Poet Paul Durcan is celebrated as a national treasure in his native Ireland. Illustrious literary figures, including British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, are to be found in the audience of his theatrical, dramatic readings – performed in his deep Irish brogue.
Now Durcan will cross the Atlantic to give a free reading of poetry he penned about works of art in the Toledo Museum of Art’s collection during a Masters Series on Thursday, Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle. Titled Wild, Wild Erie, the book was commissioned by the Museum’s Director Brian Kennedy, a fellow Irishman who asked whether Durcan would be willing to apply his heartfelt and humorous approach to prose about the TMA art collection.
The talk will be followed by a book signing at 7:15 p.m.
“Paul Durcan is one of Ireland’s great poets,” Kennedy said. “His wit, humor and intelligence make him a magnetic character in the cultural life of Ireland.”
This marks Durcan’s first project with an American museum. He embarked on similar collaborations twice before, with the National Gallery of Ireland (producing “Crazy About Women”) and the National Gallery, London (resulting in “Give Me Your Hand”). Born in Dublin in 1944, he has enjoyed a very successful writing career. His poetry often critiques social mores with a heartfelt humor. In 2014, he was awarded the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award at the Irish Book Awards.
Durcan researched extensively for Wild, Wild Erie, visiting the region multiple times over the past year to observe the works of art in the collection, visit parks and experience the city and its culture. In his poetry, he offers delightful observations of familiar Toledo moments, in the Museum and outside it. In his poem “The Cloister Gallery,” he writes of the awe he saw children experience in this popular Museum space. “The two boys asked the man: “Who are you? What are you?”/ Gently, gently, kindly, kindly, beaming crinkles and wrinkles— / The old guard bowed down low into their ears: / “I am Al Tennyson–the Cloister’s Stellar Manipulator.”
The book features full-color photographs of the works of art Durcan writes about, and is available for sale at the Museum Store and TMAstore.org. It also will be available later on amazon.com. Visitors can get a taste of his work in the Museum galleries, where excerpts of some of his poems can be seen hanging next to the works of art that inspired them.
Durcan will also give a free reading on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 2 p.m. in the Museum’s Little Theater.
The publication of Wild, Wild Erie was sponsored in part by Mr. and Mrs. David K. Welles Jr. and the Stephen D. Taylor Family Foundation. The Masters Series offers lectures and other programs that invite leading artists, writers, musicians and others to share their craft in the grand Peristyle Theater, and is sponsored in part by the TMA Ambassadors, a group founded in 1957 to support the Museum.