Irish Poetry: An Interpretive Anthology from Before Swift to Yeats and Afterby W. J. McCormack
Pub. Date: 03/28/2000
Publisher: New York University Press
In this avowedly interpretative anthology of Irish verse, W. J. McCormack traces through several centuries a creativity of
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 through several centuries a creativity of contradiction, which finds poets productively at odds with their forebears, their contemporaries-even with themselves. Swift's self-lacerating savagery sets the tone, yet this tradition of ferocity also includes great Gaelic poets like Daithi O Brudair and Aodhagán O Rathaille, as well as Anglophone voices like James Clarence Mangan and Samuel Ferguson. Women poets-from Esther Johnson, Mary Barber and Laetitia Pilkington in the eighteenth century to Eavan Boland and Medbh McGuckian in our own-are in some ways the most representative voices of all in this tradition of outsidership.
From Yeats' tragic laughter to the quieter ironies of Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon and Michael Longley,from the rambunctious narratives of Merriman and Joyce to the pathos of Wildes' Reading Gaol, the same sparring spirit is found. Even Goldsmith's benign muse takes on an edge of ambiguity in this canonic context, while Moore's "musical snuffbox" strikes a strangely dissonant note. Beckett's outlandish art on the other hand seems more comfortably at home here than would ever have been imagined.
This exciting new anthology brings together the very best in Irish poetry to reveal a broad yet sharply-focused tradition of diversity and dissidence. No inert golden treasury, W. J. McCormack's compelling collection will provoke a wide-ranging reconsideration of one of the world's richest literatures.
- New York University Press
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