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This review is taken from PN Review 171, Volume 33 Number 1, September - October 2006.

TO COOL AND CLEAN ANTHONY CRONIN , Collected Poems (New Island) €9.99

 Anthony Cronin (born in County Wexford, 1928) is an important thinker, biographer and literary journalist, but it is his poetry which is the foundation of his work. This handsome book covers fifty years and ten individual volumes. From the earliest collection, published in 1957, there are short poems such as ‘For a Father’, ‘Prophet’, ‘Apology’, ‘Odd Number’, ‘Baudelaire in Brussels’, ‘Faraway Greenway’ that would lift the pages of any anthology. ‘Lift’ is not the correct word in one sense, since throughout Cronin’s poetry there is an honesty in the weighty observations of our modern predicament:
 

 How can we praise in our poems the simplified heroes,
 Or urge to the truth we can never be true to ourselves?
 O love that forgives because needing forgiveness also,
 Forgive us that we have not lived through a virtuous day,
 That we asked to be judged in the end by our own compassion,
 Thief calling to thief from his cross with no Christ in between.
 

 Cronin manages to hold ‘many truths at once’, and these truths often focus on the negative dimensions behind the personal and public. This focus can be magnified in the black humour of poems such as ‘Character’:
 

 Somehow, somewhere, for some of us, the whole business of character went wrong.
 Something sordid got into it.
 Shall I say, unsympathetic?
 Something stupid and boring that thought boredom and ugliness were virtues,
 Putting ...


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