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Walking Dublin: Contemporary Irish Poets in the City

Abstract and Keywords

Dublin is known worldwide as a city of literary walks. James Joyce's Ulysses, considered ‘the twentieth-century novel of walking par excellence’, is a classic example of the prose of walking. However, there is also a poetry of walking; Irish poets have developed a reputation as inveterate walkers. This chapter examines the presence of Dublin in contemporary Irish poetry and the ways in which Irish poets, including Thomas Kinsella, Paul Durcan, and Peter Sirr, have moved through the city on foot as they recorded its sensational realities, its sights, sounds, and streets. These ambulatory movements have generated mobile poetic forms and innovative aesthetic manoeuvres. Hazel Smith's musings on the ‘walk poem’ as poetic genre offer an instructive guide, while A. R. Ammons sees the poem as a walk. The poem becomes expansive, shifting territory, open-ended in its thematic and semantic possibilities as it transforms the poetic landscape around it.

Keywords: Irish poetry, Dublin, poets, literary walks, Thomas Kinsella, Paul Durcan, Peter Sirr, walk poem, Hazel Smith, A. R. Ammons

What is it that the Dublin air does to these writers? 1

‘Now here at last the city was being written into poetry’, Eavan Boland, then a student at Trinity College Dublin, observed of the changing Irish poetic landscape in the ‘new Ireland’ of the 1960s as the city moved into view and Irish poets became newly attentive to its ‘sights and sounds and streets’.2 This essay examines not merely the presence of Dublin city in contemporary Irish poetry but, more particularly, the ways in which Irish poets have moved through it on foot, recording its sensational realities, its sights, sounds, streets as they go, and, moreover, how these ambulatory movements have in turn generated mobile poetic forms and innovative aesthetic manoeuvres. Dublin is internationally recognized as a city of literary walks: held up as ‘the twentieth-century novel of walking par excellence’, James Joyce's Ulysses is the supreme example of the prose of walking.3 But there is a poetry of walking too, and Irish poets have long shown themselves to be inveterate walkers. Imaginatively inhabiting Dublin from far-off Australia in 1979, Vincent Buckley reminisces about how ‘Austin Clarke, victim of/Parnassus walked here once,/Building his maze of short moments’,4 and the streets of the city, the poetic (p. 493) terrain of Ireland, and the world more broadly, are haunted by a host of pervasive literary pacemakers. As we set off to tour Dublin as a walking-ground for contemporary Irish poets, Hazel Smith's musings on the ‘walk poem’ as poetic genre comprise an instructive guide: ‘When you walk the city you are in some senses writing it. The advantage of the walk poem is that it retains a sensation of mobility, the impression of place never ossifies’ as, ‘representative of contemporary life’, the walk is ‘improvised, transient and ephemeral’.5 For A. R. Ammons a poem is a walk: ‘not simply a mental activity: it has body, rhythm, feeling, sound, and mind, conscious and subconscious’.6 Taking as its starting point 1958—the year of first major collections by Thomas Kinsella and John Montague that set the tone for a ‘new Ireland’ of fresh poetic activity—this essay will forge a network of paths through the city's poetry to uncover connections, intersections, and lines of influence in many directions.

In 1958 Michael Longley walked through the gate of Trinity College Dublin to begin his undergraduate career. He would leave five years later, a ‘lapsed Classicist’ but a devout published poet, having been joined, in 1960, by Derek Mahon who fast became ‘inspiring company’ and an intrepid travelling companion on their shared journey into poetry.7 These decisive Dublin years had both of them discovering modern and contemporary Irish, European, and American poetry, and, notably for two poets who would become renowned for their use of the singing line, not just reading but listening to poems in their college rooms. Alive to the heartbeat of contemporary Irish poetic formal innovation as they studied their elders—Patrick Kavanagh, Austin Clarke, Louis MacNeice—they ‘read aloud to each other’ new poems by Montague and got Kinsella's ‘lilting lines’ off by heart.8 Trinity's broader literary community offered support from established ‘college poets’ Brendan Kennelly and Rudi Holzapfel, and opportunities for publication in Icarus. But poetry was in no way confined to the cloistered spaces of academe. The city's pubs accommodated the inspirational Alec Reid's ‘informal tutorials’ and Longley ‘spent more time exploring Dublin and James Joyce’: ‘I was inhaling Ulysses and got some early sense of Homer … from Bloom's wanderings’.9 Dublin's poetic culture was flourishing: Longley holds tactile memories of slim volumes of poetry ‘beautifully produced’ by Liam Miller's Dolmen Press, while the Irish Times, Dublin Magazine, and Poetry Ireland published and promoted new poetry. With its ‘family atmosphere’,10 Dublin boasted an enriching poetic community: poets conversed and converged on the streets as pub and poetic cultures intersected. It was in McDaid's pub that Mahon introduced himself to a largely disinclined MacNeice, and Longley memorably boozed with a ‘foul-mouthed (p. 494) and beatific’ Kavanagh.11 University College Dublin poets Paul Durcan and Michael Hartnett could also be found ‘sitting nervously at Kavanagh's table’.12 Both Northerners bloomed in this vibrant locale and what would prove to be lifelong preoccupations took root. As Longley plots their peripatetics in ‘River and Fountain’:

  • … O’Neill's Bar, Nesbitt's –
  • And through Front Gate to Connemara and Inishere,
  • The raw experience of market towns and clachans, then
  • Back to Rooms, village of minds, poetry's townland.13

This then was poetry's bountiful townland, and it was in Dublin that Longley formulated his long-held definition of poetry as the ‘fountain’ of Trinity's ‘imaginary’ Front Square.

Longley felt ‘at home as an Ulsterman living in Dublin’,14 while for Mahon it was a ‘home from home’.15 Both sentiments echo one written during the same time about the same city by one of their most revered poetic elders, MacNeice, who declared, in a 1962 essay for the New Statesman, that he had ‘always found the city a home from home’. What begins as a jaunty, journalistic account of MacNeice's attendance at the opening of the Joyce Museum—satirizing Bloomsday as the ‘promoter's dream’—modulates into a journey back through Dublin's past as it has been bound up with MacNeice's own through a series of affecting reminiscences which, as MacNeice himself concedes, though ‘trivial’ for him, ‘add up to a chain which can lower an anchor when [he] need[s] it’. In this unrequited love letter to the city, MacNeice's affection for the ‘old Dublin’ is keenly felt as he rhapsodizes about its enduring, unique, artistic qualities, all ‘gifts for the amateur photographer’: ‘the astonishing light and the air that caresses … and the screaming of the gulls and the newsboys … the paradoxes of the Dubliners themselves’. The word ‘paradoxes’ goes to the heart of MacNeice's sense of the city. Dublin, as he concludes, ‘remains constant and constantly variable’.16 The city will not be fixed and so it affords no end of possibilities—creative, philosophical, existential—for the thinking poet in transit. What marks Dublin at this time for both Mahon and Longley must be the city as a site of possibilities but also of enlivening, irreconcilable conflicts and divisions. Of his ‘subliminal education’ at Trinity, Longley remembers ‘walking in and out of the Front Gate and being aware of the tensions in myself and within the university’.17 As (p. 495) immortalized in Boland's backward-looking battle poem ‘Belfast vs. Dublin’, Mahon also was conscious of his own divided identity as he strained to find his voice: the ‘struggle going on between a surly Belfast working-class thing and something … debonair. The flâneurs I couldn’t help but admire and envy’.18 Edna Longley has observed how ‘Dublin's mongrel genealogy resembles [MacNeice's] own’,19 and it must be precisely the dislocated city's complex hybridity, as an ‘incorrigibly plural’ flux of historical and cultural multiplicity, that appealed to Mahon and Longley also.

