Document of the Day: By Maureen Finn, Maynooth University Library
Recent events in Catalonia, as this small region makes a bid for independence, brought to mind thoughts of the renowned Irish writer and poet, Pearse Hutchinson, who so loved that part of Spain. One wonders what he would think of the political upheaval and unrest that has unfolded there in recent times.
Hutchinson spent a number of years in Catalonia in the 1950s while learning Spanish and expanding his writing, and he grew to love the Catalan people, their language, culture and customs. During this time, he collected many works of literature in the Catalan language, including several books of poetry, which form part of the substantial archive of his work, now permanently housed in the Special Collections & Archives Department at Maynooth University Library. A selection of material from the Pearse Hutchinson Archive was on display over the October Bank Holiday weekend in Sitges, as part of the Creative Connexions Festival. The festival is a celebration of Celtic and Catalan identity.
One item of note from the Pearse Hutchinson Archive is a poem dedicated to Emilio Prados. The poem is simply entitled ‘Málaga’ and was written in the mid-1950s. In its passages, Hutchinson describes a journey on an open-sided tram along a beach road with the scent of jasmine wafting in on the summer evening breeze. The poem evokes peaceful, tranquil images, describing sights and sounds that soothe the senses and instil calm. The following verse taken from the poem illustrates this point:
“I could have sworn for once I travelled through full peace
and even love at last had perfect calm release
only by breathing in the unseen jasmine scent
that ruled us and the summer every hour we went.”
(Extract from the poem ‘Málaga’ by Pearse Hutchinson, PP/2/1/1/3).
Hutchinson appeared to find contentment when in Spain, and from the outset he seems to have developed a fondness for that country. A copy of this poem was also found among his mother’s possessions bearing the inscription “le mo ghrá – Pearse.”
The Pearse Hutchinson Archive contains a considerable body of work compiled by Hutchinson throughout his long and varied career. It includes poetry (in a number of languages), translations, contributions to radio and magazine, material from the literary journal Cyphers, which he founded in 1975. It went on to become Ireland’s longest running poetry magazine.
His publications span five decades and include such titles as Tongue without Hands (1963), Faoistín Bhacach, (1968), The Soul that Kissed the Body (1991) and Collected Poems (2002).
Also included in the Archive are family papers, letters, photographs and printed material from his parents, Henry Warren Hutchinson and Caitlin McElhinney, together with a notebook and drawings from Pearse’s childhood. His parents’ records reflect a turbulent period in Ireland’s history during the struggle for independence and the 1916 Easter Rising. They were strong supporters of Sinn Féin and had connections to many high profile nationalist figures of that time.
The Pearse Hutchinson Archive is rich in diversity and provides a window on the life and times of one of Ireland’s great literary figures of the last century.