Sunday, April 25, 2010

Poetry Ireland Review 100

Poetry Ireland Review have just published their 100th issue guest edited by Irish poet Paul Muldoon. Most interesting as you might expect with a fine selection of poetry from the A to Z of Irish poets. B to Z actually since Muldoon arranges the poets in alphabetical order - Eva Bourke to Ann Zell. Most get one poem but Michael Longley gets four, Heaney two.

It includes some in Irish with translations, some by the poet, some by others. It always strikes me as a bit odd when such a publication publishes simultaneous translations of Irish (Gaelic) poetry.

Cathal Ó Searcaigh has an interesting poem included in light of recent controversies. It's entitled Labhrann Óivid (Ovid Speaks) in which Latin poet Ovid bemoans his banishment to the Black Sea shore. Gabriel Rosenstock translates Ó Searcaigh's opening lines:

A hundred curses on this place of banishment
this back door to nowhere by the Black Sea

The most interesting indeed controversial item in the issue is an article by Maria Johnston, who teaches in the School of English, Trinity College, Dublin and at the Mater Dei Institute of Education, entitled Reading Irish Poetry in the New Century which is a review of poetry published in the Review in the last ten years. Much of the article is scathing in its assessment of the quality or lack of quality of the published poetry.

There is, in the poetry published throughout this decade, a severe want of technical dexterity, of ingenuity, imaginative pressure, metaphorical energy, linguistic vitality, formal possibility and intellectual play. So many of the poems are devoid of any vivifying elements of surprise or disturbance, of dialectical force, from beginning to end. There is little or no attentiveness to the line break - the feature that distinguished poetry from prose - no feeling for the sound and movement of words and their syntactical arrangement.

Hmmm, could do better then.
But it's not this general criticism which has caused the controversy but the fact that she criticises individual poems published during the decade in the journal by established well-known writers. Seems a bit ill considered in an issue which should be celebrating achievement.

The article is available as a pdf here.


Emerging Writer said...

It generated lots of discussion online. Did you see it? Nessa O'Mahony on Facebook and on the stinging fly forum.

Peter Goulding said...

To be honest, reading the article, it does nothing to encourage me to submit serious poetry. If established poets can be savaged like that, what hope is there for emerging talent?

niamh said...

The fact that certain poets are singled out and dismissed discredits the article, the needless cruelty leads me to have no interest in whether she has a point or not. The poetry nazis never interested me. Mmm... is that the first line of a poem? Hopefully one ignorant of the primacy of line,

Peter Goulding said...

Sorry, just realised my post makes me look like I'm saying I have talent! I mean emerging writers of course.
That's a good point Niamh but does she have a point that PIR publishes names rather than good poems?

Frank said...

Where could I get a copy for free? I once won a game of chess in Trinity. Never played again. Break it anywhere you like but it's form that distinguishes. Now for a few bars of "Tomorrow Belongs To Me".

Michael Farry said...

There's a link to an online copy of the article in the post above Frank. You can borrow my copy anytime.