‘I remember long smoky afternoons in Rooms beneath cloudy Dublin skies and think of the Yeats line, “The arts lie dreaming of the life to come”’, Mahon has nostalgically recalled.20 For him, 1960s Dublin is akin to Scott Fitzgerald's Jazz Age; a time of youthful possibility and restless excitement.21 Indeed, Mahon's wistful retrospections remind us that the critical narrative that has himself and Longley becoming poets under Belfast skies only is a severely partial view. ‘The more complex truth’, as Mahon has clarified, is that ‘at least one [of the so-called Belfast “group”] was sitting in Dublin reading Graves, Crane and Beckett’.22 ‘I began writing here in Trinity’, he has unequivocally declared.23 As Hugh Haughton corroborates, ‘it was actually in the Bohemian Dublin of the 1960s that Mahon forged his identity as a poet’, thus he should also be seen as part of the Dublin Literary Renaissance of the 1960s.24 In the same way, Fran Brearton has noted how Longley's first collection No Continuing City (1969) ‘has its roots in [his] experience not of a “troubled” Belfast, but of Dublin in the first part of the decade’.25 ‘Epithalamion’, Longley's final contribution to Icarus, opens the collection which also includes ‘Graffiti’ and ‘A Questionnaire’ from the Dublin period. Moreover, Longley has since ‘rescued from oblivion’ as he has described, ‘the best of these’ Icarus poems, ‘Tra-na-Rossan’—his first love poem and first poem about the West of Ireland—incorporating it into ‘After Tra-na-Rossan’ in Snow Water (2004).26 Even if for Longley, there would be no ‘continuing’, no abiding, city in his poetry—for unlike his hero Frank O’Hara, Longley is a botanist, but not of the sidewalk—this formative Dublin experience still affords creative possibilities: a new poem ‘Michaelmas, 1958’ positions him still ‘lodged above a poetry library, all/the Irish poets accumulating on Victor/Leeson's shelves in Dublin's Wellington Road’—testament to this literary city's continuing hold on his writerly imagination.27

‘Either literally or metaphorically we were following Mahon’, Conor O’Callaghan remembers of himself, Vona Groarke, and Justin Quinn, starting out as poets in the (p. 496) 1990s: adoring disciples, they would ‘totter curiously’ after him down Baggot Street ‘out of awe’.28 As ‘Captain of my nation’ Mahon promenades on Sandymount Strand in Durcan's ‘A Visitor from Rio de Janeiro’,29 and of the Belfast-Dublin poets it is Mahon who best exemplifies the flâneur. Moreover, as ‘Imbolc’ in The Hudson Letter (1995) signals, it is to Dublin's backstreets that this ‘recovering Ulster Protestant’, an ‘exile and a stranger’, looks as a point of return: ‘I shall walk the Dublin lanes as the days grow shorter,/I who once had a poem in The New Yorker’.30 These lines set the compass point for The Yellow Book (1997), composed in Dublin in 1996. Neatly summed up by Haughton as a ‘dandified, aleatoric Dublin kaleidoscope’,31 Mahon, as Dublin elegist, improvises an ‘urbane, end-of-season, end-of-century Dublin blues’.32 Dublin becomes a haunted site of literary convergences, with Fitzwilliam Square as a fallen ‘Georgian theme park for the tourist’, remembering MacNeice's condemnation of the ‘commercial vandalism which is prepared to ruin the finest Georgian vista in the world, Fitzwilliam Street’.33 ‘[S] hiver in your tenement’ recreates the ‘demure 1960s’ where Mahon forged his poetic identity as Clarke—to whose ‘New Liberty Hall’ the title looks back—Kavanagh, and other ‘European littérateurs’ enjoy the city's ‘unforced pace’: ‘Gravely they strolled down Dawson or Grafton St.,/thoughtful figures’.34 Like his predecessor Clarke, Mahon spent time incarcerated in Jonathan Swift's ‘home/for “fools and mad” ’ which in ‘Dawn at St. Patrick's’ becomes a ‘home from home’, a place of restoration. For the poet in crisis, walking confirms continuance, formally grounded by the reliability of end-rhyme: ‘Light and sane/I shall walk down to the train’.35 Mahon's intimate engagement with Dublin has been marked by continual returning, and it is when he cannot walk its streets that his sense of homelessness intensifies. ‘The Yaddo Letter’ opens on a note of poetic and personal failure as the poet locates himself somewhere ‘off Route 9P’ looking across the Atlantic to the shaky future of the poem's completion. ‘Write to me soon in Dublin’, the poet-as-father signs off to his distant children as he anticipates a return to that Edenic place of writerly possibility.36 Poetic fulfilment is always possible in Dublin, but in a city that is aspirational; of the mind if out of view.

The Dublin of 1958 was the ‘more cordial atmosphere’ to which John Montague, another ‘marooned northerner’, returned after his formative sojourn in America and with its poetry. Having previously embarked on his literary career in a ‘post-Emergency’ Dublin inimical to modern poetry—breeding only ‘acrimony and insult’—this curative (p. 497) trans-Atlantic ‘flight’ opened his stirring artistic consciousness to new poetic methods and exemplars.37 Settling near Brendan Behan on Herbert Street, Montague enjoyed Liam Miller's revitalizing effect on the literary capital with Dolmen Press publishing his own Forms of Exile in 1958. Twenty years on, Montague's book-length sequence of moving love poems, The Great Cloak (1978), would include not only one of the quintessential Dublin poems, ‘Herbert Street Revisited’, but another Dublin poem and a walk poem, ‘Walking Late’. Interestingly, Montague's own defining role as love poet evolved in reaction to the much-chronicled ‘depressing miasma’ of 1950s Dublin: ‘one of the answers to that … one of the forces that could transform this, would be the power of love’, he has explained in response to a question regarding his ‘subversive’ motives within the Irish context.38 The Great Cloak, as it moves through marital breakdown to the redemption of new love and fatherhood, is strongly reminiscent of Robert Lowell's controversial Dolphin of 1973. Although set firmly in Dublin, formally The Great Cloak follows the American line. As such it is a fine example of the distinctive elements of Montague's ‘formal ingenuity’ as discerned by Adrian Frazier: the ‘catlike precision of feet’ and mode of ‘accelerated grace’.39 Strongly felt are the tracks of the American poet Robert Creeley behind the lines as Montague, in ‘Walking Late’, reroutes the trajectory of Irish poetry:

  • Walking late
  • we share night sounds
  • so delicate the heart misses
  • a beat to hear them40

Montague has often professed his ‘affinity’ with Creeley, and his debt to the ‘American models’ who ‘helped him rein in his Irish loquacity and hone the short line that has been such a feature of his work’.41 Here Creeley's characteristic broken music, his style of halting at each line-end, is audible as Montague's heart, sensitive to the same ‘delicate’ pulse of the line, ‘misses/a beat’.

