Paula Meehan, Ireland Professor of Poetry, to speak at annual Hassett Reading - The Buffalo News
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Paula Meehan, Ireland Professor of Poetry, to speak at annual Hassett Reading

A prominent Irish poet whose work should be appealing to a local audience will give the 11th annual Hassett Reading on Thursday in the Montante Cultural Center of Canisius College.

Paula Meehan, who was appointed the Ireland Professor of Poetry in 2013, a post equivalent to poet laureate, will speak at 7 p.m. in the center, 2001 Main St.

The event, part of the Canisius College Contemporary Writers Series, is free and open to all.

“Her work is going to have a special resonance in Buffalo,” said novelist and Canisius College English professor Mick Cochrane, coordinator of the Contemporary Writers Series. “She identifies herself as growing up in a couple of working-class neighborhoods in Dublin, and in her poems there is a fierce and big-hearted solidarity with women and children, with people at the margins, the ones who are left behind in economic booms.”

With more than seven volumes of original work and contributions to other books, said Cochrane, “She is a poet at the height of her powers, with a rich body of work.”

One of her poems, “The Pattern,” describes her relationship with her mother, and begins: “Little has come down to me of hers, /a sewing machine, a wedding band,/ a clutch of photos, the sting of her hand/ across my face in one of our wars/ when we had grown bitter and apart./ Some say that’s the fate of the eldest daughter./ I wish now she’d lasted till after/ I’d grown up. We might have made a new start/ as women without tags like ‘mother, wife,/ sister, daughter,’ taken our chance from there./ At forty-two she headed for god knows where./ I’ve never gone back to visit her grave.”

In “Death of a Field,” she writes, “The field itself is lost the morning it becomes a site/ When the Notice goes up: Fingal County Council – 44 houses/ The memory of the field is lost with the loss of its herbs/ Though the woodpigeons in the willow/ And the finches in what’s left of the hawthorn hedge/ And the wagtail in the elder/ Sing on their hungry summer song/ The magpies sound like flying castanets ...”

“When the land becomes property, there is that sense of elegiac loss,” said Cochrane. But Meehan’s poetry ranges far and wide. “There are poems that are lullabies, songs, stories that are based on myth and folklore, and a great musical quality to all of her work.”

Working behind the scenes to bring the Irish poets here is Joseph Hassett, a 1964 Canisius graduate and corporate trial attorney in Washington whose family has endowed the lecture series.

The writer series is supported by the Hassett, Scoma and Lowery Endowments and the William H. Fitzpatrick Chair of Political Science. It was founded with a grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation and continued through the Peter Canisius Distinguished Teaching Professorship Program.

Books will be sold by Talking Leaves, and Meehan will sign books after a question-and-answer period.


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