Poetry Ireland Review Issue 124 Editorial
Poetry Ireland Review Issue 124 :
Poetry Ireland Review 124 contains new poems from Paula Meehan, Ciarán O'Rourke, Lizzy Nichols, Mark Ward, Gabriel Rosenstock, Özgecan Kesici, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, and many other compelling voices. Also included is Eilean Ni Chuilleanáin's remembrance of her Cork childhood, excerpted from The Vibrant House: Irish Writing and Domestic Space, a book of essays reviewed in issue 124 by Caitríona O'Reilly. Other books considered in this issue include collections from Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Mark Granier, Tara Bergin, The Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets, and the Collected Poems of the late Dennis O'Driscoll, and there's also a short interview with Thomas Kinsella along with an essay on Kinsella as poet and civil servant. Another Kinsella is this issue’s Featured Poet, Alice Kinsella, and all artwork for the issue is supplied by artists associated with the Olivier Cornet Gallery on Great Denmark Street, around the corner from Poetry Ireland.
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This issue contains, first of all, the continuing vitality of new voices and recent poems. This has been one of the privileges of editing for me. I never get tired of the surprise and variety involved in reading these poems and being able to provide a presence for some of them in this review.
Also here, two views of the city of Dublin through its history and its poets: Adam Hanna’s fine essay 'Thomas Kinsella: The Civil Servant-Poet at Mid-Century’ is paired with a fascinating glimpse of that time in the poet’s own words, through a short interview he did with Hanna.
Kinsella’s retrospect reveals him as a working writer at the heart of government in the 1950s. His time in the Department of Finance as TK Whitaker’s private secretary allowed him a rare access to an evolving Ireland: “Dealing with the annual budget,” he says “it was possible to see the functioning of the entire economy.” As a poet whose storied poems of Dublin helped to de ne the city in Irish poetry, this is a rare and precious recollection of the outer life that went with that inner one.
Paula Meehan’s sequence, ‘Museum’, uncovers another city. It was commissioned by the Tenement Museum project at Henrietta Street. She gave an early reading there, when the project was just commencing. In Charles Duggan’s after-note – he is the Dublin City Council Heritage Of cer and was involved in commissioning the sequence – he states: “Her words resonated within the crumbling walls of this house as we set out to recover its histories and memories.” In the same way, the power- ful poems in ‘Museum’ map a poignant and important journey from lives to language.
Alice Kinsella is the featured poet. Her new book Flower Press, published in February by The Onslaught Press, follows a path of elegy – the work in her own words ‘written through a cloud of regret and grief ’. The poems included here are spirited disclosures, ready to come to the threshold of the surreal but also intimate and present in language.
Finally, a two-fold discussion of the recently published The Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets. Fiona Sampson’s thoughtful review offers one perspective. The eloquent counter-statement – drawn from Chris Murray’s excellent Poethead website – provides another, one which weighs the effect of excluding essential women’s voices from this volume. The state- ment represents a convergence of women poets and academics from both the north and south of Ireland, who ‘felt a response to the gender imbalance in The Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets was necessary’. Their argument is compelling. To start with, it’s evident that such a book cannot be pre- sented in the classroom as inclusive or authoritative – an effect Cambridge University Press can hardly have intended. But there are wider effects. It’s also clear, as this statement suggests, that absences distort presences. If past achievement is erased, present achievement can only exist in a awed context. For any editor, that’s a case to answer.
– Eavan Boland