Charles Altieri has paid tribute to Creeley's remarkable ‘breath control’ that ‘can make every line-ending an adventure’,42 and Montague shares the same bold impulse towards ‘ending lines … to defeat expectation’,43 exemplified here in the poem where the deer are ‘still alert’: (p. 498)

  • to unfold
  • their knees from the wet grass
  • with a single thrust & leap away
  • stiff-legged, in short, jagged
  • bursts as we approach
  • stars lining
  • our path through the woods

Alert himself to the sonorous, the sinuous possibilities of movement over and within the flexible poetic line, in active defiance of limiting poetic conventions that regulate the poem by having it ‘march as docile as a herd of sheep between the fence of white margins’,44 Montague's own line-break adventures are enacted through sensitive use of enjambment and verbal concision. The poem is a living, dynamic event; Dublin itself throbs with life as a vibrant, resonating continuum as the walkers progress towards the city that:

  • with the paling dawn,
  • will surge towards activity again,
  • the bubble of the Four Courts
  • overruling the stagnant quays,
  • their ghostly Viking prows,
  • and the echoing archways …

As the walkers ‘circle uncertainly/towards a home’, the lines are mimetic of their drifting, tentative progress. Walking is thereby the key action in Montague's poetic formal innovation, with Creeley as pace-setting precursor. ‘In Creeley's usage the forward movement of walking is also the creative formulation of the word’,45 Kenneth Cox has remarked, and it is no accident that the jazz dance ‘Walking the Dog’ was chosen as the title for one of Creeley's most rigorous lectures on poetic technique and the imperatives of duration, timing, rhythm, and sound. ‘The majority of Irish poets write as though Pound, Lawrence, Williams, had not brought a new music into English poetry,’ Montague declared in 1973, citing Kinsella's ‘Nightwalker’ as one such work that is ‘muffled by the old-fashionedness of its form: he has discovered a new subject, but not, I feel, a new metric to energize it’.46 ‘Walking Late’ may be read as Montague's own response to Kinsella's ‘Nightwalker’ of ten years’ earlier.47

Kinsella is unquestionably the pre-eminent poet of modern Dublin: it was his ‘fresh and jagged’ ‘Baggot Street Deserta’ that for Boland typified the city's burgeoning (p. 499) presence in the 1960s. Crucial in this is the trope of walking that drives Kinsella's journeying poetics. As Andrew Fitzsimons has shown, ‘the motif of the walk in Kinsella is invariably an occasion for movement through time as well as space’. What is more, Fitzsimons's pronouncement that ‘what was at one stage in its composition called “Walking at Night” reveals Thomas Kinsella preparing himself to take Irish poetry into, in Gerald Dawe's phrase, “uncharted territory” ’48 makes explicit the vital connection between walking and writerly experiment in the groundbreaking ‘Nightwalker’. Famously criticized by Edna Longley for its unprecedented ‘meandering’ form, ‘Nightwalker’ remains, above all, a significant poem about poetry itself and the compositional process, as the first of Kinsella's poems to have ‘the act of poetry, the process of imaginative digestion’ as its subject.49 In terms of setting a precedent, ‘Nightwalker’ has also been held up as the first of Kinsella's poems to achieve the ‘successful absorption of Joyce’.50 As has been much-documented, this Joycean-inspired walking motif continues through Kinsella's oeuvre in poems that manage more effectively Montague's ‘new metric’. In ‘St Catherine's Clock’ the poet-walker begins by ‘divining the energies of the prowler’ while, traversing central Dublin as a site of history, Kinsella's ‘The Pen Shop’ is, as Derval Tubridy has remarked, among the poems that continue what Michel de Certeau has termed ‘the long poem of walking’: Kinsella ‘uses the poet-speaker's journey through a specifically delineated urban geography to explore the relationship between place and politics’.51 Here again the process of writing is the real subject. Indeed, the pen shop's ‘narrow cell’ may be seen to embody not merely, as Fitzsimons has noted, the monk's cell of ancient Irish literature or Kinsella's own ‘narrow room’ on Baggot Street, but formally, Wordsworth's sonnet as ‘narrow cell’. Thus the recurrence of this replicative term here tracks the changes, indicating how far Kinsella's organic poetic forms have developed since the early years of the less liberating, formal enclosures and, what is more, how this voyage into ‘uncharted territory’ is made possible by the choreography of both body and mind—the human foot and the metrical foot—as life and art, past and present, keep step with and energize each other.

Kinsella is rightly regarded as the quintessential Dublin prowler-poet and his most agile younger followers through the city include David Wheatley and Peter Sirr, both Trinity College alumni. Kinsella has been an important model for Wheatley who has not only learnt from him stylistically but, as a scholar, has argued for Kinsella's significance as ‘one of the great modern chroniclers of the city’ within an international context that includes Charles Reznikoff, Geoffrey Hill, and Roy Fisher.52 Sirr too regards Kinsella as the supreme poet of Dublin; more than that, he goes against reductive critical views that (p. 500) hold up Kinsella's representations of the city as informed by narrow agendas, by ‘the imperatives of nationalism’.53 As Sirr sees it, such easy readings are in fact more complicated as nothing in Kinsella is straightforward or rigid; rather we get an ‘intense and multi-faceted relationship with several Dublins’. Because of this, ‘you can’t say here is the Dublin of personal memory and here is the public entity, or here is the public and here the private voice. The nature of his pursuit is to find a way of writing which incorporates all of these and moves, often disconcertingly, from one to the other.’54 Like MacNeice's Dublin, Kinsella's Dublins cannot be simplified or made to stand for one thing only, and in this Sirr follows the older poet's pioneering example. Indeed, moving ‘disconcertingly’ is Sirr's forte. Moreover, this is enhanced by the formal procedures of his poetry. As Peter Robinson has shrewdly identified, ‘to get this evolving sound, Sirr had more or less to abandon the stanza as a self-contained apartment, and to strike out into blocks of responsively improvised verse’.55 Reviewing Mahon's The Hudson Letter, Sirr criticized its ‘willed formality’ as ‘more of an external imposition than a truly releasing scheme’.56 Taking its lead from Kinsella's meandering forms, Sirr's own formal elan is only ever ‘truly releasing’: exhilarating, dynamic, and exploratory.

Reviewers of Sirr's Bring Everything (2000) attributed its critical import to the way that it placed Dublin city centre-stage in new ways. ‘Its central character is the city of Dublin itself as it has never before been seen in our poetry,’ Justin Quinn observed.57 Echoing Quinn, Wheatley too lauded this ‘younger Southern poet’ who ‘stands out for his imaginative commitment to urban life … all too rare in the poetry of Celtic Tiger Ireland’.58 ‘Might the new Dublin give rise to a new Dublin poetry?’ Colin Graham asked, noting, like Quinn, how, in Sirr's treatment of the city, Dublin ‘becomes a character in its own right’, with Sirr a ‘flâneur of the new economy’.59 Sirr's own critical focus regularly fixes on poets who succeed in capturing a city in motion. Michael Smith, whose own walk home through a Dublin where Kavanagh still held court often overlapped with Hartnett's,60 is celebrated for his attentiveness to the darker aspects of Dublin city: ‘characteristically he's prowling the “Old rotten heart of the city” ’.61 But Sirr's readings of the modern city in poetry extend beyond Ireland. Reading Reznikoff, an avid walker-poet, Sirr relishes poems in which ‘the city is a continuous living and radiant presence’: ‘one of the most attractive aspects of his work is precisely his preparedess … to let the city come alive’.62 The poetics of the city performed by the ‘brilliantly adventurous’ Jacques Réda as (p. 501) he ‘reinvents the tradition of the flâneur’ are hailed for their ‘densely textured and richly musical’ technique, integral to which is rhythm; the momentum of walking: ‘Paris is what he writes with, providing subject and technique. The poems are often grounded in the city which he explores obsessively, traversing vast tracts of it on foot.’63 In this way, Sirr, like Réda, ‘sets himself afloat to drink in the sense data of the streets’.

