Poetry Ireland Review Issue 127 Editorial

Issue 127

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 127 :

Edited by Eavan Boland

Eavan Boland's Poetry Ireland Review 127 features new poems from such eminent practitioners as Harry Clifton and Vona Groarke, along with the emerging voices of Manuela Moser, Emma Must, and Seán Hewitt, and a first published poem from Sarah O'Neill. Maureen Boyle's poem 'The Nunwell Letter' – written as a commission from the Ireland Chair of Poetry Travel Bursary – is another highlight of the issue, a long poem which gives a compelling voice to Ann Donne, wife of John, the metaphysical poet. Books reviewed include new titles from Nick Laird, Jean Bleakney, Ailbhe Darcy, Damian Smyth, Ciaran Carson, Anne Haverty, and Anamaría Crowe Serrano, along with a comprehensive review by Máirín Nic Eoin of Calling Cards: Ten Younger Irish Poets. This issue also contains eight measured responses in prose to a typically disputatious statement from Patrick Kavanagh as to the regard (or lack thereof) in which poetry is held by the Irish public, in his time and in ours.
There is a special episode of the Words Lightly Spoken podcast to accompany this issue of PIR, presented by Paul Perry, featuring readings and discussion with Seán Hewitt, Jean O'Brien, and Fiadh Trevaskis Hoskin: Words Lightly Spoken.


A few months ago, I came across a paragraph from a newspaper. It was from an article published in July 1962 in The Evening Press. The writer was Patrick Kavanagh. The purpose of his article was to announce the imminent publication of a literary magazine, Poetry Ireland, to be edited by John Jordan, a revival of David Marcus’s Poetry Ireland from 1948. Kavanagh salted the information with the statement: ‘In our own tin-pot way there is a disbelief that poetry has any value.’

We asked several poets to respond to his statement, and about how they feel poetry is valued now in Ireland. Tara Bergin, Chris Murray, Michael Longley, Vona Groarke, Toby Buckley, Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi, Stephen Sexton, Aifric Mac Aodha – all poets with different backgrounds and  aesthetics – give the subject their eloquent attention.

In every generation poets have been invited to mirror a society’s doubt. It almost has an allure. As if apologising for poetry could reassure the social order that the practitioner of an art was willing to disown it. But it makes no sense. In her excellent first lecture – ‘Imaginary Bonnets with Real Bees in Them’ – as Ireland Professor of Poetry, Paula Meehan spoke of the life of a poem in a memorable phrase, referring to a ‘shadow power’ in the ‘ghost life of the word’. Who would want to take away that ghost life from people? Who would want to disown it? What would be the  purpose of striking at the way a poem enters into people’s lives?

And there’s a larger question. What does a poet owe to poetry in their own time? Are they stewards and advocates, or simply that person who takes out a notebook after dark and struggles with the space? And by so doing makes a new one? There is no perfect answer, but the question is considered by different poets in different ways here, adding to the conversation we share and hand on.


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