Writing Home

Writing Home: Poetry and Place in Northern Ireland, 1968-2008

Elmer Kennedy-Andrews
Volume: 2
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 318
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81nnf
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  • Book Info
    Writing Home
    Book Description:

    Ideas of home, place and identity have been continually questioned, re-imagined and re-constructed in Northern Irish poetry. Concentrating on the period since the outbreak of the Troubles in the late 1960s, this study provides a detailed consideration of

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-682-3
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Elmer Kennedy-Andrews
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. ix-xi)
  5. EDITORIAL CONVENTIONS
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION: THE LIE OF THE LAND
    (pp. 1-20)

    Space and place are crucial regulators of our being in the world. Geographically, place is differentiated from space: space is abstract, featureless, indefinite; place is lived space, and carries connotations of familiarity, stability, attachment, nostalgia and homeliness.¹ Place is, first of all, constructed materially, through processes of interconnection and interdependence. However, the meaning of place is an imaginative project involving the production of images and the creation of identities which epitomise the culture of a particular place. Place has always figured importantly in the work of Irish writers – Yeats’s and Lady Gregory’s Co. Galway, J.M. Synge’s Aran Islands, Patrick Kavanagh’s...

  7. Chapter 2 PARADIGMS AND PRECURSORS: ROOTED MEN AND NOMADS John Hewitt, Patrick Kavanagh and Louis MacNeice)
    (pp. 21-52)

    John Hewitt seems a natural starting-point in that nearly all subsequent Ulster poets have looked up to him as a moral exemplar and pioneering figure, the ‘daddy of us all’,¹ even if they developed a completely different poetics and aesthetic. Hewitt picks up the perennial debate about poetry and place from a distinctively Protestant, Planter point of view:

    In my experience, people of Planter stock often suffer from some crisis of identity, of not knowing where they belong. Among us you will find some who call themselves British, some Irish, some Ulstermen, usually with a degree of hesitation or mental...

  8. Chapter 3 JOHN MONTAGUE: GLOBAL REGIONALIST?
    (pp. 53-82)

    Born in Brooklyn in 1929, shipped back at the age of four to Co. Tyrone where he was raised by his paternal aunts while his elder brothers stayed with their natural mother seven miles away, John Montague from an early age knew all about feelings of dispossession and exile. From his childhood Garvaghey home to boarding-school in Armagh, then to University College Dublin, then Yale, then to various American universities as poet and teacher, then three years in Paris as correspondent for the Irish Times, then back to Dublin in 1967, then sixteen years teaching in University College Cork interspersed...

  9. Chapter 4 SEAMUS HEANEY AND PAUL MULDOON: OMPHALOS AND DIASPORA
    (pp. 83-117)

    For a number of younger Irish poets, notably Paul Muldoon, Heaney has been the ‘strong precursor’ in whose shadow they have visibly struggled to clear their own poetic space and assert their own sense of autonomy and priority. The ‘belated’ poets’ anxiety of influence and determination to define themselves against the example of the father-poet have undeniably led to the opening up of exciting new directions in Irish poetry. For Heaney, embedded in a traditional rural culture and a Catholic nationalist metaphysics, and influenced by the example of fellow Ulster poets, Kavanagh and Hewitt, culture and identity are immanent in...

  10. Chapter 5 PADRAIC FIACC AND JAMES SIMMONS
    (pp. 118-136)

    Padraic Fiacc (real name Patrick Joseph O’Connor) was born in 1924 on the Lower Falls in Belfast. The family moved to East Street in Belfast’s Markets area, where he spent his first five years. He grew up in two cities, Belfast and New York. His father was involved in the IRA during the sectarian violence of the late 1920s and had to flee to New York. Reluctantly, his wife, accompanied by her two young sons, joined him a few years later in 1929, at the onset of the Depression. When the father’s grocery business went bankrupt, the family had to...