The process of poetic composition has been likened by Sirr to an ‘adventure’ with ‘no real maps, no sure paths’.64 Bring Everything (2000) brings the multifaceted city to life as a constantly shifting, living organism through the wandering, weaving movements of a walking, thinking consciousness. Joyce once professed to being ‘more interested in the Dublin street names than in the riddle of the universe’, and Sirr's similar interest in street names and Dublin history makes for poems of startling originality and imaginative reach as the ground-level facts of the city unleash other realities. Street names can transform their surroundings, changing the colour of reality itself, as in ‘Sráid na gCaorach’ (Irish for ‘Sheep Street’) where the present street name, ‘Ship Street’, has come about circuitously thanks to the vagaries of spoken language whereby ‘sheep’ metamorphosed into ‘ship’.65 Thus, the bilingual street sign commemorates the twists and turns of linguistic translation. Sirr's instinctively orchestrated free verse is a liberating force and the soundscape of the city is evoked in the opening lines’ assonance where ‘street deep’ finds its resonance in ‘the bells of two cathedrals’.66 The city, an animated, cognitive presence, ‘leans/as if it has remembered something’, and the theme of memory, the city as a palimpsest of history, is thereby asserted. ‘Startled’, the street ‘rubs the wool from its eyes/and casts off …’ at the poem's end as ‘sheep’ and ‘ship’ are reconnected through the verb ‘casts’. The Irish-language title stresses the linguistic, temporal, and spatial crossovers that traversing Dublin necessitates, all of which is conveyed by the fluid runs over the line breaks and in the poem's inconclusive, elliptical ending. As Sirr takes the common ‘corruption’ of a street name and riffs on its imaginative and symbolic possibilities, De Certeau's theory of ‘the magical powers proper names enjoy’, and how these create ‘a strange toponymy that is detached from actual places and flies high over the city, like a foggy geography of “meanings” held in suspension’, seems appropriate.67 As they move imaginatively over the Dublin cityscape, Sirr's poems are profoundly alive to this airy indeterminacy and multiplicity of meaning.

In ‘The Hunt’, Sirr continues to transgress boundaries as a concrete Dublin is transmuted into a watery city through a seafaring metaphor and with verbs such as ‘dive’, (p. 502) ‘adrift’, ‘plunging’ pulling the ground from under us.68 Although loco-specific—it plots its way through ‘Old Kilmainham’, ‘Sitric Street’, ‘Ivar Street’—the reader never feels grounded as the poem drifts along on the changing gradations of light, particles of dust, the varying textures of ‘Sirr's intimate city’—a phrase which remembers Joyce's Dublin as ‘the last of the intimate cities’.69 In ‘China’, a moment out of Ulysses, in which a morning stroll through Dublin's sense-arousing streets transports Bloom to the orient (‘Wander through awned streets. Turbaned faces going by’),70 finds its twenty-first-century parallel. Here, a tumultuous, multicultural Dublin becomes richly overlaid temporally and spatially as the walker, drunk on a myriad of sensations, takes flight imaginatively and the city is transfigured in the process:

There's a moment the air will thicken, and the light shift, as if,

another country has poured itself in, another life

lent its corona …71

Here Sirr's improvisatory free verse conveys the city's disorienting plurality; Dublin's unending imaginative terrain is matched by expansive, exploratory lines, and propulsive sound effects of internal rhyme and repetition that carry the words forward as they move:

  • or it will happen like this:
  • a sudden, butchery odour on the street
  • and the pavement opens, the sky parts, something
  • floating back with such clarity it pulls you short

As the walker enters the city's flow, the lines, mimetic of his physical and metaphysical movement, swerve and spin, conveying the true multiplicity and contingency of experience as they hurl the reader into a rapid freefall: ‘and then it's gone, then a blur, the rest of the journey/irrecoverable’.72

In Sirr's poetry, simplistic theoretical boundaries—between urban and pastoral, person and place, life and death, past, present, future—are revealed as permeable just as they are in the city itself; and in The Thing Is (2009) the fluid city brings forth new life as it embodies the force of unstoppable change. In the rambling sequence ‘The Overgrown Path’, it is by walking ‘these few steps … down half the length of Chatham Street’ that the course of life changes irrevocably. A defamiliarizing, life-altering moment—the news of imminent fatherhood—stops the walker in his tracks in his attempt to stall time: ‘and I want to stop, hold on, loiter’.73 Later in the collection, following the child's entry into the world, its development runs concurrently with that of Dublin itself. In ‘In the (p. 503) Beginning’, the birth and growth of the city is charted in a continuous stream of images. ‘Eternal as water, endless as air’, the city's continuous music goes on forever, its ‘mudflats/singing’.74 In this rapturous evocation of Dublin across time, the city as life form is linked to the child, building on the preceding ‘At the Intersection’ where a walk through Dublin becomes the progress of life itself. Here, the critical tendency to pair Sirr with Frank O’Hara seems particularly appropriate. As the father and child undertake their morning excursion to school, the poet-as-father becomes O’Hara-esque in his elegy for the city in its passing and for the synchronous passing of childhood, as he addresses his young companion:

  • We’re still here, look: the ruins of the city have risen to meet us.
  • Raymond Street: you sit in your buggy and flourish the name like treasure.
  • I am wheeling you through masonry, clay, endless riddles of detail.75

‘Everything we know will disappear with us’, the speaker says of the mutable world. Yet ‘perfectly at home in the scatter’, the child, in her reversible dress, accommodates herself to the changing city, and so to the processes of death. The collection ends with an assurance of the paradoxical ‘brutal, lovely/persistence of the city’ as Catullus is translated to contemporary Dublin.76 Reviewing Hartnett's Inchicore Haiku (1985), Sirr pithily summarized it ‘as if Basho had awoken from the slumber of centuries and found himself in a chipper on Emmet Road’. 77 For Sirr, the collection's achievement lies in the way that the always listening, observing poet of daily ‘minutiae’ incorporates ‘chippers, birdsong, plastic bags’ into this diminutive Japanese form. The Hartnett of Inchicore Haiku has clearly been influential in opening up paths of possibility for Sirr along which he continues to move with boundless formal, intellectual, and imaginative vivacity.

