Poetry Ireland Review Issue 129 Editorial

Issue 129

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 129 :

Edited by Eavan Boland

Issue 129 is a fitting finale to Eavan Boland's term as editor of Poetry Ireland Review. Along with Eavan's inspirational editorial, the issue includes new poems from Eleanor Hooker, Luke Morgan, Mary Montague, Simon Ó Faoláin, Geraldine Mitchell, Brian Kirk, Dane Holt, and Supriya Kaur Dhaliwal. The titles weighed and measured by the reviewing team include new books from Mary Noonan, Tracy K Smith, Nessa O'Mahony, Susan Millar DuMars, Stephen Sexton, John W Sexton, and Eileen Sheehan, along with Thomas McCarthy's expert appraisal of Making Integral: Critical Essays on Richard Murphy, edited by Benjamin Keatinge. Ciarán O'Rourke provides an essay on William Carlos Williams, assessing his influence on Irish writing and the influence of Irish writers on the New Jersey-based poet and paediatrician. And artist Ailbhe Barret provides the landscape images for PIR 129, a stunning visual send-off for this last issue of 2019. 


This is my final issue as editor of Poetry Ireland Review. From start to finish, it’s been an extraordinary privilege – an absorbing and memorable view of the energies and talents in the work of Irish poets and poets beyond Ireland. And now I’m delighted to turn over that view to Colette Bryce, who will bring her own poetic gifts and perspectives to the editorship. 

I have some thanks to make: to Maureen Kennelly, who does so much as Director to sustain the project of Poetry Ireland and its uniquely generous relationship to the poetry community and beyond. To Paul Lenehan, who makes Poetry Ireland Review such a wonderfully finished journal. So much of the substance of the Review, from the relation of the visual to the text and the arguments to the poems, is due to him. And my special thanks to hard-working and inspiring staff like Rachel Botha and Eoin Rogers, and committed interns such as Mattie Drucker, who, with others, process the huge volume of submissions, and contribute at every stage to the publishing process. 

But my chief debt, of course, is to the poets who submitted their poems. Reading them, I had the same response I’ve had since I was young: a response that began whenever I took a volume of poems off a shelf in a bookshop, or opened a magazine with a poem. Those pages revealed that someone had made the journey from their life to their language. Someone had followed their feelings to a form. Had gone to a blank page, maybe with the little time they had at the end of their day, not to produce an epigram but to find a truth. 

Because of what I saw then, and have read since for Poetry Ireland Review, I’ve never doubted that it is working poets and the poem in its time that provide the most eloquent answer to the badly formed ideas that poetry is failing, that its audience is dwindling, that its usefulness is over.  

And certainly, those comments do exist. For instance, the Australian critic who in 2005 stated the following negative view as if it was a fact: ‘I’m saying three things here: that poetry has a lot of writers and not many readers, that many of the writers themselves don’t read all that much, and that poetry is difficult, a lot of the time, very difficult indeed.’ 

Those ideas are in the air – and always familiar and unsound. The size of the audience, the difficulty of the work, these are not true measurements of an art. If used, they lure critics into memorable understatements, like the critic of Hart Crane in The New York Times in 1933, who commented: ‘His Collected Poems is not an unimportant book.’  

No poets – and the poets I read for Poetry Ireland Review illustrate this – should ever have to write or live in these shadows. The life of the poet is always a summons to try to set down some truth that was once true and will go on being true. No poet should have to worry about the public respect or the lack of it in which this art is held.  

It is the poems I read in the submissions to Poetry Ireland Review that are a constant reminder of that. Those words on the page, those stanzas, cadences, statements, at their best, can and do lead to a single defining moment: when someone takes down a book, maybe late at night, maybe looking for some confirmation of their own life, and comes upon that poem they want to remember. That moment has held together this art from the beginning. And it always will. 

– Eavan Boland 


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