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This review is taken from PN Review 145, Volume 28 Number 5, May - June 2002.

PATROLLING THE HIVE OF HIS BRAIN THOMAS KINSELLA, Collected Poems 1956 - 2001 (Carcanet) £29.95 hb, £14.95 pb

A year after the Republic of Ireland celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising, Thomas Kinsella published his jaundiced anatomy of 'THE NEW IRELAND', Nightwalker (1967). Dwelling on the political sordidness and corruption attendant on 'Productive Investment' from abroad, the venality of the Holocaust becomes the Nightwalker's benchmark of depravity against which the ideals and policies of the contemporary Republic have to be measured. In this respect, Nightwalker, like Kinsella's 1962 poem, 'Downstream', looks aghast at the 'European pit' of the recent past from the vantage-point of one who grew up in the war's shadow. But, whereas the earlier poem had been primarily concerned with the possibility of art after Auschwitz, Nightwalker 'gropes for structure' in the political as well as the aesthetic realm. The later poem also marks the point in Kinsella's career at which he jettisons traditional verse-forms, such as the terza rima of 'Downstream' and the blank verse of 'A Country Walk', another early probing into Irish history. The mordant Nightwalker instead refracts recent Irish history through the prism of a poetic form the antecedent of which is The Waste Land, and, in this respect, its fragmentary form looks back to Thomas MacGreevy's bleak and disjunctive meditation on Ireland in the aftermath of the Great War and Irish Civil War, Crón Tráth na nDéithe (1929). Kinsella's poem can also be compared to Eugene R. Watters's roughly contemporaneous The Week-End of Dermot and Grace (1964), which equally takes its bearing from Eliot, but, like Nightwalker, also ...


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