North Longford poet lifts lid on eighth poetry collection in Cavan

Noel Monahan's inspirational 'Chalk Dust' launched to much acclaim

Aisling Kiernan


Aisling Kiernan


North Longford poet lifts lid on eighth poetry collection in Cavan

Noel Monahan signs copies of Chalk Dust following the poetry collection's launch by Dr Niall McMonagle at Cavan Courthouse last week.

‘Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world’

Percy Bysshe Shelley, and indeed Dr Niall McMonagle made reference to this very statement while launching Granard poet Noel Monahan’s eighth poetry collection Chalk Dust at Cavan Courthouse last week.

“Percy Bysshe Shelley is smiling this evening in this building of law and order,” added McMonagle before pointing to the “handsome and impressive volume” that was Chalk Dust.

“In an earlier poem called ‘Fallen Ladder’ from his 1991 collection Opposite Walls, Noel Monahan tells of a magical moment in childhood - a moment when poetry came alive for him - his father had climbed to the eves to inspect the roof, his mother held the ladder and she says, ‘he could rise above his station, up Jacob's Ladder into heaven’, her words echoing that moment in Genesis, Chapter 28; ‘How magical they were, how magical’, were for the budding poet something special years later remembering how her words danced inside him. “Monaghan says ‘I slowly mapped the climb’.”

And indeed, that climb as described within the poem tells of personal disappointment and disillusionment.

Dr McMonagle added; “The poem ends with the realisation that there was nowhere to climb, but there was another climb for Noel Monahan, the climb of Mt Parnassus”.

Meanwhile, Noel Monahan has published seven collections of poetry with his last collection ‘Where The Wind Sleeps, New & Selected Poems’, published by Salmon in May 2014.

“Here is a poet through seven collections,” said Dr McMonagle, “that is consistently challenging himself and has brought with him along the way, a substantial, engaging and companionable body of work.

“His latest book Chalk Dust is a book in four movements; the collection opens with an endograft - the poem ‘Still Life Study’ dedicated to Padraig Lynch whose wonderfully evocative paintings - and his other work - are featured in ‘Chalk Dust’ and in several of Noel’s other collections.
“‘Still Life Study’ is a poem carefully and beautifully arranged on the page; it presents us with words that capture a school room and the spaces, the silences surrounding those words allowing memory to play its part.

“In Noel Monahan’s poetry, the past is always present but Monahan’s poetry is also tuned into the now; his poetry is on the button, it takes the pulse.

“Be it the homeless on Grafton Street, the once a year mass-goer, having to drive to your local hospital 12km away with your blood samples, or banking online, focusing on past and present Noel Monahan’s opens up for the reader a vast historical perspective and this is seen in the very first poem in the book.

“The subject matter of the poem is familiar to every Longford native and to visitors in the National Museum, and to archaeologists and historians.”

Monahan’s literary awards include The SeaCat National Award organised by Poetry Ireland; The Hiberno-English Poetry Award; The Irish Writers’ Union Poetry Award; The William Allingham Poetry Award and The Kilkenny Poetry Prize for Poetry.

In 2001 he won The PJ O’Connor RTE Radio Drama Award for his play Broken Cups and in 2002 he was awarded The ASTI Achievements Award for his contribution to literature at home and abroad.

In 2012 Noel received an Arts & Entertainment Award from Northern Sound Radio.

His work has been translated into Italian, French, Romanian and Russian.

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