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This review is taken from PN Review 107, Volume 22 Number 3, January - February 1996.

AN ULSTERMAN IN EXILE ROBERT GREACEN, Collected Poems 1944-1994 (Lagan Press) £5.95. Even Without Irene. An Autobiography (Lagan Press) £4.95

Robert Greacen has spent most of his life in exile, spiritual or physical. Born in Derry, he grew up in Belfast, where he found that

This city, heir to an historic spite,
Learns nothing, seldom forgets,
Honours the tart negative.

He escaped to Dublin, where for a time he lived in the same boarding house as Patrick Kavanagh, then moved on to London, which became his home for some forty years. Now he has returned to Dublin. In his first two collections, One Recent Evening (1944) and The Undying Day (1948), the influences which one would expect to find in a young Irish poet of the 1940s - Yeats, Eliot, Auden, MacNeice, Dylan Thomas - are apparent, as well as that of the Apocalyptics, with whom for a time he was associated. But a very individual voice often breaks through the influences, as in the Yeatsian 'Song of the Odd Old Man' and especially the most powerful of his early poems, 'The Bird'. After his move to London he did not publish another collection for twenty-seven years, but instead wrote his autobiography, Even Without Irene, now reissued in an enlarged version. Then, in 1975, A Garland for Captain Fox appeared, wryly ironic poems on an international conman who might have been invented by Graham Greene and who was to reappear in Greacen's later collections. The Fox poems, taut and completely free from Apocalyptic lushness, are his reaction to ...

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