Forever Writing From Ireland

PROSE FROM POETRY MAGAZINE: On Billy Ramsell's The Architect's Dream of Winter, Tara Bergin's This Is Yarrow, Alan Gillis's Scapegoat, and Doireann Ní Ghríofa's Clasp.

What defines Irish poetry today? A survey of recently published Irish titles suggests the striking variety of voices, aesthetics, and anxieties emerging from the Emerald Isle. It should come as no surprise that a country that so prides itself on its literary heritage (poems still grace the pages of the Irish Examiner and The Irish Times) would inspire each generation to upkeep and further push poetic practice to new realms. And yet, we think of Joyce, Yeats, MacNeice, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, and Heaney as roots in the Irish soil from which future generations have sprung, and from whose shadows poets still face the daunting task of emerging.

Many very fine contemporary Irish poets have found ways to inherit this legacy of genius while carving their own paths and reaching new international audiences. Paul Muldoon comes to mind (though he, too, gets compared to Heaney), as well as Eavan Boland. Notably, both have lived as expats in the United States while sustaining irrefutable, lasting literary ties to Ireland. Indeed, this speaks to one quality that begins to address the simplistic opening probe: inheritance must be reckoned with in Irish poetry, beyond the usual measure for poets. Whether sustained or challenged, tradition poses a question, and uncertainty is often a generative place from which to begin.

Read the full article on the Poetry Foundation website.