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This article is taken from PN Review 105, Volume 22 Number 1, September - October 1995.

Beginnings Sinéad Morrisey

My first impromptu collection, which was awarded the Patrick Kavanagh award in 1990, consisted of poems composed in my late teens and was, unsurprisingly, characterised by anguish. All of the poems were heavily influenced by Sylvia Plath, failing, inevitably, to reproduce anything of her integrity as they plundered her resources of emotional daring. These early poems were vivid and powerful, but ultimately dishonest in two respects: an inability to write out of my own experience, and a playfulness with language which did not stand up to any coherent probing. I could go furough the poems and list the films which inspired each tortured 'I' (narrative - 'Platoon', 'Agnes of God', 'The Killing Fields'. 'The subjects were predictable - anorexia, insanity, abuse - remarkable in fuat I knew nothing about any of them; and the only criterion I had for my specific use of language was (melo)dramatic effect: 'For he will have visions of your shell to eat him/And the scattering of your star' ('The Scattering'); 'So they bore holes/They are nothing more than builders/And I have turned lo rotten plaster/In this land of squared-off stars' ('The Institution'). Writing a competent poem without using the emotional platform of a Grand Theme was beyond my ability.

I still aim to write good poems about contained objects or events - the fuings Paul Muldoon does with hedgehogs, roundabouts or flocks of birds shows the kind of expertise I am very much aware of, and to which I aspire. I am so used to delivering what I want to say, because it is often so powerfully ...


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