‘You could have foregone all your Shangri-las/to pioneer Siberia-sur-Liffey’, David Wheatley writes to his nineteenth-century Dublin forebear, James Clarence Mangan, in Misery Hill (2000), as he assumes the mantle of present-day flâneur or ‘nightwalker’ in a contemporary Dublin underworld twinned with Dante's Purgatory.78 Misery Hill is haunted by the presiding spirits of Mangan and Beckett. For Wheatley, Beckett is a Dublin poet whose work ‘alternates between claustrophobic trampings round Dublin and moments of blissful centrifugal escape’, as the younger poet carefully attends to ‘Enueg I’ as a ‘trek around Dublin’ that is spoken by a ‘walker’.79 As Wheatley will know, Beckett confirmed that the poem is ‘based on an actual walk that he took from the Portobello Private Nursing Home westward along the Grand Canal out of the city then back along the River Liffey’.80 Thus it is Beckett the trailblazer that Wheatley pursues. (p. 504) Indeed, the connection between walking and continuance in Beckett is made explicit in Durcan's ‘The Beckett at the Gate’. Fittingly dedicated to Mahon, it has the poet-walker communing with Beckett, his pervasive ambulatory predecessor: ‘I keep on walking;/I’ll go on, I think, I’ll go on’, his expanding stomping ground indisputably that of Beckett: ‘Past the gasometer and Grand Canal Dock,/Misery Hill, The Gut, The Drain’.81 Many of the places signposted across Durcan's post-Beckettian nightwalk are weighty locus points for Wheatley, whose own ‘claustrophobic trampings’ in the manner of Beckett pivot on questions of home and elsewhere; Wallace Stevens's ‘that we live in a place/That is not our own’ is the epigraph to the title poem of his first collection, Thirst (1997).82 In ‘Autumn, the Nightwalk, the City, the River’, Wheatley, with a knowing nod to Kinsella and Beckett, walks Dublin's urban and suburban landscapes under the oppressive cover of darkness. Alert to the changing of the seasons, the rhythms of being, this practised walker identifies the different ambulatory style that autumn necessitates (‘nervous, brisker now’) and, as he follows the river (‘the only living thing’) towards a destination unknown, the poem moves in a tentative, meandering free verse that is itself mimetic of the edgy rhythm of walking, the stumbling hesitancies, ‘dead-ends’; for ‘what matter[s]’ here is ‘being lost’.83 As the final poem of Thirst, its concluding lines open out onto an uncertain, yet vast, spectrum of future exploration beyond ‘home’: ‘already forgetting dry land, open sea’.

Misery Hill continues and extends this perambulating poetics as the isolated speaker walks an inscrutable, amnesiac Dublin city where implausible street names signal only lost connections, impairment, and death: ‘Blind Alley,/Smock Alley, Hangman's Lane/Isolde's Tower’.84 Devoid of signifier, street sign, or marker, ‘Misery Hill’ is a long-forsaken site of the city's past, existing ‘on the map but nowhere else’, although readers of Beckett will know it as part of his symbolic geography. Obsolescence is the theme, the scene one of desertion and ruin on ‘this grim street’ that remains ‘featureless and empty besides’. In this there is a hint of the bleak desolation at the end of Shelley's ‘Ozymandias’, while the symbolic ‘letters/for anywhere but this grim street’ call to mind the dead letters of Herman Melville's scrivener Bartleby; Melville's scrivener metamorphoses into the scrivener Mangan, the presiding spirit of Misery Hill who lives on posthumously in textual form. In a sequence of fourteen sonnets addressed to Mangan, the great Dublin flâneur, Wheatley interrogates Mangan, pursuing his ‘dizzy paper trail’ of selves.85 Mangan's own poetic project was concerned with reclamation, and here Wheatley reclaims Mangan as an enabling precursor, appealing to him as a similarly conflicted (p. 505) poet-critic: ‘Help me James, to take upon myself/the sins of poets’.86 Playfully dislocative rhymes include ‘Siberia’/‘suburbia’, ‘Offices’/‘faeces’ as Wheatley superimposes Mangan's ‘landscape of the lost’ on contemporary Dublin: ‘Fishamble Street, the Civic Offices/turning the sky a bureaucratic grey’. The design of the poem skilfully creates a sense of unending motion, the city's own integral processes of creation and destruction, as the enjambment in its ‘turning’ repeats, in the opening lines, the unnatural working of the Civic Offices on the sky, and, across the seventh and eighth lines, orchestrates the falling and rising of the buildings, Georgian houses giving way to concrete formations:

  • One last buttressed Georgian house holds out
  • precariously against the wreckers’ ball
  • or simply lacks the energy to fall
  • and rise again as one more concrete blot.87

The pun on concrete ‘blot’ (instead of block) points up the eyesore that is reconfiguring the city skyline. The Civic Offices themselves were built on Wood Quay, the site of a Viking settlement, and are a blight on the city's landscape, a monument to the destruction of its historical past. The rising and falling of the city's architecture, as history is erased and replaced with these obdurate, corporate, high-rise edifices, is underscored by the rising and falling cadences of Handel's sublime ‘ghost harmonics’—unheard, imperceptible—the lost music reverberating in the speaker's mind only and providing a poignant ground bass to the city's obliteration. There is no music here, only silence, as the city's history and culture are wiped out: ‘Of you Mangan, not a trace’. A poet seeking out the company of the ghost of another, Wheatley keeps step with the contemporary city, past and present, walking his disappearing city to create a journeying meditation on art and on human existence. In the title-sequence of thirty-three sonnets in terza rima that ends Misery Hill, the walker's madcap peregrination through a warped, debased Dublin becomes a lurid, burlesque version of Dante's Purgatorio. Walking is a via dolorosa; the poem, a dizzying head-rush of sonnet upon sonnet until the whole of Celtic Tiger Dublin fades and the speaker is hurled back to the dingy reality of a Dublin bedsit. Wheatley's affinity with Sirr is clear and his poems of the city share the same ‘imaginative commitment to urban life’. Although later collections will have him leave Dublin and put out to sea, it remains the setting-out point for this inexhaustible, peripatetic poet.

The female flâneur in Irish literature has received little critical attention, even less so in Irish poetry. The idea of the flâneuse immediately suggests the figure of the street walker or prostitute, thereby linking the vulnerable female walker to dangerous realities not known to the flâneur. One of the first twentieth-century Dublin poems to star a female walker must be Stevie Smith's ‘Bag Snatching in Dublin’ which dramatizes, through deft metrical shifts, a Liffey-side walk in the 1930s as ‘Sisley’ meets her end to the drawn-out (p. 506) accompaniment of the river's ‘turgid flood’.88 Present-day Dublin flâneuses include Paula Meehan, who grew up in one of the Georgian houses so beloved by MacNeice and Mahon, but one that had been turned into a tenement slum. One of the most streetwise poets, the city forms a backdrop to her investigations of social and familial history. As Elisabeth Mahoney has summarized: ‘There are two main narratives of Dublin in her poetry: a childhood Dublin, a city of memory, and an adult city, constantly rediscovered as it develops.’89 Another nocturnal ambler, she sets out on her own ‘Night Walk’ in Pillow Talk (1994), covering a large part of the city's history and geography as her nocturnal peregrination takes in Fumbally Lane, the Blackpitts to Mount Street and back. The theme is sexual violence as the poem articulates a ‘prayer’ for ‘that poor woman last night/dragged down Glover's Alley, raped there’.90 Meehan has expressed her commitment to mapping the city of Dublin in her own terms; ‘The city was incredibly well-mapped in literary terms. But, yet, my city wasn’t’,91 and it is partly through walking that she negotiates her way. For a younger poet such as Caitríona O’Reilly, Dublin is both the point of origin and of necessary departure, as rendered in the poem ‘Sunday’, set on the Liffey's banks, where the circumscribed river's constrictions reflect the walking poet-speaker's entrapment as she stumbles falteringly with her companion. Formally, the narrow two-line stanzas refuse the harmonies of end-rhyme, and stuttering sound effects predominate as the ‘stopped world’ of the derelict city is underscored by a hard consontantal cacophony—‘wrecked’, ‘wind-rocked’, ‘clamp’—with the Liffey's tortured flow menacingly wound through repeated sibilance: ‘twists inside its stone confines, heedless’.92 In terms of poetic confluences, this must be the same abandoned locale of Wheatley's ‘Misery Hill’ where ‘Only the gods that are cranes can see/the wrecker's yard behind one wall’,93 confirming Dublin, even in its unlikeliest spaces, as a fecund poetic meeting ground, a site of constant renewal—the disused Dockland setting of both poems has since been redeveloped—that the poet sets out from and can return endlessly to.

