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This article is taken from PN Review 252, Volume 46 Number 4, March - April 2020.

Writing in a Time of Violence
Padraic Fiacc’s Demotic Aesthetic
Siobhán Campbell
In the work of Padraic Fiacc, the Belfast-based poet who died on January 21st of last year, there’s both a reach for the sublime and a sense of what might easily destroy that yearning. Perhaps his education in Catholic schools in New York, as well as a brief stint studying theology, informs that sense of sadness at despoiled religious feeling and the consequent loss of potential for the visionary. The ambivalences and oddities of Belfast city are nearly always present, sometimes allowing for moments of lightness where the closed-in feeling opens up, suddenly, to something else:
Low clouds, yellow in a mist wind,
on far-off Ards,
Drift hazily…

I was born on such a morning
Smelling of the Bone Yards

The smoking chimneys over the slate roof tops
The wayward storm birds
And to the east where morning is, the sea
to the west where evening is, the sea
    (‘First Movement’)

Characteristic of his oeuvre though are poems where both language itself and the construction of the poetic line are at issue. A favourite device is to subvert reader expectations of the line and to abuse syntax for effect. Normal narrative associations are peppered with odd swerves, often using sentences stripped of pronouns. Fiacc likes to scramble word order and variously deploys ellipsis, disrupted cadence, sharp enjambments and an odd use of capital letters. This almost anti-musical approach gives the work a sense of belonging to the wider modernist movement while the socially engaged and ...


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