Pat Boran

The invisible prison, scenes from an Irish childhood

Dedalus press

Dublin, 2009

bibliothèque insulaire

parutions 2009
The invisible prison, scenes from an Irish childhood / Pat Boran. - Dublin : Dedalus press, 2009. - IX-257 p. ; 22 cm.
ISBN 978-1-906614-15-7
DESCRIPTION : From the early 1970s the Irish midland town of Portlaoise became famous as the home of the country’s maximum security political prison. A childhood on the Main Street of that « once congested, now double by-passed town » afforded prize-winning poet Pat Boran a unique insight into its workings at the time, as it did into small-town life in general.

Here are extraordinary glimpses of bog men and bogey men, of the town's first colour television and the national debate over its first public toilet … Here too are stories of coming of age, of high jinks and low deeds, of events and characters both wonderful and deeply strange.

And here too is the shadow of the northern conflict, seen through the lens of a southern Irish town with claims to being the place where the British Empire began, and the first shots were fired of the 1916 Rising.

Part memoir, part social history, part meditation on community itself, The Invisible Prison is a funny, moving, surprising and by times heart-breaking look at Irish life, and Irish family life, and the energies and passions that animate it.
Portlaoise is where the prison is.

Prelude, p. 4

Grandir à Portlaoise, au cœur de l'Irlande des années 70 c'est, comme ailleurs, changer et voir le monde alentour changer — roses, cytises et buddleias du jardin sacrifiés pour un parking, premiers feux rouges, apparition de la télévision, …

Le poète Pat Boran tire de ces souvenirs une poignée d'éclats qui reflètent le passé avec vivacité, sans nostalgie. Loin de figer le temps, la mémoire éclaire incertitudes, élans, tensions : la vie en marche.

Portlaoise était célèbre à l'époque pour sa prison, où étaient détenus nombres d'activistes, de l'IRA en particulier. Trop jeune pour entrer dans un débat politique, les enfants ne manquaient pas de s'interroger sur ces hôtes invisibles — pressentant qu'ils n'étaient pas fondamentalement différents : mêmes hantises, mêmes rêves ; comme cet ancien détenu que Pat et son père rencontrent un soir au bord d'une route : « Oh give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above », « don't fence me in … » — Prelude, p. 6.
All Along the Watchtower

When the January 03, 1970 edition of The Leinster Express carried an advert for the Coliseum Cinema in Bull Lane, Portlaoise, the evening's main feature, Hang ‘em High, appeared to promote rough justice for law-breakers.

       « They made two mistakes, » ran the advertising copy. « They hanged the wrong man and they didn't finish the job. »

       At that time pretty much anything in the Coliseum Cinema was out of my reach (with the exception of supervised matinees of Oliver, The Robe or, the following year, Fiddler on the Roof). And yet the presence among us of a movie about crime and punishment can not have been lost on at least the adult population of our prison town, even if the true dominance of the gaol would not commence until its upgrading to maximum security political status two years later.

       Of course, someone must have built the prison : we wondered about it even then, even as kids, passing it on our way back from Sunday walks and picnics on the Block Road, the great sturdy door and arch and walls of it a mystery even then.

       A mystery compounded by the reports my father would soon begin to read aloud at the kitchen table, within our earshot, in both the local and, increasingly, the national press. Reports of « trouble in the prison », of « protests on the Dublin Road », of « crowds from the North marching through the town ». I remember hearing about attempted escapes, small-scale riots « when lads start throwing bits of the furniture around » as an article in the same edition of the local paper put it, life and art inextricably intertwined.

       « A substantial amount of damage was done to the furniture and fittings and to the fabric of the recreational hall, in which the incident started. Items broken include two TV sets, a radio, film projection equipment and two billiard tables. »

       « Wow, » we said in school the next day when the subject came up. « Imagine : billiard tables ! »

       And every youngster in the town felt torn between a life of freedom and good behaviour (but endless deprivation) and a life of crime (and punishment), the latter significantly sweetened by the presence of TV sets, film projectors and billiard tables.

       Seven years later, long after the political status upgrade, another press report would list some of the games the Republican prisoners in Portlaoise were playing to help them pass the time, the same games as it happens we were playing after school : among them chess, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders and (life imitates art imitates life) a Colditz escape game.

pp. 44-45
  • « History and promise, poems from Laois », Portlaoise : Portlaoise International university press, 1990
  • « The unwound clock », Dublin : Dedalus press, 1990
  • « Strange bedfellows », Galway : Salmon publishing, 1991
  • « Familiar things », Dublin : Dedalus press, 1993
  • « The shape of water », Dublin : Dedalus press, 1996
  • « A short history of Dublin », Dublin : Mercier press, 2000
  • « As the hand, the glove », Dublin : Dedalus press, 2001
  • « New and selected poems », Dublin : Dedalus press, 2007
  • « The next life », Dublin : Dedalus press, 2012
  • « Wingspan : a Dedalus sampler » ed. by Pat Boran, Dublin : Dedalus press, 2006
  • « Flowing, still : Irish poets on Irish poetry » ed. by Pat Boran, Dublin : Dedalus press, 2009
  • « Shine on : Irish writers for Shine » ed. by Pat Boran, Dublin : Dedalus press, 2011
  • « The bee-loud glade : a living anthology of Irish poetry » ed. by Pat Boran, Dublin : Dedalus press, 2011
  • « Dedalus new writers, 1 : poems by Marie Coveney, Clare McCotter, John Saunders » ed. by Pat Boran, Dublin : Dedalus press, 2012
site internet de Pat Boran

mise-à-jour : 24 avril 2017