In the 1990s, ceasefires were adopted in Ireland, followed in 2007 by the institution of devolved government at Stormont. With the Troubles now gone, the country has experienced a dramatic growth in tourism. Goodwill is everywhere, as is ‘progress’. Poetry now crowns the dome of one of Ireland's largest and plushest shopping malls. This chapter explores whether Belfast has stopped posing more problems than it offers solutions, and how the poets now coming of age will define themselves and their role, particularly in relation to the city. It focuses on the work of three poets – Leontia Flynn, Sinéad Morrissey, and Alan Gillis – all of whom wrestle with the problem of representing and interrogating their ‘own moment in history’. The chapter argues that, perhaps contrary to expectation, the peace context renders identity in Northern Irish poetry more, rather than less, problematic.
“All livin language is sacred”: Poetry and Varieties of English in These Islands’ considers the various uses of non-standard Englishes in contemporary poetry, whether the variety of English be national, regional, class- or ethnically based. It argues that the association of poetry with a prestigious standard form of the language has created particular difficulties for poets who do not speak this variety, and that the record of these difficulties can be found in a number of contemporary poets’ work, especially that by Harrison, Heaney, Leonard, and Nagra. But it also argues that contact with vernacular speech, in many forms, can be a source of poetic energies, and that these are drawn upon in a number of contemporary poets writing in various forms of non-standard English, notably in Scots (arguably a standard variety itself), Ulster Scots, or in the Nation language of dub poetry.
This essay considers a reconfiguring of the sublime in British poetry of the 1970s and 1980s that coincides with theoretical activity around the ways in which the concept of the sublime is renewed and diversified. While Fredric Jameson calls for ‘cognitive mapping’ in cultural practice, to induce in the reader a sense of her or his place in what is nothing less than a global system, Jean-François Lyotard supplies a counter-argument to Jameson’s emphasis on the cognitive, proposing an aesthetic experience in which the activity of the imagination necessarily exceeds that of the understanding, so that the ‘mapping’ which occurs extends the territory of the mind beyond that of individual cognition. Tom Raworth’s poem ‘West Wind’ takes as its reference points those two pejorative instances of the sublime proposed by postmodernist theory—global communications networks and the threat of the nuclear bomb—but links these to a mentality capable only of producing a concept of the imagination while remaining incapable of activating and exercising the imagination. Andrew Crozier’s ‘The Veil Poem’ focuses on architectural terminology, and on the conditions of ‘dwelling’ that articulate its spatial and temporal dimensions, moving towards an exploration of the altered sublime that is carried further in J. H. Prynne’s ‘The Oval Window’.
Robert Dale Parker
Scholars and readers of American poetry in general and American Indian poetry in particular generally assume that American Indian poetry begins in the late 1960s with the American Indian Renaissance. Even among scholars of American Indian literature, let alone scholars of American poetry in general, few readers can name more than, at most, a few American Indian poets before N. Scott Momaday. But indigenous people in what is now the United States have written poetry since the time of Anne Bradstreet, and the 1890s and the early twentieth century brought an effusion of Indian-written poetry. Poems by more than ninety different American Indians writing from 1900 to 1930 have been found. The anthology Changing Is Not Vanishing: A Collection of American Indian Poetry to 1930 showcases the work of eighty-three poets and provides a bibliography that lists almost 150 Indian poets up to 1930. While Indian poets wrote about the same range of topics as non-Indian poets, they also brought their interests and experiences as Indians to bear on their poems. This article discusses how these poems address colonialism and the federal government, land, the condition of the world in general, nature, Christianity, love, war, other Indian peoples, and the temptation to internalize anti-Indian ways of thinking.