Having travelled so far across the work of a range of the most intrepid and inventive Irish poets writing and walking today, it seems fitting to end with a walk poem by a poet who persists in complicating any stable notions of place, of gender, of tradition, of language; a multilingual poet of exile and indeterminacy who is deeply attentive to the contingencies of world and word, and who has been one of the most enabling senior figures and formidable presences in Irish poetry, as a lecturer in English at Trinity College Dublin and one of the founding editors in Dublin in 1975 of the magazine Cyphers. Cork-born Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin's identities are many; she may be read as both an Irish (p. 507) poet—part of the 1970s generation of Munster poets, part too of the post-Kinsella generation of Dublin poets—and as the most truly transnational of poet-translators, living as she does ‘between Dublin and Umbria’. As Thomas McCarthy has recognized her dual position: ‘She has always spoken from a double province: the Dublin poem, the Cork poet.’94 Belonging to no one school, she has situated herself in time as coming ‘half a generation after Kinsella’, aligning herself thus ‘away from that masculine agenda of rural description which Heaney somehow continued’,95 and her urban imagination bears this out, facilitating a poetry of endless scope and resource across time and space. Although Dublin may be ‘home’—arriving in Dublin in 1967 after ‘exile’ in Oxford, she says she discovered ‘not only home but Bohemia’– her postmodern imagination encompasses an extensive, constantly shifting ground as, even here, in what should be read as a straightforward interview response, one specific place (Dublin) is defined through another (Bohemia) to effect profound dislocation and semantic deferral.96

Among Ní Chuilleanáin's Dublin poems is ‘Man Watching a Woman’. Yet were it not for the fact of the poem's inclusion on the 1998 audio anthology Dublin 15: Poems of the City, one might not recognize the poem's topography as being of that city. ‘Strangeness’ is a key condition of being for this poet who has described poetry as essentially ‘the strangeness of words arranged in lines’.97 This poem is nothing if not strange, ungraspable, even if its plot may be given as follows: an unnamed man sets out late at night on foot, and goes, for reasons never divulged, to watch a woman at work in a refectory, then moving on through the anonymous city to watch girls working late in bars, at which point the poem ends. As an inconclusive, open-ended imaginative expedition in which any specifics of meaning are suspended, it typifies Ní Chuilleanáin's elusive strategies. Indeed, for Sirr, in an astute essay that laments the lack of experimentation in contemporary Irish poetry, Ní Chuilleanáin is held up as a necessary alternative to this; a poet whose subversive approach ‘makes us throw away our maps and wander in the dangerous and surprising undergrowth of the poem’, one of the poets who ‘reinvent the lyric and send it spinning out of its normal orbit’.98 Sirr's metaphors here lend themselves perfectly to a reading of ‘Man Watching a Woman’, the obliquities of which may, to my mind, be illuminated if it is read as a poem about poetry itself and one that foregrounds questions that go to the heart of Ní Chuilleanáin's searching, endlessly disturbing poetics. The man in the poem is, after all, another nightwalker, and as it is ‘sound’ and ‘sense’ that set him on his venture, he must embody the figure of the poet at work: (p. 508)

  • The sound of everything folding into sleep,
  • A sense of being nowhere at all,
  • Set him on his way (traffic far off and wind
  • In tall trees) to a back gate, a dark yard …99

Sirr has praised the ‘trajectory of attentiveness and perception’ that sets Ní Chuilleanáin's oeuvre apart, qualities that the nightwalker too possesses as ‘He stops and watches. He needs to see this.’ Concealed in night, unseen yet all-seeing, remaining detached, out in the cold, he studies the woman through the window, the meaningfully positioned ‘privet hedge’ suggestive of the privacy that he transgresses from his liminal position. ‘Comforted’ as he is somehow by the nun's activity in the ‘refectory’ (fittingly, a place of refreshment), the poem proliferates with present particles at this point as, though sedentary, the nun is all activity (‘working’, ‘sewing’, ‘dropping’, ‘falling’) as she moves in and is bound by time, her immobile ‘feet’ clamped down by poetic technique as the hard alliteration of their being ‘trapped/in toils of cloth’ is secured with an adamantine full stop. ‘Comforted’, having seen ‘this’ (the specificity usually endowed by deixis denied here), the nightwalker's progress resumes over lines that run on with propulsive force as ‘the night combs out/Long rushing sounds into quiet,/On to the scene, the wide cafés –’. Ever attuned to the world as it presents itself at each moment, the walker now scrutinizes the ‘faces behind the bar,’ and here the music of poetry sounds forth to consolidate artistic activity, poetry as process of sound and rhythm:

  • Their muscles bracing under breakers of music
  • And the weight of their balancing trays, drinks, ice
  • and change.

What carries over is the precarious poise of poetic composition itself; the full-bodied alliteration of ‘bracing’, ‘breakers’, ‘balancing’ balancing the closing two lines which are further supported and matched through assonance as the ay of ‘bracing’ and ‘breaker’ is carried over into ‘weight’, ‘trays’, and ‘change’, stablizing the entire transaction. The poem oscillates between stasis and motion to show how the act of poetic composition is itself a balancing act, an act of measuring, weighing, counting—Ní Chuilleanáin has revealed how her own compositional process necessitates formal push and pull.100 As form is mimetic of content, a tension is set up between the poetics of engagement, of being out in the world, and the concealed, circumscribed handwork of the domestic realm. Yet it is the domestic encounter that enables the man to go on. Suitably, for a poet who has identified herself as having ‘never been a domestic woman’—‘It's a subject I occasionally contemplate from a distance, but I don’t feel it really suits me’—the woman in the poem enacts domestic activity while the man ‘contemplates from a distance’.101 ‘When I started (p. 509) to write, I had to invent strategies for saying “I” in a female persona …. The nuns were a great help there’:102 Ní Chuilleanáin has plotted her own artistic vocation and it cannot be accidental that it is a nun the man attends to and draws sustenance from. Both conditions of artistic being are therefore viable; the poem refuses to choose between them.

