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This review is taken from PN Review 119, Volume 24 Number 3, January - February 1998.

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE THOMAS McCARTHY, The Lost Province (Anvil) £7.95
GILLIAN NANTUCKET, Nantucket and the Angel (Bloodaxe) £6.95
IAIN BAMFORTH, Open Workings (Carcanet) £7.95

Sometimes it seems in contemporary poetry that even the individual sensibility has become a republic of conflicting interests, insecure history and oscillating levels of law and order. Poetry which deals with issues of the relationship of a private world to a public world seems only possible these days at the cost of ignoring the complex processes which encompass feeling, belief and opinion. It is interesting therefore to read the work of Thomas McCarthy whose poems are built round the tensions between political and domestic realities. McCarthy has wrought a distinctive subject matter for himself, drawing on the potentially unpromising material of Irish politics at a local level in terms of party meetings, canvassing, election days and political addresses. As a result he has made a reputation as the poet of the contemporary, mundane Republic of Ireland. The cost of this has been a certain flatness of tone which could come from a desire to be unrhetorical about politics and perhaps also not to sound like Yeats. This does not prevent some sub-Yeatsian lines creeping in, for example, from 'Prisons' - 'no woman ever had a walk as bold as yours' (unless she belongs to the crew of the Starship Enterprise). In his latest, fifth collection the flatness of tone seems to have become habitual and certainly in the first section of the book is allied with some rather slack writing. For example in the poem 'November' he writes, 'We survive selfknowledge like the memory / of war or a ...


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