Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Hal Coase 'Ochre Pitch' Gregory Woods 'On Queerness' Kirsty Gunn 'On Risk! Carl Phillips' Galina Rymbu 'What I Haven't Written' translated by Sasha Dugdale Gabriel Josipovici 'No More Stories' Valerie Duff-Strautmann 'Anne Carson's Wrong Norma'
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review 276
PN Review Substack

This review is taken from PN Review 264, Volume 48 Number 4, March - April 2022.

Cover of Two Twin Pipes Sprout Water
Hal CoaseLife Sentences
Two Twin Pipes Sprout Water, Lila Matsumoto & Path Through Wood, Sam Buchan-Watts (both Prototype) both £12
What was irony? Everything new and exciting in these two collections sent me back to Cleanth Brooks’s 1949 essay ‘Irony as a principle of structure’. The essay gets a few things spot on. Brooks suggests that all statements not limited to ‘pure denotations’ carry ‘an ironic potential’: when using language, we either overtly deploy irony or depend upon the tacit understanding that we are not being ironic (irony becomes here a kind of default, the wagging tail of happy language use – this would also explain why explaining irony so often feels like an irrecuperable collapse in communication). Context usually mediates this process for us. But since poems generate their own context, they must, according to Brooks, be capable of controlling this risk: ‘invulnerability to irony is the stability of a context in which the internal pressures balance and mutually support each other’. A ‘strong’ poem can be ironic, it can contain a self-awareness of its own airs and graces, in fact it will need to have as much irony in it as is required to get away with sincerity (this being ‘a principle of structure’), but it should never be vulnerable to irony outside of its own control, which would threaten to upend the whole exercise. The essay opens by promising irony as raw and riotous potential. It ends with irony tamed at its feet. How come? Did irony scare poets (or critics), once upon a time? Will it come back to haunt us?

Lila Matsumoto writes poems that are vulnerable to irony in ways that I’m sure would have ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image