Ultimately, Ní Chuilleanáin's transformative poetics of transit and translation equates the force of poetic composition with the natural vigour of ‘a person walking’; formally and rhythmically determined by the thinking, shaping consciousness in a process of exploring the unknowable, the indefinable:

I’m very interested in the idea that every poem should have a shape of its own, and … that [the words] should have a rhythm, that they should have a weight and shift of their own. And it would be sort of natural, like a person walking …103

‘If you want to talk about it in terms of place, my place is on the move’,104 Ní Chuilleanáin has gestured, and in ‘Man Watching a Woman’ the poet as indefatigable prowler is reminiscent of the insatiable stalker of Edgar Allan Poe's ‘The Man of the Crowd’, a tale of the city that impressed itself upon the pre-eminent flâneur-poet, Charles Baudelaire. Indeed, when asked in 1998 to identify a poem that has been ‘crucial’ for her, Ní Chuilleanáin selected Baudelaire's ‘Le Cygne’ for the way it ‘made the mysterious equation between the heart and the city’. Crucially for Ní Chuilleanáin, Baudelaire's poem of the city ‘decentres the being and the personality, refuses to be classified, questions any certain human boundaries’, the nineteenth- century metropolis compelling for ‘the vastness and variety of its modernity’.105 ‘Man Watching a Woman’, as it extends the flâneur tradition in art, epitomizes the artist as inhabiting more than one place or state, as defiant of convention, endlessly interrogating and crossing boundaries, keeping apart and on the move, and, in the process, moving poetry itself into new, strange territories, beyond the limits of conventional literary maps and markings. For the most daring Irish contemporary poets, walking in the city makes available the same ‘vastness and variety’ in poems that are alive to formal exploration and experiment, and whose invigorating intellectual probings and journeyings are often profoundly disruptive and disconcerting. The poem itself becomes expansive, shifting territory, open-ended in its thematic and semantic possibilities, transforming the poetic landscape around it. As the poet-walker experiences on foot the city's restless energies and vitalizing tensions, such ambulatory procedures channel poetic events that are, like the boundaryless, changeable city itself, richly complex, kinetic, and multidimensional.


(1) Frederick Warburg quoted in James Knowlson, Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), 343.

(2) Eavan Boland quoted in Jody Allen Randolph, ‘A Backward Look’, Colby Quarterly 35:4 (1999), 294.

(3) Peter I. Barta, Bely, Joyce, and Döblin: Peripatetics in the City Novel (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996), 49.

(4) Vincent Buckley, ‘Templeogue: a sound bitten’, Collected Poems, ed. Chris Wallace-Crabbe (Victoria: John Leonard Press, 2009), 262.

(5) Hazel Smith, The Writing Experiment: Strategies for Innovative Creative Writing (Northam: Allen & Unwin, 2005), 263.

(6) A. R. Ammons, ‘A Poem is a Walk’, Epoch 18 (Fall 1968), 114–19.

(7) Michael Longley, interview with Dermot Healy, Southern Review 31:3 (Summer 1995), 558–9.

(8) Longley, ‘A Boat on the River (1960–1969)’ (1999), repr. in Flowing Still: Irish Poets on Irish Poetry, ed. Pat Boran (Dublin: Dedalus, 2009), 55.

(9) Such peregrinations inspired the poems ‘Nausicaa’, ‘Circe’, and ‘Odyssey’. Michael Longley, interview with Peter McDonald, Thumbscrew 12 (1998–9), 5–14.

(10) Michael Longley, The Poetry Programme, RTÉ Radio 1 (9 February 2008).

(11) Longley, ‘A Boat on the River’, 55. See also Derek Mahon, ‘Eclogues Between the Truculent’, in Incorrigibly Plural: Louis MacNeice and his Legacy, ed. Fran Brearton and Edna Longley (Manchester: Carcanet, 2012), 101–2.

(12) Derek Mahon, ‘Yeats and the Lights of Dublin’, in The Dublin Review Reader, ed. Brendan Barrington (Dublin: Dublin Review Books, 2007), 45.

(13) Michael Longley, Collected Poems (London: Jonathan Cape, 2006), 237.

(14) Longley, interview with Healy, 558.

(15) Derek Mahon, ‘A Ghostly Rumble Among the Drums’, in Journalism: Selected Prose, ed. Terence Brown (Oldcastle: Gallery, 1996), 223.

(16) Louis MacNeice, ‘Under the Sugar Loaf’ (June 1962), Selected Prose of Louis MacNeice, ed. Alan Heuser (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 250.

(17) Michael Longley quoted in Fran Brearton, Reading Michael Longley (Tarset: Bloodaxe, 2006), 17.

(18) Derek Mahon, interview by John Brown, In the Chair: Interview with Poets from the North of Ireland (Cliffs of Moher, County Clare: Salmon Publishing, 2002), 114.

(19) Edna Longley, Louis MacNeice: A Critical Study (London: Faber, 1988), 27.

(20) Derek Mahon, ‘The Age of Ignorance’, Icarus 60 (March 2010), 51.

(21) See Mahon, ‘A Ghostly Rumble’, 223.

(22) Derek Mahon, ‘Modernist Poets’, Irish Times (16 July 1987), 9.

(23) Mahon, interview by Terence Brown, Poetry Ireland Review 14 (Autumn 1985), 13.

(24) Hugh Haughton, The Poetry of Derek Mahon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 21.

(25) Brearton, Reading Michael Longley, 13.

(26) Longley, ‘Tarnished Buttons’, Icarus 60 (March 2010), 47.

(27) Longley, ‘Michaelmas, 1958’, private correspondence with author (31 May 2011).

(28) Conor O’Callaghan, In the Chair, ed. John Brown, 305–6.

(29) Paul Durcan, Greetings to our Friends in Brazil (London: Harvill, 1999), 35.

(30) Derek Mahon, Collected Poems (Oldcastle: Gallery, 1999), 218. The Hudson Letter has been retitled New York Time in Mahon's New Collected Poems (Oldcastle: Gallery, 2011), and ‘Imbolc’ is now ‘St Bridget's Day’.

(31) Haughton, The Poetry of Derek Mahon, 274.

(32) Haughton, ‘Le Spleen de Dublin’, TLS (24 April 1998), 24.

(33) MacNeice, ‘Under the Sugar Loaf ’, 250.

(34) Mahon, Collected Poems (1999), 230.

(35) Ibid., 171.

(36) Ibid., 182, 185. ‘The Yaddo Letter’ is retitled ‘Yaddo, or A Month in the Country’ in New Collected Poems, 157–60.

(37) John Montague, Introduction to Poisoned Lands, rep. in The Figure in the Cave and Other Essays (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1989), 53–4.

(38) Montague, ‘An Interview with John Montague’, by Dennis O’Driscoll, Irish University Review 19:1 (Spring 1989), 62.

(39) Adrian Frazier, ‘John Montague's Language of the Tribe’, Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 9:2 (1983), 67.

(40) John Montague, The Great Cloak (Dublin: Dolmen Press, 1978), 46.

(41) Montague, quoted in David Wheatley, ‘Still in the Swim’, Books Ireland (February 2000), 5.

(42) Charles Altieri, ‘What Does Echoes Echo?’, in Form, Power and Person in Robert Creeley's Life and Work, ed. Stephen Fredman and Steve McCaferty (Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2010), 48.

