TCD International Symposium on Irish-Russian poet George Reavey

Posted on: 27 April 2007

An International Symposium organised by the School of English, Trinity College Dublin celebrated the centenary of one of the most fascinating figures in modern Irish literature, the Irish-Russian poet, publisher and translator George Reavey.  His wide-ranging achievements were marked by a diverse programme of events, which included an exhibition of Europa Press first editions in the Long Room in the Old Library, a tribute Irish-Russian poetry reading and a day-long symposium  which brought together distinguished poets, scholars and speakers from Ireland, Russia, the USA and the UK. 

George Reavey’s poetry and literary translations were marked by a tribute poetry reading  in the Atrium at TCD in association with the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies. Russian poets Sergey Biryukov and Anatoly Kudryavitsky  read original Russian poems, while Irish poets Gerald Dawe and Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin gave renditions of Reavey’s key translations from Russian.

The life and work of George Reavey were explored on Saturday, 28 April in a day-long Symposium at TCD by an international line-up of distinguished academics and speakers including Terence Brown, Professor of English and Dean of Arts and  Humanities, TCD; Philip Coleman, Lecturer, School of English, TCD; Gerald Dawe, Lecturer and Director of the Oscar Wilde School, TCD; Justin Doherty, Lecturer, Department of Russian, TCD; Stephen Matterson, Associate Professor and Head of School of English, TCD; Mark Nixon Co-Director Beckett International Foundation, Reading, UK; Sandra Andrea O’Connell Symposium Director; Thomas Dillon Redshaw, Professor of English and Director Center for Irish Studies, University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, USA; Susan Schreibman, Assistant Dean, Head of Digital Collections and Research University of Maryland Libraries, USA; and Norman Vance, Professor of English, University of Sussex, UK. The Symposium concludes on Saturday afternoon with a final debate on Small Printing Presses chaired by Philip Coleman, with Cecilia Dougherty, Harry Gilonis, Judy Kravis, Billy Mills and Catherine Walsh as speakers.

An exhibition of Europa Press first editions are on view at the Long Room, Old Library from April 28 onwards as part of the Old Library Visitor Services.

The Symposium was hosted by the School of English, TCD in association with the Department of Early Printed Books and the Conservation Department in the Library and the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies. 

About George Reavey (1907-1976)
George Reavey was an experimental poet and is regarded a key figure in Irish Modernism. He published several remarkable poetry collections and contributed to the leading literary journals of his time. As a young man in Paris in the 1930s, he founded the Europa Press and produced an outstanding poetry series through collaborations between poets and engravers. Irish poets Samuel Beckett, Denis Devlin and Brian Coffey as well as French Surrealist Paul Eluard and artists Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst and S.W. Hayter all contributed to the enduring legacy of the Europa Press.  A life-long friend of Samuel Beckett, among the enduring legacy of Reavey’s Europa Press is the publication of Beckett’s first collection of poems Echo’s Bones and other Precipitates.

Born in Belarus on 1 May 1907, George Reavey was the only child of a Northern Irish father and Polish mother. Due to his father’s involvement with the linen industry, Reavey enjoyed a wider European upbringing and travelled as a child extensively between Northern Ireland, Belgium, Eastern Europe and Russia until the family was forced to flee their Russian home in Nizhny Novgorod during the Russian Civil War in 1918. Although he strongly identified with his Irish ancestry, Reavey felt equal belonging to Russian literature and culture and continues to be highly regarded for his expert translations of the work of Boris Pasternak, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Yevgeny Yevtushenko, to name but a few. George Reavey represents a unique connection between the Irish literary tradition and European Modernism and is of striking relevance to contemporary Irish culture.