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Austin Clarke


Austin Clarke is best-known as a poet but he wrote three novels as well as several plays. He was born in 1896 in Dublin, the eleventh of twelve children, only four of whom survived to adulthood. His father was a plumber but became superintendent of the Dublin Waste Water Department. He went to Belvedere College, the Jesuit school that James Joyce had attended. It was here that he learned Irish but it was only when he went to Trinity College, Dublin, that he really began to appreciate Irish-language literature, thanks to his teacher, Douglas Hyde, the future first president of Ireland. He started reading Yeats and other Irish poets and going to see plays performed at the Abbey Theatre. He took a first-class degree in English language and literature and went on to do a master’s degree. His mentor was Thomas MacDonagh, the poet and playwright. When the Easter Rising took place, Clarke was an eager participant. However, when the rising failed MacDonagh was one of the leaders who was executed. Clarke was awarded MacDonagh’s teaching post after he took his M.A.

Clarke published his first poetry in 1917, a work much influenced by Yeats. It surprisingly went to a second edition. However, he had a nervous breakdown and, after coming out of hospital, he married a woman older than himself. The marriage lasted ten days but the break-up cost him his job. He moved to London where he worked as a journalist. He later met Nora Walker, with whom he had three sons but the couple did not marry until Clarke’s first wife had died in 1943. He returned to Ireland in 1937. After his collection of poetry called Night and Morning was published in 1938, he did not produce a new collection for seventeen years, focussing on articles, reviews and drama. When he returned to poetry, his work was more avant-garde and often satirical. He continued to be prolific till his death in 1974. He is more likely to be remembered for his poetry than his drama or fiction. He is not to be confused with the Barbados-born Canadian novelist of the same name.

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Austin Clarke
Austin Clarke
Austin Clarke
Austin Clarke and Padraic Fallon


1917 The Vengeance of Fionn (poetry)
1921 The Fires of Bäl (poetry)
1921 The Sword of the West (poetry)
1925 The Cattledrive in Connaught and Other Poems (poetry)
1927 The Son of Learning: A Poetic Comedy in Three Acts (drama)
1930 Pilgrimage and Other Poems (poetry)
1930 The Flame: A Play in One Act (drama)
1932 The Bright Temptation (novel)
1936 The Collected Poems of Austin Clarke (poetry)
1936 The Singing Men at Cashel (novel)
1938 Night and Morning: Poems (poetry)
1939 Sister Eucharia: A Play in Three Scenes (drama)
1941 Black Fast: A Poetic Farce in One Act (drama)
1942 The Straying Student (drama)
1943 As the Crow Flies: A Lyric Play for the Air (drama)
1944 The Viscount of Blarney, and Other Plays (drama)
1945 First Visit to England and Other Memories
The Second Kiss: A Light Comedy 1946 (drama)
1950 The Plot Succeeds: A Poetic Pantomime (drama)
1951 Poetry in Modern Ireland (literature)
1952 The Sun Dances at Easter (novel)
1953 The Moment Next to Nothing: A Play in Three Acts (drama)
1955 Ancient Lights: Poems and Satires (poetry)
1957 Too Great a Vine: Poems and Satires (poetry)
1960 The Horse-Eaters: Poems and Satires (poetry)
1961 Later Poems (poetry)
1962 Forget-Me-Not (poetry)
1962 Twice Round the Black Church: Early Memories of Ireland and England
1963 Flight to Africa, and Other Poems (poetry)
1963 Collected Plays (drama)
1966 Mnemosyne Lay in Dust (poetry)
1967 Old-Fashioned Pilgrimage: and Other Poems (poetry)
1968 The Echo at Coole and Other Poems (poetry)
1968 A Sermon on Swift and Other Poems (poetry)
1968 Two Interludes Adapted from Cervantes: The Student from Salamanca (La cueva de Salamanca), The Silent Lover (El viejo celoso) (drama)
1968 A Penny in the Clouds: More Memories of Ireland and England
1969 The Celtic Twilight and the Nineties
1970 Orphide, and Other Poems (poetry)
1971 Tiresias: A Poem (poetry)
1973 The Impuritans: A Play in One Act (drama)
1974 Collected Poems (poetry)
1976 Selected Poems (poetry)
1976 The Third Kiss: A Comedy in One Act (drama)
1978 Liberty Lane: A Ballad Play of Dublin in Two Acts with a Prologue (drama)
1991 Selected Poems (poetry)
1995 Reviews and Essays of Austin Clarke
2005 Selected Plays of Austin Clarke (drama)
2008 Collected Poems (poetry)