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Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I remember well when I was starting off, back in Dublin in the 1990s, how adamant Justin Quinn and I we would not publish our poetry in Metre or have ourselves reviewed (not one reference to any of our books, not once, in any issue of the magazine). And while I still find that admirable, I also now feel that there is no point in hyper-squeamishly avoiding discussing his work just because I happen to know him. So let me say that his Modern Irish Poetry 1800 – 2000 is a truly prodigious and marvellous achievement. In fact, it’s hard to think of people who have done more on the two fronts of poetry (The ‘O’o’a’a’ Bird, Privacy, Fuselage, Waves & Trees) and criticism (Gathered Beneath the Storm, American Errancy, and now this) in the last twelve years than JQ.

I’ve noticed in the past with albums that have become favourites that I find myself unable to proceed to track two before I’ve listened to track one over and over again, and so it is with this book. So as I continue to digest its contents, let me give some idea of JQ’s capacity for penetrating directly to the heart of the matter, critically. These should get you on your toes. File under whip-cracks:

1. Of Patrick Kavanagh: ‘Kavanagh’s achievement is restricted to a handful of poems which anthologists of two generations have agreed upon. Exploring his work outside this number is a dismal experience.’

2. Of Brian Coffey: ‘It is difficult to see justification for the claims that Coffey is an experimental poet in any meaningful sense; certainly, bizarre punctuation and spacing of words do not in themselves constitute originality.’

3. Of recent Muldoon: ‘That it is clotted with self-parody is deliberate, but such an intention is not enough to forestall the feeling that Muldoon has reached a difficult juncture in his explorations of autobiography. No matter how far-flung the reference or the rhyme we are always landed back with Muldoon, his Irish mother and father, his American wife and children. No world seems to exist beyond the garden fence. One imagines Muldoon’s house in New Jersey as an amazing repository of phantasmagorical animals, eclectic books and strange exotic objects, all of which are choreographed to the same show-tunes day after day.’

Buy this marvellous book.

Photo found here.

1 comment:

Ms Baroque said...

I love the phrase "Muldoon’s house in New Jersey." If you come from my neck of the woods that about says it all.

Yours, not at all prejudiced,

Ms B