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This article is taken from PN Review 245, Volume 45 Number 3, January - February 2019.

on Louis MacNeice
Time Away: Louis MacNeice in America
Tony Roberts
Time was away and she was here
And life no longer what it was.
The bell was silent in the air
And all the room one glow because
Time was away and she was here.         

                                      ‘Meeting Point’

IN HIS PROJECTED Countries in the Air Louis MacNeice had been keen to explore ‘the corroborations and refutals of my myths, the frustrations and illuminations I have found in various travels’. His American experience provided much fertile ground for this. MacNeice’s brief working visits there, while successful professionally, led to something of an attenuated romantic disaster. His relationship with Eleanor Clark, the American writer whom he met in New York in 1939, overshadowed his engagement with the country. It did, however, inspire some fine poetry and, in his letters, a vivid self-portrait of a poet conflicted by love and duty on the eve of the war.

MacNeice’s life until that time had been one of public success and private heartbreak. He was born in Belfast in 1907, to a clergyman father and a mother he lost in 1914. Prep school in England led to a Classical Scholarship to Marlborough College and subsequently Merton College, Oxford, from which he gained a first in Classics. He published his first collection of poetry, Blind Fireworks, in 1929 and the following year married and took a post as an assistant lecturer in Classics at Birmingham University. Although his marriage had produced a son, Dan, in 1934 he was divorced two years later and MacNeice moved to Bedford ...

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