Twentieth-century American poetry metabolizes a variety of discursive genres, including fiction, song, theory, advertising, letters, and the law. To adapt Mikhail Bakhtin's terms, it dialogizes “literary and extraliterary languages,” “intensifying” and “hybridizing” them, making them collide and rub up against one another. But Bakhtin famously theorized poetry as monologic and exclusionary, “suspended from any mutual interaction with alien discourse, any allusion to alien discourse,” “destroying all traces of social heteroglossia and diversity of language”: “The language of the poetic genre is a unitary and singular Ptolemaic world outside of which nothing else exists and nothing else is needed.” Close analysis of twentieth-century American poems in relation to their generic others reveals a vastly more dialogic conception of poetry. This article focuses on poetry's ambivalent interactions with two of its generic others: the news and prayer as representing two widely divergent positions on a broad discursive spectrum. How do modern and contemporary American poems that engage with the news respond to journalism's mimeticism, presentism, and transparency? How do poems that adapt prayer respond to its ahistoricity, ritualism, and recursiveness? Do modern and contemporary American poetry more nearly resemble one or the other of its discursive cousins? How does American poetry overlap with, and distinguish itself from, these intergenres?
This chapter discusses the anthology of war, which it views as a political protest and an expression of solidarity during a time of national crisis. It states that anthologies serve as a way to sew poems together, and shows that these have played a central role in the creation and revision of the concepts of the ‘war poem’ and ‘war poet’. The chapter emphasizes that without the huge investment in war poetry, it is most likely that the works of Rosenberg, Owen, Sassoon, Auden, and Douglas would not have survived the two World Wars, and then looks at the role poetry played in making Britain as an ‘imagined community’. It also takes a look at the ‘Iconoclastic’ war poetry, the return of war poetry during the 1960s, and the 1960 anthologies of the Second World War verse.
The early poetry written by Asians in the United States was the work of immigrant laborers and foreign students—roles that often merged into each other, with migrant workers who composed their verse in rare moments of contemplation, in which they schooled themselves in the art of verse, and scions of wealthy families who found themselves serving as houseboys to fund their studies. Recognition of their work relied on their mastery of English, both for American publication and for their eventual recuperation within the Asian American movement, whose activist artists were second-generation immigrants who developed their American voices often at the expense of their parents' languages. This article considers four key moments and approaches in Asian American poetry—modernism, activism, mainstream, and avant-garde—through readings of influential and emblematic poems.
This article mentions the complicated relationship between elegy and the longing for aesthetic redemption; however, such longing is rarely distant from anger and rage, and therefore never far from the effort to make of the AIDS elegy a social genre that could offer the prospect of interaction ‘with the oblivious or indifferent’. The elegy adopts the testimonial precisely because it refuses to turn its back on the ‘urgent concern with the responsibilities of the living’. It then notes the poems by a few of the very well-known gay male poets as evidence of the way in which elegy was being adapted in this writing to the purpose of AIDS witness, somewhat in the manner of a coming out. The intertextual relation of the poems by Ingrid de Kok and Thomas Gunn signifies that here/there and now/then differences are not as self-evident as they may seem.
From the 1930s onwards, W. H. Auden has been a powerful influence on Irish poets. But because his poetry does not obviously intersect with any of the major recent narratives of Irish poetry—literary nationalism, critical revisionism—the range of his influence is under-appreciated. While his example can be felt in the adoption of specific poetic forms—the ballad, the verse-letter—his influence can be found, more generally, in a questioning of the relationship between the poet and his audience—to whom is the poem directed? What is the poem for? How should the poem compete with other forms of discourse? Looking at three Irish poets—Patrick Kavanagh, Derek Mahon, and Paul Muldoon—this essay argues that, in the grandiose wake of Yeats and the Revival writers, it is the deflationary, anti-hubristic stance of the later Auden that was crucial for the development of Irish poetry.
