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His grandfather was a schoolteacher called “Keaveney”, which a local priest changed to “Kavanagh”.The grandfather had to leave the area following a scandal and never taught in a national school again.
The book, which recounted Kavanagh’s rural childhood and his attempts to become a writer, received international recognition and good reviews. In his biography John Nemo describes Kavanagh’s encounter with the city’s literary world: “he realized that the stimulating environment he had imagined was little different from the petty and ignorant world he had left.
He soon saw through the literary masks many Dublin writers wore to affect an air of artistic sophistication.
Kavanagh joined Dundalk Library and the first book he borrowed was The Waste Land by T. It is notable for its realistic portrayal of Irish country life, free of the romantic sentiment often seen at the time in rural poems, a trait he abhorred.
Published by Macmillan in its series on new poets, the book expressed a commitment to colloquial speech and the unvarnished lives of real people, which made him unpopular with the literary establishment.
To him such men were dandies, journalists, and civil servants playing at art.
His disgust was deepened by the fact that he was treated as the literate peasant he had been rather than as the highly talented poet he believed he was in the process of becoming”.
They live in the dark cave of the unconscious and they scream when they see the light.” He also commented that, although he had grown up in a poor district, "the real poverty was lack of enlightenment [and] I am afraid this fog of unknowing affected me dreadfully.” Kavanagh’s first published work appeared in 1928 in the Dundalk Democrat and the Irish Independent.
Kavanagh had encountered a copy of the Irish Statesman, edited by George William Russell, who published under the pen name AE and was a leader of the Irish Literary Revival.
Tarry Flynn, a semi-autobiographical novel, was published in 1948 and was banned for a time. It was later made into a play, performed at the Abbey Theatre in 1966.
In late 1946 Kavanagh moved to Belfast, where he worked as a journalist and as a barman in a number of public houses in the Falls Road area.