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John Montague obituary

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Prolific poet, writer and translator inspired by his Irish homeland

Those who enjoy the Chieftains may not realise that the band took their name from a collection of short stories, Death of a Chieftain (1964), by the Irish poet John Montague, who has died aged 87.

Anyone who heard Montague himself performing, however, is quite likely to recollect what the poet Derek Mahon called his “mythical stammer”. This struggle to express himself, to find words for the ineffable or the unspeakable (as in the poem about an attempted rape, The Wild Dog Rose) is crucial to his often autobiographical work. If the bogs were an adequate symbol of the Troubles for Seamus Heaney, 10 years his junior, Montague dipped his hands in a more “fluid sensual dream”, deeper into Yeatsian archetypes.

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