Blake Morrison & Andrew Motion, eds., The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1982).

Contains a selection of Northern Irish poets as follows:

SEAMUS HEANEY: ‘Churning Day’, ‘At Ardboe Point’, ‘Broagh’, ‘Anahorish’, ‘Mossbawn: Two Poems in Dedication [Sunlight’, ‘The Seed Cutters]’, ‘Funeral Rites’, ‘The Tollund Man’, ‘Punishment’, ‘Strange Fruit’, ‘extract from The Singing School’ [‘A Constable Calls’, ‘Exposure], ‘Casualty’, ‘the Harvest Bow’, ‘The Otter’, ‘extract from Glanmore Sonnets [1’, ‘V’, ‘VIII’, ‘X]’, ‘Leavings’. (pp.21-40). Note that Heaney is the first poet in the collection and that this was the anthology that led him to write “My Passport's Green” in a Field Day pamphlet responding to his implied grouping as a British poet.

DEREK MAHON: ‘Afterlives’, ‘Ecclesiastes’, ‘Lives’, ‘A Refusal to Mourn’, ‘the Last of the Fire Kings’, ‘The Banished Gods’, ‘Leaves’, ‘The Snow party’, ‘A disused Shed in Co. Wexford’.(pp.69-80).

MICHAEL LONGLEY: ‘Wounds’, ‘Second Sight’, ‘The Linen Workers’, ‘Swans Mating’, ‘Love Poem’, ‘Mayo Monologues [‘Brothers’, ‘Housekeeper’, ‘Self-heal’, ‘Arrest’] (pp.811-86.)

TOM PAULIN: ‘Settlers’, ‘Under the Eyes’, ‘Provincial narratives’, ‘In a Northern Landscape’, ‘Dawros Parish Chruch’, ‘Trotsky in Finland’, ‘Anastasia McLaughlin’, ‘the Harbour in the Evening’, ‘Second-Rate Republics’, ‘A Lyric Afterwards (pp.116-24.)

MEBDH McGUCKIAN: ‘Slips’, ‘The Hollywood Bed’, ‘The Gardener’, ‘The Flitting’, ‘The Weaver-Girl’, ‘Next Day Hill’ (pp.196-99; note that McGuckian is the last poet in the collection.)

PAUL MULDOON: Elizabeth’, ‘Identities’, ‘Mules’, ‘Paris’, ‘The Big House’, ‘Palm Sunday’, ‘Why Brownlee Left’, ‘Cuba’, ‘Quoof’, ‘Immram’ (pp.138-44).

Introductory remarks: ‘Heaney’s strength and cunning are strikingly evident in what have come to be known as his “Bog Poems”, which refract the experience of the contemporary Irish Troubles through the [13] sufferings of a previous Northern civilisation and its sacrificial victims. The Bog People, whose ritually murdered bodies were preserved in peat for centuries, become Heaney’s objective correlative [quotes ‘Gauballe man’ in full, pp.13-14] / This poem restores the exhumed body to our consciousness in two stages. The first, paradoxically, seems only likely to distance and disperse it. As Heaney’s eye ranges over the anatomy it transforms skin and bone to a clutter of inanimate things: the wrist to ‘bog oak’, the heel to ‘a basalt egg’, the mortal wound to a ‘dark elderberry place’, and so on. But this literally objectifying stare is in fact the means towards subjectivity; while asserting the deadness of the corpse by exploring its resemblance to things, Heaney also constructs it again on his own terms. The bog’s victim is delivered to a kind of latter life, existing not only as an extraordinary museum piece but as a living commentary on the world it has rejoined. It is a pathetic prophet of contemporary violence, of present-day victims also ‘slashed and dumped’. Heaney’s process of working in “The Grauballe Man” has, too, this larger emblematic significance: that it demonstrates how the “forces of disintegration” which currently confront us are best approached not nakedly and hysterically but with the “opaque repose” (not to be confused with lack of feeling) that a larger historical framework makes possible. It is a lesson to which a number of his successors have paid attention. / It would be a mistake to think that Heaney has always written in this oblique way. Like a number of other Northern Irish poets, [15] including Derek Mahon and Michael Longley, he served his apprenticeship under Philip Hobsbaum, who taught at Belfast in the early 1960s and whose allegiances were broadly those of the l950s Movement writers. The Movement virtues of common sense, craftsmanship, and explication are evident in all these poets’ early work, and it is only gradually that they have evolved a more symbolic and associative mode. Heaney’s confederacy with Mahon, Longley and others - the presence, that is, of a Belfast “group” - is one of the reasons why he must not be seen in isolation. Though he is the pre-eminent figure, he has not carried out the so-called Northern Irish “Renaissance” single-handed. To understand what has been achieved in Ulster one should also look at poems like Mahon’s “A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford”, Longley’s “Wounds”, Paul Muldoon’s “Immram”, Tom Paulin’s “The Harbour in the Evening” and Medbh McGuckian’s “The Flitting”. It is interesting to speculate on the relationship between the resurgence of Northern Irish writing and the Troubles. The poets have all experienced a sense of “living in important places” and have been under considerable pressure to “respond”. They have been brought hard up against questions about the relationship between art and politics, between the private and the public, between conscious “making” and intuitive “inspiration”. But on the whole they have avoided a poetry of directly documentary reportage. Love poems and domestic poems- Longley’s “The Linen Workers”, for example - have been made to accommodate an uncommonly wide range of social responsiveness, while some poets have looked to other cultures as a way of putting the immediate and circumstantial into a wider perspective. Heaney’s Bog Poems are an obvious example, and a similar purpose is fulfilled by Mahon’s archaeological digs, Muldoon’s Chandleresque travels and Paulin’s recreations of early twentieth-century Russia. / So impressive is recent Northern Irish poetry (six poets from the North are included here and several others might also have been) that it is not surprising to find discussions of English poetry so often having to take place in its shadow. This is not the first time this has happened. In ‘How To Read’ (1928) Ezra Pound claimed that “the language is now in the keeping of the Irish”. But just as Auden and others rescued the reputation of English poetry in the 1930s, so in the 1970s and 80s a new generation of poets has started to do the same. Two key figures are Douglas Dunn and Tony Harrison, who are sharply conscious of a background [16] and upbringing set them at an angle to the cultural establishment.’ (pp.14-16.)

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