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The Mystical Imagination of Patrick Kavanagh: A Buttonhole in Heaven?

The poetry of Patrick Kavanagh offers a radical affirmation not only of the human condition, but of the natural world and of God’s presence in both the majestic and mundane facets of daily life. In this illuminating landmark study of the great Monaghan sage, Una Agnew situates Kavanagh’s life and writings squarely in the tradition of Christian mysticism, exploring how his intensely earthy and accessible poems celebrate the presence of the divine ‘in the bits and pieces of everyday’.
By examining Kavanagh’s work with an emphasis on three core themes central to an understanding of mysticism – awakening, purification and illumination – the author makes a compelling case for the inextricable link between the sacred and the commonplace in Kavanagh’s singular worldview. Despite his many personal setbacks, from poverty to rejection to serious illness, Kavanagh, as this study so beautifully illustrates, remained in thrall to the world that surrounded him and, even at his most abject, his mystical imagination remained undimmed.
In the words of poet Mary O’Donnell in the foreword to this new edition of The Mystical Imagination of Patrick Kavanagh, Una Agnew’s ‘penetrating study of [Kavanagh’s] work … brings discussion of this most significant twentieth-century poet to renewed levels of insight.’

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The poetry of Patrick Kavanagh offers a radical affirmation not only of the human condition, but of the natural world and of God’s presence in both the majestic and mundane facets of daily life. In this illuminating landmark study of the great Monaghan sage, Una Agnew situates Kavanagh’s life and writings squarely in the tradition of Christian mysticism, exploring how his intensely earthy and accessible poems celebrate the presence of the divine ‘in the bits and pieces of everyday’.
By examining Kavanagh’s work with an emphasis on three core themes central to an understanding of mysticism – awakening, purification and illumination – the author makes a compelling case for the inextricable link between the sacred and the commonplace in Kavanagh’s singular worldview. Despite his many personal setbacks, from poverty to rejection to serious illness, Kavanagh, as this study so beautifully illustrates, remained in thrall to the world that surrounded him and, even at his most abject, his mystical imagination remained undimmed.
In the words of poet Mary O’Donnell in the foreword to this new edition of The Mystical Imagination of Patrick Kavanagh, Una Agnew’s ‘penetrating study of [Kavanagh’s] work … brings discussion of this most significant twentieth-century poet to renewed levels of insight.’

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