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Beddoes’ Best Thing

C.H. Sisson, 20 September 1984

The Force of Poetry 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 447 pp., £19.50, September 1984, 0 19 811722 1
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... between Marvell and the ‘gifted group of Ulster poets: Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, and Paul Muldoon’ – poets surely very unlike the Member of Parliament for Hull. He asserts that ‘many of these are creatively grateful to Marvell,’ and then suggests, even more extravagantly, that ‘it is likely that there is at least ...

Belonging

John Kerrigan, 18 July 1996

The ‘O’o’a’a’ Bird 
by Justin Quinn.
Carcanet, 69 pp., £7.95, March 1995, 1 85754 125 1
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Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time 
by Eavan Boland.
Carcanet, 254 pp., £18.95, April 1995, 1 85754 074 3
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Collected Poems 
by Eavan Boland.
Carcanet, 217 pp., £9.95, November 1995, 1 85754 220 7
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Captain Lavender 
by Medbh McGuckian.
Gallery Press, 83 pp., £11.95, November 1994, 9781852351427
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... Gaps on the poetry shelf support the claim that women writers felt excluded in Sixties Dublin. Derek Mahon, an eyewitness to literary life in Jammet’s back bar and the lounge of the Old Royal Hibernian Hotel, has agreed that Boland made her way in ‘a male-dominated literary culture’. He wonders whether it was necessary for her to ...

The Ticking Fear

John Kerrigan: Louis MacNeice, 7 February 2008

Louis MacNeice: Collected Poems 
edited by Peter McDonald.
Faber, 836 pp., £30, January 2007, 978 0 571 21574 4
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Louis MacNeice: Selected Poems 
edited by Michael Longley.
Faber, 160 pp., £12.99, April 2007, 978 0 571 23381 6
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I Crossed the Minch 
by Louis MacNeice.
Polygon, 253 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 1 84697 014 6
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The Strings Are False: An Unfinished Autobiography 
by Louis MacNeice, edited by E.R. Dodds.
Faber, 288 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 0 571 23942 9
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... The Burning Perch, appeared ten days after his death; a potboiler on astrology in 1964. When Derek Mahon declared, with resonant finality, in an elegy published in January 1965, ‘All we may ask of you we have; the rest/Is not for publication,’ he could hardly have been more wrong. Within months, MacNeice’s friend and first employer, the Greek ...

Green War

Patricia Craig, 19 February 1987

Poetry in the Wars 
by Edna Longley.
Bloodaxe, 264 pp., £12.95, November 1986, 0 906427 74 6
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We Irish: The Selected Essays of Denis Donoghue 
Harvester, 275 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 7108 1011 3Show More
The Battle of The Books 
by W.J. McCormack.
Lilliput, 94 pp., £3.95, October 1986, 0 946640 13 0
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The Twilight of Ascendancy 
by Mark Bence-Jones.
Constable, 327 pp., £14.95, January 1987, 0 09 465490 5
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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl 
edited by John Quinn.
Methuen, 144 pp., £8.95, November 1986, 0 413 14350 3
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... Louis MacNeice’s verve, Keith Douglas’s ‘rich’ economy of style, the poise and subtlety of Derek Mahon; and singularly illuminating when she turns her attention to the work of Paul Muldoon: the long Muldoon poems ‘Immram’ and ‘The more a man has’, in particular, come in for impressive elucidation. Throughout this collection of essays, in ...

Like the trees on Primrose Hill

Samuel Hynes, 2 March 1989

Louis MacNeice: A Study 
by Edna Longley.
Faber, 178 pp., £4.95, August 1988, 0 571 13748 2
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Louis MacNeice: Selected Poems 
edited by Michael Longley.
Faber, 160 pp., £4.95, August 1988, 0 571 15270 8
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A Scatter of Memories 
by Margaret Gardiner.
Free Association, 280 pp., £15.95, November 1988, 1 85343 043 9
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... You find him in collections like Frank Ormsby’s Poets from the North of Ireland, and poets like Derek Mahon and Michael Longley praise him. The praise doesn’t come because he wrote about Northern Ireland – there are a few fine Irish poems, but not many. No, MacNeice’s importance for current Northern Irish poets must have more to do with the kind ...

