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The Pressed Melodeon: Essays on Modern Irish Writing

The Pressed Melodeon: Essays on Modern Irish Writing

by Ben Howard

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Pomeroy, Fintona-/ place names that sigh/ liked a pressed melodeon/ across this forgotten/ Northern landscape." This verse from John Montague's book-length poem, The Dead Kingdom, gave Howard's collection of essays on contemporary Irish literature its intriguing title. Howard, who teaches literature and writing at upstate New York's Alfred University, provides a personal exploration of Irish writing in the postwar period, and offers the diligent reader a lively, readable analysis of many of the main poets and writers, and a few lesser-knowns as well. In the first essay, the inherently fractured nature of Irish literature (a result of dual languages, religions and social traditions), is illustrated through consideration of established poets like Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Heaney, Montague, and Thomas Kinsella. In the second, Howard discusses anthologies of Irish verse that have tried to address this range and diversity, providing some valuable pointers on available publications. After a piece on Louis MacNeice's critical work, he revisits The Bell, a literary review of the 1940s and '50s, and then elaborates on The Field Day Anthology, a 4000-page opus covering 1500 years of Irish writing. In "After the Coronachs," he highlights what distinguishes the poets from the North of Ireland, including Derek Mahon, Medbh McGuckian, Tom Paulin, Ciarr Carson and Paul Muldoon, and examines the influence of sectarianism on their work. The book's second section, made up of seven separate essays on individual writers, provides a well-rounded and erudite conclusion to this analysis of writing in Ireland today. (Apr.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Poet Howard (Alfred Univ., N.Y.) presents a slim collection of 13 essays focusing primarily on Irish literature of the middle part of this century. Each essay can be read independently; a few have appeared in Irish publications. Divided into two sections, the first series of essays is a general discussion about postrevolution Irish literature, its antecedents and influences, and its contributions to 20th-century literature. The second part includes six brief essays about individual Irish writers such as Patrick Kavanagh, John Montague, Derk Mahon, Eavan Boland, Mary Beckett, John McGabarn, and Sean O'Faolain. While not scholarly, these essays are well written and lucid, and they reflect an impressive knowledge about the subject. Not a necessary purchase, but still an interesting and thought-provoking addition to Irish literary criticism.Denise S. Sticha, Seton Hill Coll. Lib., Greensburg, Pa.

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Story Line Press
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5.51(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.54(d)

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