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This review is taken from PN Review 102, Volume 21 Number 4, March - April 1995.

MUSIC IN SPACE MICHAEL HARTNETT, Selected and New Poems (Gallery Books) £12.95
VONA GROARKE, Shale (Gallery Books) £10.95
HARRY CLIFTON, Night Train through the Brenner (Gallery Books) £10.95 (£5.95 pb)
JOHN F. DEANE, Walking on Water (The Dedalus Press) £8.95 (£5.95 pb)

Do Irish poets enjoy a greater prestige than their counterparts in Britain? Certainly Irish publishers appear to have an enviable confidence in their market; all the books reviewed here are published in hardback as well as paperback. I have the hardback copies of the Hartnett and Groarke books, and they are stunningly beautiful - the dust-jackets are just off-black, smooth and hard, as if there were an admixture of stone with the paper.

Michael Hartnett, in his later poems, agonizes occasionally about his perceived lack of success. Nevertheless, he has a stronger sense of the importance of the poet than is usually found in British writing. His public renunciation of English poetry in favour of Irish and subsequent reversal of that decision is a case in point. Obviously, no English poet would face that dilemma or have those opportunities, though some Scottish and Welsh ones do. But you have to believe that people are watching you to make such a gesture in the first place. Hartnett marked his return to English with 'Inchicore Haiku', surely as much a press release as a poem:

My English dam bursts
and out stroll all my bastards.
Irish shakes its head.


The book begins with studies of nature, or of the relationship between man and nature. Hartnett is fond of bird imagery - one poem ends:

Small birds, small poems, are not
                               immortal,
nor, however passed, is one intense night:
...


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