  11. Chapter 6 MICHAEL LONGLEY’S ECOPOETICS
    (pp. 137-154)

    In Heaney’s poetry, nature, childhood and the collective past are powerfully fused. His ‘sense of place’ stems from ideas of belonging to and dwelling in ‘one dear perpetual place’. The landscape inspires Heaney, not just because it is natural (in the ecological or universalist sense), but also because it is native. His early readings – and creative misreadings – of Wordsworth serve to clarify his own relationship with place and allow him to claim the English poet as a poetic fosterer. Commenting on Wordsworth’s famous passage in The Prelude

    The hiding places of my power

    Seem open; I approach, and then they...

  12. Chapter 7 DEREK MAHON: ‘AN EXILE AND A STRANGER’
    (pp. 155-179)

    Mahon’s relationship with his home place is profoundly troubled and ambiguous. Uneasy with the Protestant culture from which he sprang, and without access to the racial landscape in which his fellow Northern Catholic poets could situate themselves, he epitomises the displaced Northern Protestant for whom ideas of community are highly problematic. Like MacNeice, he is the existential outsider, more familiar with feelings of alienation than those of belonging. Without a community to which he can feel he belongs, he is drawn to romantic outsiders, bohemians, the forgotten and neglected. Thus, he celebrates De Quincey, Edward Dowson, Marilyn Monroe, the forger,...

  13. Chapter 8 TOM PAULIN: DWELLING WITHOUT ROOTS
    (pp. 180-202)

    In the course of his essay, ‘Dwelling without Roots’, on the famously homeless and geographically displaced American poet Elizabeth Bishop, Tom Paulin makes clear his deep distrust of those views of place which see it as a constant, the source of authentic value and identity. For Paulin, ideas of home rooted in history, land, language, tribe, ancestry and race memory harbour a dangerous essentialism. Such ideas conjure up for him the figure of Martin Heidegger and Heidegger’s image of the peasant cottage in the Black Forest that has long been dwelt in and embodies ‘the forces stemming from earth and...

  14. Chapter 9 CIARAN CARSON: THE NEW URBAN POETICS
    (pp. 203-224)

    Heaney’s statement in his essay ‘The Sense of Place’ that it is to ‘the stable element, the land itself, that we must look for continuity’¹ suggests a basic opposition: the land as timeless constant, the image of the past, the place of traditional ways, of all that is human and natural, the organic society; and the city as flux and change, the engine of progress and modernisation, the route to the future. Referring to the city, Raymond Williams draws attention to how ‘within the new kind of open, complex and mobile society, small groups in any form of divergence or...

  15. Chapter 10 MEDBH McGUCKIAN: THE LYRIC OF GENDERED SPACE
    (pp. 225-248)

    Medbh McGuckian has devoted her entire career not only to re-imagining women’s relation to the female body, to the domestic environment, and to the wider world of society, politics, religion and culture, but to re-constituting the very basis of female subjectivity and self-expression. She explains the demoralising state of affairs that prompts such a revolutionary enterprise:

    I know being a woman for me for a long time was being less, being excluded, being somehow cheap, being inferior, being sub. I associated being a woman with being a Catholic and being Irish with being from the North, and all of these...

  16. Chapter 11 NEW VOICES: Peter McDonald, Sinéad Morrissey, Alan Gillis, and Leontia Flynn
    (pp. 249-286)

    The ‘Northern Renaissance’ – that journalistically touted efflorescence of creative talent and activity that corresponded more or less with the outbreak of the Troubles in 1969 – began with those poets born in the late 1920s and ’30s who came to prominence in the early years of the Troubles (Montague, Heaney, Mahon, Longley). They were succeeded by a second generation born in the 1940s and 1950s who have also secured international reputations (Muldoon, Carson, McGuckian). Now we have a third wave, young poets born in the 1960s and ’70s who grew up during the Troubles and who made their mark in the...

  17. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 287-296)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 297-306)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-307)