TURNING LEFT just after Drumcliffe Church in County Sligo, there is a long twisting road, wending its way to a rocky shore. At the end is a low lying bungalow.
As I approached the house, a man emerged from the garden and for a moment it was difficult to distinguish between the man and the landscape, for Dermot Healy is as much part of his environment as it is of him.
This powerful impression is more artistically expressed in Garry Keane’s wonderful documentary on the writer who is coming to Cúirt next month.
The documentary’s iconic image is a shot of Healy standing against the rocks and the sea, looking up at a sky full of Barnacle Geese beginning their annual migration to their breeding grounds in Greenland:
where they are going
The weather is right.
What more could you ask for?”
Not only is Healy completely at one with the world he lives in, he is also at one with the people who share it with him. Answering a knock on his door one evening, he found Garry Keane standing there. His father, a director of the Allingham literary festival and a long time friend of Healy’s, had recently died. He handed Dermot the keys to his father’s car and said: “The family feel you should have this.”
Inherent in this is Healy’s extraordinary generosity which expresses itself not only through his own varied literary creations, but in his constant encouragement to younger writers as they struggle to climb those crucial steps towards their first publications.
Through the various journals he founded, published, and edited across the mid-west, he gave young writers a lifeline and a platform on which to exercise their nascent talents. These journals also helped forge a literary and cultural legacy for this otherwise bereft region.
Born in Finea, Westmeath, in 1947, Healy has written one collection of short stories, four collections of poetry, four novels, several plays, founded and edited at least two journals, and has been the mentor for a whole generation of mid-west writers.
Healy’s writing is imbued with a deep understanding of the human condition and more especially the human experience in relation to its evolving environment. He has a deep empathy for the traditions of past generations and for the many dilemmas which face new generations as they come to reconcile these traditions with the trials and stresses of modern society.
Dermot Healy is indeed a man for all seasons.
Dermot Healy will be reading at the Gallery Goes Gallery Press Event in the Town Hall Theatre on Saturday April 27 at 4pm, part of this year’s Cúirt International Festival of Literature. See www.cuirt.ie