This book is the selected prose of one of Ireland's foremost contemporary poets-part autobiography, part criticism, part commentary on his own collections-a gathering, from the mid-century to the present day, that marks a lifetime's critical engagement with literature both in Europe and America.
``When I was starting out all Irish poets were in a state of stunned isolation, except for Louis MacNeicestet spelling ,'' begins Montague ( The Lost Notebook ). A poet and novelist, Montague was born in Brooklyn but raised in Ireland, attended college in America and has also lived in France. ``The wider an Irishman's experience, the more likely he is to understand his native country,'' he posits persuasively, using three autobiographical essays to lay the foundation of his analyses of Irish literature. He introduces William Carleton (a 19th-century novelist who was ``the first Irish writer to discover the ordinary people of Ireland'') and Denis Devlin (``the most dedicated poet of his generation, and one whose work suggests possibilities for the future''), and takes issue with Thomas Kinsella's editing of a selection of Austin Clarke's poems. Montague's assessments of even canonical works are unique: ``A decade in Cork has convinced me that Ulysses is largely the work of an exiled Corkman, the son of Si Dedalus.'' (Sept.)
Montague, a distinguished Irish poet and the editor of The Book of Irish Verse (Macmillan, 1974; Peter Smith, 1984, reprint) and the recent anthology Bitter Harvest ( LJ 5/1/89) , has collected his many essays to form an intellectual and artistic autobiography. Divided into two sections, the essays present the poet's personal experience in America and Ireland as well as critical discussions on the literature of Ireland and contemporary America. Especially notable is ``In the Irish Grain,'' a fine introduction to Irish poetry. Yet the best parts of the book come in the scattered moments when Montague reminisces about his friendships with people like John Berryman and Austin Clarke. For large public and academic libraries that specialize in contemporary poets.-- Donald P. Kaczvinsky, Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park
Twenty essays by the contemporary Irish poet commenting on his youth in Ulster, his career and work, writers such as Goldsmith, Joyce, Beckett, MacNeice, Bellow, Lowell, and Rexroth. Also discusses American literature and the impact of international poetry on Irish writing. No bibliography or index. Paper edition (unseen), $14.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)