides such an immediate sense of the texture, the deep tough structure of a marriage, so manifest in the ‘quotidien’.

Happy Birthday, James. Stay Young, Augustus.

funeral of the Spanish poet Antonio Machado

The funeral of the Spanish poet Antonio Machado in Collioure on 22 February 1939. Collioure is 2.9km from Port Vendres, where Young Hogan lives.

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The Duras Press

The Duras Press