Irish Poetry: An Interpretive Anthology from Before Swift to Yeats and After

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Overview

Debates about Irish culture have long been plagued by neat oppositions between conquering England and colonized Erin, Protestant and Catholic, stolid Saxon and dreamy Celt. Yet the greatest Irish poets have scorned such simplicities.

In this avowedly interpretative anthology of Irish verse, W.J. McCormack traces creativity of contradiction through several centuries, finding poets productively at odds with their forebears, their contemporaries—even with themselves. From Yeats's tragic laughter to the quieter ironies of Seamus Heaney, from the rambunctious narratives of Merriman and Joyce to the pathos of Wilde's Reading Gaol, the same sparring spirit is found.

This exciting anthology brings together the very best in Irish poetry to reveal a broad yet sharply-focused tradition of diversity and dissidence. W.J. McCormack's compelling collection provokes a wide-ranging reconsideration of one of the world's richest literatures.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“McCormack's painstaking selection does justice to the panoply of Irish poets [and] does indeed reflect a national history, messy and complex, strident and joyful in the most tragic of circumstances.”

-Kirkus Reviews,

“Dr. McCormack's anthology is must reading for anyone who delights in the imaginative mind of the poet.”

-Council on National Literatures,

Kirkus Reviews
Mc Cormack, a professor of literary history at the University of London, has woven together a fascinating and problematic anthology. The subtitle, tailored to the American edition, is something of a non sequitur, since the selection includes only one poet before Swift, but 28 after Yeats. "Interpretive" refers to Mc Cormack's goal, as he states it in the introduction, of demonstrating "how Irish literature can be read, not just as a national history, but also as a less orderly and more unexpected series of assaults, dialogues, embraces, exchanges, and propositions." The selections are often avowedly sectarian and provocative, but the virtual absence of biographical information or critical notes—crucial for any American edition of such a politically oriented book—obscures the poems' sometimes surprising relationships. Also confusing is the anthology's inconsistent approach to its treatment of poems in Gaelic, some presented in English with the original Gaelic, others exclusively in English, and one just in Gaelic. One may always complain too about omissions—Paul Muldoon and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill spring to mind—but, as a whole, Mc Cormack's painstaking selection does justice to the panoply of Irish poets, from the bardic pronouncements of Aodhagán Ó Rathaille to the slyly conventional sonnets of Lady Gregory to poems by moderns like Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, and Derek Mahon. The inclusions from Yeats and Joyce highlight a political engagement that frequently goes unnoticed in selections of their work. Perhaps most satisfying is the generous sampling of marvelous long poems like Brian Merriman's MidnightCourt(translated by Frank O'Connor), Austin Clarke's Orphide, and Patrick Kavanagh's Great Hunger—alongside Oscar Wilde's more famous Ballad of Reading Gaol. The poems in this volume do indeed reflect a national history, messy and complex, strident and joyful in the most tragic of circumstances.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814756287
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Pages: 380
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

W.J. McCormack is Professor of Literary History at the University of London and head of the English Department at Goldsmith's College.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
'To see the art of poetry lost' 3
The Description of an Irish Feast 6
Verses Said to be Written on the Union 8
'Behold! A Proof of Irish Sense!' 8
A Character, Panegyric, and Description of the Legion Club 9
Holyhead. September 25, 1727 14
On the Words 'Brother Protestants and Fellow Christians' 15
The Fable of the Bitches 17
An Excellent New Ballad 18
The Lady's Dressing Room 21
A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed 24
Stella's Birthday 26
Phyllis 26
An Elegy on the Supposed Death of Mr. Partridge, the Almanac Maker 29
A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General 31
Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, D. S. P. D. 32
On the Day of Judgement 44
After the Irish of Egan O'Rahilly 46
The Poet Egan O'Rahilly, Homesick in Old Age 47
To Dr. Swift on his Birthday, November 30, 1721 48
The Deserted Village 50
The Description of an Author's Bed-chamber 60
The Haunch of Venison 61
An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog 64
Caoineadh Airt Ui Laoghaire (Gaelic text) 65
The Lament for Art O'Leary 76
The Midnight Court 84
O'Hussey's Ode to the Maguire 108
Siberia 110
Lament Over the Ruins of the Abbey of Teach Molaga 111
Lament Over the Ruins of the Abbey of Timoleague 114
The Welshmen of Tirawley 116
A Supplication 126
Swift 128
The Ballad of Reading Gaol 135
A Woman's Sonnets (1-12) 154
The Cold Heaven 158
Easter 1916 158
On a Political Prisoner 160
Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen 161
Death 164
Parnell's Funeral 165
Cuchulain Comforted 166
The Apparitions 167
Politics 167
Ode to the British Empire 168
George Moore Becomes the Priest of Aphrodite 169
On Behalf of Some Irishmen Not Followers of Tradition 171
The Wind Among the Reeds 173
The Passing of the Shee 174
The Curse 174
Danny 174
The Mergency Man 175
Ode of Welcome 177
Gas from a Burner 178
The Song of the Cheerful (but slightly sarcastic) Jaysus 180
Night and Morning 182
The Envy of Poor Lovers 183
Three Poems About Children 183
Orphide 184
The Great Hunger 194
A Wreath for Tom Moore's Statue 213
The Hospital 214
Death of Hektor 216
Saint-Lo 224
Mort de A. D. 224
'The sunlight on the garden' 225
Meeting Point 225
from Autumn Journal (section 16) 227
The Bloody Brae 230
The Colony 244
Nineteen Sixteen, or The Terrible Beauty 247
The Tomb of Michael Collins 249
Lough Derg 250
from Is That Love You're Making? 254
Ballad to a Traditional Refrain 255
from The Weekend of Dermot and Grace (Sunday) 256
Dies Irae (Gaelic text from Aifreann na Marbh) 265
Downstream 273
Nightwalker 275
from A Technical Supplement 283
One Fond Embrace 284
All Legendary Obstacles 292
A New Siege 292
The Wild Dog Rose 297
Stefano Remembers 300
Claudy 300
Requiem for the Croppies 302
The Tollund Man 302
In Memoriam Francis Ledwidge 304
Casualty 305
From the Frontier of Writing 308
Two Lorries 309
In Memory of Gerard Dillon 310
Wounds 310
The Man of Two Sorrows 311
Eva Braun 312
The Pleiades 312
Reading Paradise Lost in Protestant Ulster 1984 313
Lucina schynning in silence of the night ... 315
Early Recollections 316
Dead Fly 316
Trinity New Library 317
Death in Bangor 318
Courtyards in Delft 320
The Snow Party 321
A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford 322
At the Chelsea Arts Club 323
The Kilfenora Teaboy 325
The Levite and his Concubine at Gibeah 326
The War Horse 328
Listen. This is the Noise of Myth 329
Mourning Becomes the Law 332
On Ballycastle Beach 334
Marconi's Cottage 335
The Albert Chain 335
Come All You Warriors ... 338
The Ould Orange Flute 340
Dolly's Brae 341
The Croppy Boy 342
Me an' Me Da 343
On the Death of the Rev. Robert Traill, D. D. 345
The Ballad of William Bloat 347
Index of First Lines 349
Acknowledgements 355
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