‘Audience and Awkwardness’ explores New Zealand poetry’s attempt to distance itself from the British literary tradition and asks whether it can now, in Allen Curnow’s words, ‘stand upright’ on its own terms. Contemporary New Zealand poetry is characterized by its casual speaking voice, its commitment to ‘code-switching’, and its resistance to aesthetic closure. Often explained via a narrative of aesthetic breakthrough, whereby British literary models were replaced by American, these characteristics speak more of the country’s geographic position and unique demographic, factors that allow New Zealand poets an unusual intimacy of cultural reference. New Zealand and British poets’ respective approach to lyric address offers a useful lens through which to examine their contemporary divergence. Where British poets such as Sujata Bhatt and Carol Ann Duffy present a lyric speaker confident enough in the wider presence of audience to turn away from an intimate addressee, contemporary New Zealand poets typically focus on the provisional and unstable presence of a second person. Typified by the work of Bill Manhire, this poetic stance provides great potential for the exploration of subjective experience while also reflecting ambivalence in its relationship with poetic audience and its response to geographic isolation.
In the early 1970s, Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland experienced violence because of the Troubles. The year 1972 saw thousands of shootings and explosions that killed nearly 500 people and injured 5,000 others. This escalating sectarian violence thrust Northern Ireland and Irish poets onto the international limelight. Many Irish poets, including W. B. Yeats and Louis MacNeice, wrote during the Troubles. Form played an important role in several Irish collections in the early 1970s, particularly John Montague's The Rough Field, Thomas Kinsella's Butcher's Dozen: A Lesson for the Octave of Widgery, Derek Mahon's The Snow Party, Seamus Heaney's North, and Eavan Boland's The War Horse. Although Irish poets showed aversion to writing ‘Troubles poetry’, the political situation in Northern Ireland formed the presiding preoccupation of these collections. The Rough Field combines protest and postmodern collage, marking a new direction in Irish poetry.
Edwige Tamalet Talbayev
This article explores the poetry and political writings of Algerian Berber Jean El Mouhoub Amrouche as alternative delineations of time in a colonial context—temporal models that disengage a local, fractal form of modernity from a historicist Eurocentric narrative of global development. Amrouche's writing addresses issues of cultural derivation and identity politics in an anticolonial, nationalist moment. The discussion engages Amrouche's complex consideration of the status of indigenous cultures in global discussions of modernity, as well as his vision of time within the framework of the nation-state. It shows how Amrouche attempted to create a literature of memory purportedly free from the taint of French historicism in his introduction to the Chants Berbères de Kabylie and in a 1941 essay, “Saint Stéphane Mallarmé”.
This article states that the inter-war poets were determined to stake their place in history, positively to document their self-consciousness about elegiac writing with a steely determination to enter a history reflectively recognized as historic. The elegies considered belong to an interval whose place was felt even as it was being lived. The article also explores how some representative examples negotiate the choices of elegiac discourse then available to them. It outlines some of the distinctive characteristics of the two inherited strains of elegy, since these form the raw materials for the interwar elegists' bricolage. George Orwell's elegy, like Tom Wintringham's ‘Monument’ and W. H. Auden's famous elegy for Yeats, is a memorial with a more general warning about the dangers of memorializing embedded within it. George Barker's resolution for himself is to repudiate transcendent language of all kinds.
This essay examines changes in poetry publishing since the 1960s, and the various forms of poetic community these changes shape and are shaped by. This period has seen the large-scale withdrawal of commercial publishers from poetry, and in the space left behind, the proliferation of small-press ventures and of State-subsidized independent poetry publishers. These patterns are closely related to larger changes within publishing, such as the formation of large conglomerates and the attendant pressures of market profitability for commercial publishers. They are also related to technological developments (such as mimeography and, more recently, print-on-demand) and to social changes (such as the expansion of higher education). The essay gives an overview of these phenomena, and examines the nature and extent of their bearing on poetry as a social and aesthetic activity.
Claire M. Tylee
This chapter studies the Holocaust poetry that is usually included in anthologies of Second World War poetry, and tries to place the Kindertransport poems as an integral part of the canon of British war poetry. Next, it notes that the Kinder-poets have emphasized the costs of their survival and that their poetry serves as a testament to the Holocaust, showing that these poems are rarely pleasurable and are hard-won. The chapter identifies the problem of finding enough forms of expression as a theme of writing about the Western Front in the First World War. It considers the authenticity of personal testimony in Holocaust literature and tries to widen the notion of what comprises Holocaust poetry, also looking at the gender differences in Holocaust writing and experience, and the oppression of Jewish writers.
