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Monday, March 29, 2010

Underground Resistance

Many happy returns to Poetry Ireland Review, whose hundredth issue has just appeared. I contribute a review-essay on Brian Coffey and Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, which begins as follows:

The poetry of Brian Coffey is an enduring enigma. In the 1930s its author fought a campaign of underground resistance to mainstream Irish poetry so successful that, as with the literally underground campaign against the Romans waged by Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling’s Anglo-Saxon ancestors, that decade came and went without realizing just how much resisting Coffey had been doing. His early publications were a frankly embarrassing volume of co-authored Poems (with Denis Devlin) before his début proper, the quizzical and engrossing Third Person (1938), after which he took a whopping twenty-seven year sabbatical before re-emerging with Dice Thrown Will Never Annul Chance in 1965. The work that followed gave him some belated modicum of recognition, helped along by the advent of New Writers’ Press and the journal Lace Curtain around the same time. A Poems and Versions 1929-1990 was published by Dedalus in 1991 and in 2000 Dónal Moriarty’s study The Poetry of Brian Coffey appeared. Coffey had arrived. Anyone in search of a neglected 30s poet today might want to give Lyle Donaghy or Geoffrey Taylor a try; but it makes little sense to continue to refer to Coffey by this label.

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