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Showing posts from March, 2007

John Riley

John Riley’s early death — he was murdered by two muggers at the age of forty-one — combined with a history of publication by small presses and a talent that doesn’t lend itself to easy categorisation have tended to keep his work on the margins, admired by the few but generally unknown. This is a pity, because Riley was one of the finest poets of his generation. In his lifetime he published three collections, Ancient and Modern with Grosseteste Press, which he founded with Tim Longville in 1966, What Reason Was, and That is Today, published by Pig Press in 1978, the year of his death. The now out of print Collected Works (Grosseteste Press) came out in 1980. Carcanet published his Selected Poems, edited by Michael Grant, in 1995.

I had always been impressed by the few poems I came across in anthologies like A Various Art, edited by Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville. The impression I had of an extraordinarily gifted poet was borne out by the Selected Poems. I first came across this in …

Thomas Kinsella’s Dublins

There are established personal places
that receive our lives’ heat
and adapt in their mass, like stone.

(Thomas Kinsella, from ‘Personal Places’)



It’s a critical commonplace that Irish writers are wedded to place, that their imaginations are awakened by the lure of specific territories: think of Joyce’s Dublin or Patrick MacCabe’s small town Ireland. Or think how Seamus Heaney’s recent District and Circle circles and remaps terrain familiar from forty years of previous work. Or again, how Roy Fisher’s poems grow out of Birmingham. ‘Birmingham’s what I think with,’ he once said, and it’s true of many poets that their places are part of their thinking apparatus, their essential imaginative equipment. It would be impossible to even think of Kavanagh without thinking of the places that were his subject. Sligo, Iniskeen, Barrytown, Raglan Road are planted squarely on the Irish literary map along with Eccles St and the Martello tower in Sandycove, yet not every writer uses place this overtl…

Hugo Claus

Interesting piece by J.M Coetzee in the Guardian on the Flemish writer Hugo Claus. Claus is an extraordinarily prolific novelist and playwright as well as a poet who who has published over 1300 pages of poetry. The Guardian also reprints 'Ten ways of Looking at PB Shelley', one of the poems which Coetzee translated in Landscape with Rowers - An Anthology of Dutch Poetry which came out a couple of years ago. Some of Claus's work is also featured on Poetry International's site here.
A brief review of Greetings can be found at the complete-review.

Selective translations of poetry

Selected poems, 1953-1973. Portree : Aquila Poetry, 1986.
The sign of the hamster. Leuven : Leuvense Schrijversaktie (European Series 65), 1986.
Greetings - Selected poems. New York: Harcourt Brace, 2005.
Landscape with Rowers - Anthology of Dutch Poetry. Edited and translated by J.M. Coetzee. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.

In the graveyard

I'm putting this up for a couple of weeks as people have been looking for it. It seems to be on the list for a poetry speaking competition. The book can be tricky to get outside Dublin (though you can try Gallery Press if you want to feel virtuous and buy a copy). Just don't forget, if you win the competition you'll have to send me a large amount of money.



In the graveyard

They lived and died in the same place.
The same names occurring, same big skies above.
This close, they must move still in their cottages
and walk their fields, or stand now watching
the mountains purpling in the last sun
and hear the sea turning onto the slope of the beach
its calm, insistent weight. The air’s crowded with them
as they move and watch and listen, no-one
having told them otherwise. And if
absentmindedly they drift back here
to this silent field, they’ll find
the gate locked before them and their names
unreadable on the stones. They’ll walk back towards the village
and climb into their beds, whatever …