‘True Gods of Sound and Stone’ – The Many Crossings of Patrick Kavanagh’s On Raglan Road
Inniskeen-born poet Patrick Kavanagh once made a remark to the effect that Ireland could at any time muster an army of a thousand poets. A similar claim could be made that Ireland nowadays can muster an equally strong army of remediators of poetry in song and image. Kavanagh, in what is perhaps his best-known poem, ‘On Raglan Road’, suggests that there is a secret communality between practitioners of the various arts:
I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that’s knownTo the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stoneAnd word and tint […]
To the artists mentioned (composers, sculptors, writers and painters) we would today have to add filmmakers and other workers within new media and hybrid genres, as ‘the secret sign’ continues to travel new roads of intertextuality and remediation. In the case of Kavanagh’s own poem, this trail of remediation is particularly tangled as new layers of meaning are added every time the song is used in a soundtrack, for instance, where it takes on a role of performing an ekphrasis (from the Greek, literally meaning ‘a speaking in full’) of the images it accompanies.
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