Patrick Kavanagh was born in 1904 in Inniskeen Co. Monaghan, the son of a small farmer who was also a cobbler. He worked on the family farm after leaving school at the age of thirteen, having shown no aptitude at cobbling. He began writi ng poetry and some of his earliest poems were printed by the Dundalk Democrat and Weekly Independent. In 1931 he walked from Inniskeen to Dublin to further his poetic ambitions.
Kavanagh’s poems are concerned largely with the life and ‘stoney grey’ landscape of his native Co. Monaghan. In 1936 his first book of poetry, ‘Ploughman and Other Poems’, was published.
His autobiography, The Green Fool appeared in 1938 but was subsequently withdrawn after he was threatened with libel by Oliver Gogarty.
In 1942 one of his best known poems, ‘The Great Hunger’, was published and was followed in 1948 by ‘Tarry Flynn’ , an autobiographical novel which was considered by Kavanagh to be 'not only the best but the only authentic account of life as it was lived in Ireland this century'. It was initially banned.
Kavanagh also edited a literary paper called ‘Kavanagh's Weekly’.
In 1952 he lost a libel case against the paper ‘The Leader’. A year later he was diagnosed with cancer and had a lung removed.
He spent his convalescence from the surgery sitting beside the Grand Canal in Dublin and some of his most renowned poems appeared during this period. His ‘Collected Poems’ were published in 1964.
In April of 1967 he married Katharine Maloney but died later the same year after becoming ill at the opening performance of ‘Tarry Flynn’ at the Abbey Theatre.
He is buried in his native Inniskeen and is commemorated with ‘a canal-bank seat for the passer-by’ on the banks of the Grand Canal in Dublin.
Some of his most famous works include ‘Stoney Grey Soil’, ‘Memory of my Father’, ‘Lines Written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin’ and ‘Canal Bank Walk’. His poem 'On Raglan Road' was performed to music by Luke Kelly of The Dubliners.