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Peter McDonald...detailed and authoritative...gyre-like in its awareness of "an eternal imaginative return to the earlier conflict."
—Times Literary Supplement
The Great War in Irish Poetry explores the impact of the First World War on the work of W. B. Yeats, Robert Graves, and Louis MacNeice in the period 1914-45, and on three contemporary Northern Irish poets, Derek Mahon, Seamus Heaney, and Michael Longley. Its concern is to place their work, and memory of the Great War, in the context of Irish culture and politics in the twentieth century. The historical background to Irish involvement in the Great War is explained, as are the ways in which some of the events of 1912-1920—the Home Rule crisis, the loss of the Titanic, the Battle of the Somme, the Easter Rising—still reverberate in the politics of remembrance in Northern Ireland.
While the Great War is perceived as central to English culture, and its literature holds a privileged position in the English literary canon, the centrality of the Great War to Irish writing has seldom been acknowledged. This book is concerned with the extent to which recognition of the importance of the Great War in Irish writing has become a casualty of competing versions of the literary canon. It shows that, despite complications in Irish domestic politics which led to the repression of "official memory" of the Great War in Ireland, Irish poets, particularly those writing in the "troubled" Northern Ireland of the last thirty years, have been drawn throughout the century to the events and images of 1914-18.
Part I: The art of the war
Ireland in the Great War: literature, history, culture W. B. Yeats: creation from conflict Robert Graves: resisting the canon Louis MacNeice: between two wars
Part II: The northern renascence
Northern Ireland and the politics of remembrance A dying art: Derek Mahon's solving ambiguity The end of art: Seamus Heaney's apology for poetry Michael Longley: poet in no man's land Bibliography Index