A celebration of the life and works of Maurice Craig (1919 - 2011) & the launch of Poems

Maurice Craig 1919 - 2011
Last night at the Royal Irish Academy family and friends met to celebrate the life and work of Maurice Craig. Maurice is best known as an architectural historian however he was, among many other things, a celebrated and gifted poet. We are delighted to announce the publication of Poems by Maurice Craig, selected and edited by Andrew Carpenter with an introductory essay by Lucy Collins. Poems was launched as part of last night's festivities.

A selection from  'The Museum of Maurice'

Guests enjoyed wine and canapés as they perused the eclectic items found in 'The Museum of Maurice', exhibited for one night only. Assembled by Maurice's children, Michael and Catherine, the museum was a fascinating collection of all that made Maurice Maurice. There were books galore, on a host of topics; models of boats and buildings; pipes; newspaper cuttings; a typewriter; photograph albums; well-travelled suitcases; letters; and a jumper made out of dog hair, complete with left over wool in a labelled marmalade jar for repairs.

Seán O'Keeffe, Liberties Press Publisher, began the formalities and after welcoming everyone in attendance, shared his memories of knowing and working with Maurice. Seán referred to Maurice as 'a charming man' and 'great company' who could regale you for hours with anecdotes and stories on a wide range of subjects. Seán expressed his delight in publishing Poems, saying the collection 'is as good as anything published by Craig's contemporaries in the 1940s and indeed published since...they are poems that never date...'

Michael Craig
Seán handed over to Michael who paid a touching tribute to his father; an authentic and honest tribute, it did not shy away from the difficult parts of their relationship but in the end celebrated the latter years when they enjoyed closeness 'as father and son should'.  Michael finished by reading 'A matter of orchestration', the first poem in the collection and a poignant one as it ends with the words, 'So rich the voice that from the shell still sings'.

Lucy Collins and Andrew Carpenter
Andrew Carpenter, editor of the collection and close friend of Maurice, also shared a few words. He spoke warmly of his memories of Maurice and the lunches spent with him and Lucy with 'Schubert in the background and always in the foreground, words.' Whether he was writing about architecture, bookbinding, cats or donkeys or indeed sculpting a poem, Maurice loved words. Andrew declared that 'Maurice probably loved words more than anything else in the world.' This is evident in his poetry: each poem is a work of art, crafted in a spare, clean style, using powerful and profound language. Andrew described Poems as a collection that is 'clear, exact, demanding, yet emotionally profound...' He finished by reading a selection from 'Merrion Square: A descriptive poem' leaving us all with a lovely image of Maurice as a PhD student looking out from his room onto Merrion Square.

Catherine, Maurice's daughter, concluded the readings with a poem about cats, one of Maurice's many passions. Catherine shared how going through Maurice's things for the musuem taught her so much more about her father as well as more about herself and her brother, Michael. She said, 'Michael and I are not the same as everybody else, we're different and sometimes that's hard. We're different because our father thought outside the box and taught us to ask questions. I'm grateful for that. Keep asking questions.'

The speeches ended with Maurice's own voice, played from a recording of an interview between Maurice and RTÉ's Vincent Woods. In it Vincent mentions  'Ballad to a traditional refrain' which contains the famous line 'May the Lord in his mercy be kind to Belfast!' asking Maurice if he knows it by heart. Maurice replied, 'Of course. Do you want it?' And so the last recital of the evening was by Maurice himself. A perfect ending.