Valentin Iremonger (1918–1991) is the quiet man of 20th century Irish poetry in English. As he wrote to Robert Graves in 1944, ‘If, as you say, poetry is a sharing of secrets, today these secrets are proscribed and it is not by shouting and tearing one’s hair or by roaring through a microphone they will be shared.’
As a diplomat living with his family abroad (First Secretary in the UK, Ambassador in Sweden, India, and Luxembourg), he was in no position to promote his poems, but nor was it his temperament to do so.
The poet (in Irish) Máire mhac an tSaoi wrote after his death: ‘Valentin Iremonger, both as a poet and as a human being, radiated integrity.’ His poems are, to use a phrase Iremonger applied in a review, from ‘the only place where poetry can be found – in the everyday life of the people around…’ And as Seán O’Faoláin wrote, ‘one rarely hears a modern idiom, a modern speech. (I find it in the tense poetry of W.R. Rodgers and in the hesitating rhythm of Valentin Iremonger)’. Iremonger’s poems are the epitome of ‘feeling thought’ – the rhythm, whether hesitant or driving, carrying them often in unusually long but lucid sentences.
This collection is as close to complete as we have found possible: it includes all poems from his published volumes, with some published only in periodicals, and a few unpublished. It also includes passages of poetry from his radio play Wrap up my Green Jacket.