Davie’s Rap

Neil Corcoran, 25 January 1990

Under Briggflatts: A History of Poetry in Great Britain 1960-1988 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 261 pp., £18.95, October 1989, 0 85635 820 7
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Annunciations 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, November 1989, 0 19 282680 8
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Possible Worlds 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 68 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 0 19 282660 3
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The boys who stole the funeral: A Novel Sequence 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 71 pp., £6.95, October 1989, 0 85635 845 2
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... of Irish poets, and (given that) to find him making several highly approbatory references to Derek Mahon without offering us even a paragraph of comment on him. Also, although Davie’s title seems to promise a revisionist setting of the last thirty years of British poetry under bare Ben Basil’s head, he nowhere makes such a coherent argument. His ...

Someone Else’s

Matthew Reynolds: Translating Cesare Pavese, 6 October 2005

Disaffections: Complete Poems 1930-50 
by Cesare Pavese, translated by Geoffrey Brock.
Carcanet, 370 pp., £14.95, April 2004, 1 85754 738 1
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Italian Poems 
edited by Jamie McKendrick.
Faber, 167 pp., £12.99, June 2004, 0 571 19700 0
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... Several of McKendrick’s selections do a similar thing similarly well: Umberto Saba translated by Derek Mahon, Ungaretti by Patrick Creagh, Maria Luisa Spaziani by Beverly Allen. But many others are more limited. In Biographia Literaria Coleridge illustrates the workings of metaphor with some made-up lines which do not pretend to be poetry but ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... British Poetry: Douglas Dunn, Anne Stevenson, Craig Raine, James Fenton, Andrew Motion, Derek Mahon, Fleur Adcock, Carol Rumens, Medbh McGuckian, Penelope Shuttle and others. Geoffrey Hill, Dannie Abse, Denise Levertov, Peter Red-grove, U.A. Fanthorpe, Gillian Clarke, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Elaine Feinstein are all variously ...

The New Narrative

John Kerrigan, 16 February 1984

The Oxford Book of Narrative Verse 
edited by Iona Opie and Peter Opie.
Oxford, 407 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 19 214131 7
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Time’s Oriel 
by Kevin Crossley-Holland.
Hutchinson, 61 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 09 153291 4
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On Gender and Writing 
edited by Michelene Wandor.
Pandora, 166 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 86358 021 1
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Stone, Paper, Knife 
by Marge Piercy.
Pandora, 144 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 9780863580222
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The Achievement of Ted Hughes 
edited by Keith Sagar.
Manchester, 377 pp., £27.50, March 1983, 0 7190 0939 1
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Ted Hughes and Paul Muldoon 
Faber, £6.95, June 1983, 0 571 13090 9Show More
River 
by Ted Hughes and Peter Keen.
Faber, 128 pp., £10, September 1983, 0 571 13088 7
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Quoof 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 64 pp., £4, September 1983, 0 571 13117 4
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... with which it recuperates a cliché. In his emphasis on craft and wit Muldoon might seem akin to Derek Mahon: but, again, the two poets are finally quite different. Clearly Muldoon has learned from the older writer, and the long text which begins his book and ends his tape, ‘Gathering Mushrooms’, might never have been composed without the example of ...

Hand and Foot

John Kerrigan: Seamus Heaney, 27 May 1999

Opened Ground: Poems 1966-96 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 478 pp., £20, September 1998, 0 571 19492 3
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The Poetry of Seamus Heaney: A Critical Study 
by Neil Corcoran.
Faber, 276 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 571 17747 6
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Seamus Heaney 
by Helen Vendler.
HarperCollins, 188 pp., £15.99, November 1998, 0 00 255856 4
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... contribution to Homage to Robert Frost (which he published in 1997 with Joseph Brodsky and Derek Walcott) and in such poems as ‘Weighing In’ and ‘The Swing’ (an Ulster version of Frost’s ‘Birches’) in The Spirit Level (1996), the most recent book of his excerpted for Opened Ground. Of course, nothing in Heaney’s late poetics can change ...