(43) Montague, ‘A Note on Rhythm’, in The Figure in the Cave, 48–9.

(44) Ibid., 49.

(45) Kenneth Cox, ‘Address and Posture in the Early Poetry of Robert Creeley’, in Robert Creeley's Life and Work: A Sense of Increment, ed. John Wilson (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1987), 183.

(46) Montague, ‘The Impact of International Modern Poetry on Irish Writing’, The Figure in the Cave, 219.

(47) In terms of this call and response between the two poets, Brian John notes that ‘Montague may have unintentionally influenced Nightwalker through his own Patriotic Suite (1966)’. See Brian John, Reading the Ground: The Poetry of Thomas Kinsella (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1996), 97.

(48) Andrew Fitzsimons, The Sea of Disappointment: Thomas Kinsella's Pursuit of the Real (Dublin: UCD Press, 2008), 184–6.

(49) Kinsella, ‘Interview with Thomas Kinsella’, by Dennis O’Driscoll, Poetry Ireland Review 25 (Spring 1989), 63.

(50) John, Reading the Ground, 24.

(51) Derval Tubridy, Thomas Kinsella: The Peppercanister Poems (Dublin: UCD Press, 2001), 216.

(52) David Wheatley, ‘ “All is emptiness/and I must spin”: Thomas Kinsella and the Romance of Decay’, Irish Studies Review 16:3 (August 2008), 332.

(53) Justin Quinn, The Cambridge Introduction to Modern Irish Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 203.

(54) Peter Sirr, ‘A Poet's Guide to his City’, Irish Times (12 December 2006).

(55) Peter Robinson, ‘Sleeve of Europe’, TLS (5 August 2005), 26.

(56) Peter Sirr, rev. of The Hudson Letter, by Derek Mahon, Poetry Ireland Review 48 (Winter 1996), 84.

(57) Justin Quinn, ‘O Seasons, O Cities’, Metre 10 (Autumn 2001), 106.

(58) Wheatley, ‘Floating Down Sheep Street’, TLS (20 July 2001), 25.

(59) Colin Graham, ‘Poems of the City’, Irish Times (20 January 2001).

(60) Michael Smith, ‘Remembering Michael Hartnett’, Irish Times (16 February 2009).

(61) Peter Sirr, ‘Writing the Bare Bones, Irish Times (22 August 2009).

(62) Peter Sirr, ‘Charles Reznikoff’, The Cat Flap (22 June 2008) 〈

(63) Peter Sirr, ‘Small Dramas’, Poetry Ireland Review 101 (Summer 2010), 90–6 (95).

(64) Peter Sirr, ‘The Hat on the Chair’, in The Watchful Heart: A New Generation of Irish Poets, ed. Joan McBreen (Cliffs of Moher: Salmon Publishing, 2009), 173.

(65) Cf. Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, Act II:1 where a similar mishearing of ‘sheep’ for ‘ship’ occasions a comic moment:

Maria: Two hot sheeps, marry.

Boyet: And wherefore not ships?

Maria: No sheep, sweet lamb.

(66) Peter Sirr, ‘Sráid na gCaorach’, Bring Everything (Oldcastle: Gallery, 2000), 11.

(67) Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 104.

(68) Sirr, Bring Everything, 12.

(69) James Joyce, quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 253.

(70) James Joyce, Ulysses (London: Penguin, 1992), 68.

(71) Sirr, Bring Everything, 14.

(73) Peter Sirr, The Thing Is (Oldcastle: Gallery, 2009), 24.

(74) Ibid., 51.

(75) Ibid., 49.

(76) Ibid., 75.

(77) Peter Sirr, ‘The Short and the Long’, Irish Times, Weekend Review (21 September 1985), 11.

(78)  David Wheatley, Misery Hill (Oldcastle: Gallery, 2000), 21.

(79)  David Wheatley, Preface, Samuel Beckett: Selected Poems, 1930–1989 (London: Faber, 2009), pp. ix, xii. As Marjorie Perloff has pointed out, ‘Enueg I’, showing its Joycean influence, has a ‘tone of documentary veracity’ as its ‘depicted circular walk can be traced on a map of Dublin’. What is more, it follows the ‘promenade structure’ of Guillaume Apollinaire's ‘Zone’. Perloff, ‘Beckett the Poet’, in A Companion to Samuel Beckett, ed. S. E. Gontarski (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 213–14.

(80) See Knowlson, Damned to Fame, 137.

(81) Paul Durcan, Life Is A Dream: 40 Years Reading Poems 1967–2007 (London: Harvill Secker, 2009), 168–74. Erik Martiny reads it as symptomatic of Durcan's struggle with Beckett as a ‘frightful, invasive creature’. Martiny, ‘Demonic Forefather: Portraits of Samuel Beckett in the Works of Paul Durcan’, Nordic Irish Studies 5 (2006), 149–56.

(82) David Wheatley, Thirst (Oldcastle: Gallery, 1997), 65.

(83) Ibid., 74.

(84) Wheatley, Misery Hill, 10.

(85) Ibid., 13.

(86) Ibid., 16.

(87) Ibid., 12.

(88) Stevie Smith, Collected Poems (New York: New Directions, 1976), 47.

(89) Elisabeth Mahoney, ‘Citizens of its Hiding Place: Gender and Urban Space in Irish Women's Poetry’, in Ireland in Proximity: History, Gender, Space, ed. Scott Brewster (London: Routledge, 1999), 148.

(90) Paula Meehan, Pillow Talk (Oldcastle: Gallery, 1994), 20.

(91) Meehan, quoted in Luz Mar González-Arias, ‘In Dublin's Fair City: Citified Embodiments in Paula Meehan's Urban Landscapes’, An Sionnach 5:1/2 (2009), 36.

(92) Caitríona O’Reilly, The Nowhere Birds (Tarset: Bloodaxe, 2001), 33.

(93) Wheatley, Misery Hill, 10.

(94) Thomas McCarthy, ‘ “We Could Be in Any City”: Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Cork’, Irish University Review 37:1 (2007), 232.

(95) Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, ‘An Interview with Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’ by Leslie Williams, in Representing Ireland: Gender, Class, Nationality, ed Susan Shaw Sailor (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997), 39.

(96) Ibid., 33.

(97) Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, ‘Where is Poetry?’, Poetry Ireland Review 92 (2007), 63–6.

(98) Peter Sirr, ‘ “How Things Begin to Happen”: Notes on Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Medbh McGuckian’, Southern Review 31:3 (1995), 451, 467.

(99) Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, The Brazen Serpent (Oldcastle: Gallery, 1994), 38.

(100) ‘Interview with Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’ by Patricia Boyle Haberstroh, Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 20:2 (December 1994), 69.

(101) ‘Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin: Interviewed by Deborah Hunter McWilliams’, in Writing Irish: Selected Interviews with Writers from the Irish Literary Supplement, ed. James P. Myers (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1999), 204–5.

(102) ‘An Interview with Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’ by Leslie Williams, 39.

(103)  ‘Interview with Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’ by Kevin Ray, Eire-Ireland: A Journal of Irish Studies 31:1/2 (1996), 66.

(104) ‘Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin: Interviewed by Deborah Hunter McWilliams’, 205.

(105) ‘Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’, ‘Charles Baudelaire’, Poetry Ireland Review 59 (1998), 25.