‘CAT-Scanning the Little Magazine’ proposes an empirical but nuanced survey of British literary magazines. Such a project would eschew anecdotal approaches to literary history, taking a data approach rooted in indexing, pattern recognition and number, observing and aggregating ‘behavioural traits’ rather than perpetuating and amplifying myth. Indicating how this might proceed, the essay looks at a selection of magazines across the twentieth century from a range of aesthetic traditions, each chosen for the illustrative value of their particular characteristics, and concluding with observations on the relationship between small press culture and the little magazine.
This chapter discusses Catholic art and culture by focusing on Irish poetry, particularly the work of three poets raised in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland: Austin Clarke, Patrick Kavanagh, and Seamus Heaney. It examines Clarke's topical social critique and satire of Catholic institutions, as well as the subtle, grammatical resistances of his poetry. The chapter also considers Kavanagh's praise and prayer poems made in response to the glimpses of God he found in nature and the rural community. In addition, it analyses the iconography of Heaney's poetry, which draws on Catholic observance and ritual, as well as New Criticism, not only to create verbal icons but also to seek Real Presence in poetic form. Aside from its thematic engagement with Catholicism, the chapter examines Clarke's variations on Gaelic poetry, narrative poems, and wordplay; Kavanagh's poetic observances; Heaney's sacramental poetics; and the poem as icon.
This article elaborates what American modernist poets shared as they tried to appropriate aspects of the painters' projects while refusing slavish imitation and visible envy of the painters' centrality. There is much more at stake than learning how to adapt painterly collage. To adapt to a modernism defined primarily in the visual arts, they would have reconciled on their own terms the contrast in the epigraphs between Fry's formalism and Lawrence's sense of Cézanne's introducing a new relationship to matter and to energy. Because the best and most influential grappling with these issues is believed to take place in the later work of Cézanne, the article concentrates on the implicit theorizing that frames his use of the term “réalization” for his painterly quest. This concern puts the energies that form carries into dialogue with the possibilities of an artist providing a new yet plausible sense of the real, despite rejecting traditional representational paths to realist ends. It is argued that modernist poets adapt virtually the same strategies for their grappling with how a different medium might provide its own convincing access to what it could treat as reality.
‘Cinema Mon Amour’ examines the shift from T. S. Eliot’s rejection of cinema to contemporary poets’ engagement with it as object of desire, related to increasing cine-literacy, the influence of the Beats, and the BFI Production Board generation of film-makers, including Derek Jarman. Eliot characterizes film as ‘nerves in patterns on a screen’, feminized by association with the film star and film as popular culture, a characterization still seen in contemporary work, albeit rendered positively. Poets such as Simon Barraclough concentrate on film in relation to memory and an Edenic nostalgia, while feminist poets such as Redell Olsen and Denise Riley challenge both objectification and nostalgization by investigating the filmic, or formal, qualities of cinema, rather than the cinematic (industrial, economic), as distinguished by Garret Stewart. Together, they have shifted British film poems away from the televisual and towards the uniquely integrated, artisanal practice of film-maker and poet Margaret Tait.
R. Clifton Spargo
This article describes the measure of the elegy's self-subversions through history, but finds that in its contemporary form it has reached an apex of resistance that plays out in the realm of ethics. Focusing on Elizabeth Bishop, Ann Sexton, and Jorie Graham, the article reveals that contemporary elegy is intensely self-conscious; this self-consciousness plays out not only in the terms of the self-reflexive engagement, but in its acuteness with respect to its own temporality, and to the ethical considerations that are thereby inextricably tied to it. Bishop's poetry explores the provisional negotiations of memory in an effort to establish a continuous self that, despite the best efforts, is far less stable than its everyday capability might lead to suppose. Graham's poetry has been celebrated for its modernist or postmodernist difficulties. The surest sign of anti-elegy resides in its refusal to find restitution in the function of commemoration in culture.