Ten Poets

Denis Donoghue, 7 November 1985

Selected Poems 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 124 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 9780856355950
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Collected Poems: 1947-1980 
by Allen Ginsberg.
Viking, 837 pp., £16.95, April 1985, 0 670 80683 8
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Instant Chronicles: A Life 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 58 pp., £4.50, April 1985, 9780019211970
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Selected Poems 
by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 596 8
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Selected Poems 
by Jeffrey Wainwright.
Carcanet, 79 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 598 4
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Selected Poems 
by Gillian Clarke.
Carcanet, 112 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 594 1
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The Price of Stone 
by Richard Murphy.
Faber, 92 pp., £4, May 1985, 0 571 13568 4
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Selected Poems 
by Iain Crichton Smith.
Carcanet, 121 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 597 6
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Selected Poems 
by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 585 2
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From the Irish 
by James Simmons.
Blackstaff, 78 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 331 8
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... in public. There is nothing wrong with his themes – the IRA, a dead policeman, Joyce, Sligo, Derek Mahon, divorce, the woe that is in marriage, ‘our ruined century’, Othello, and one of the hotels in Newry. But most of them are approached by way of nothing more exacting than irritation: The only material for jokes is annoyance. The cruel course ...

New Ways of Killing Your Father

Colm Tóibín, 18 November 1993

Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History 
by R.F. Foster.
Allen Lane, 305 pp., £22.50, October 1993, 0 7139 9095 3
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... peasants and an abiding sense of menace and decay. In 1975, in his book of poems The Snow Party, Derek Mahon allowed one of his characters to be ‘through with history’. I understood that to be the whole point of revisionism. ‘In a country that has come of age, history need no longer be a matter of guarding sacred mysteries,’ Roy Foster wrote in ...

Playboys of the GPO

Colm Tóibín, 18 April 1996

Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation 
by Declan Kiberd.
Cape, 719 pp., £20, November 1995, 0 224 04197 5
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... England, thus it is difficult for Kiberd to have much to say about John Banville or Tom Murphy or Derek Mahon. And there are other writers, such as John McGahern, to whom these old dreams and inventions mean nothing at all, or those who found or find them worthy merely of jokes and asides, such as Flann O’Brien or Paul Muldoon. Inventing Ireland, in ...

Diary

Tom Paulin: Trimble’s virtues, 7 October 2004

... The engine hasn’t been used for a year – it has stood in Scott’s shed like an object in a Derek Mahon poem, oblivious to all that’s been happening in the world outside. It’s well over forty years old, so when we row out of the harbour and I jerk the cord again and again, and nothing happens, I get worried. Niall rests on the oars as I wind ...

Accidents of Priority

John Redmond, 22 August 1996

Can You Hear, Bird 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 128 pp., £9.95, February 1996, 9781857542240
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The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 
by Jorie Graham.
Carcanet, 220 pp., £12.95, March 1996, 1 85754 225 8
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Selected Poems 
by Barbara Guest.
Carcanet, 220 pp., £12.95, May 1996, 1 85754 158 8
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Selected Poems 1976-1996 
by George Szirtes.
Oxford, 126 pp., £9.99, March 1996, 0 19 283223 9
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Adam’s Dream 
by Peter McDonald.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £6.95, March 1996, 1 85224 333 3
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... surprising, but that does not stop them from being powerful. Among his influences appears to be Derek Mahon, with whom he shares a slightly old-fashioned existentialist sensibility, Symptomatic of this is his over reliance on words like ‘city’, ‘winter’, ‘dark’, ‘light’, ‘time’ – one feels that the recurrent image of a train ...

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