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This review is taken from PN Review 157, Volume 30 Number 5, May - June 2004.

PERFORMANCES MICHAEL HARTNETT, A Book of Strays, edited by Peter Fallon (Gallery)
MICHAEL HARTNETT, Translations, edited by Peter Fallon (Gallery)
PAUL DURCAN, Cries of an Irish Caveman: New Poems (Harvill)

With the publication of A Book of Strays (2002) and Translations (2003) Gallery Press completes its Michael Hartnett `programme' first outlined by Peter Fallon in his editor's note to Collected Poems (2001). These books were among Hartnett's `final aspirations' before he died in October 1999. But they do not simply `complete the Hartnett oeuvre'. As `final aspirations' - that is ideas presented by the poet but completed by the editor - less has survived of Hartnett than might have been wished for in their design.

The books we most want to read can tell us something about our literary ideals. These ideals assume that a poet's intentions for a collection are always preferable to an editor's. And complicit with this view are all sorts of notions about artistic integrity and autonomy. It is as if we believe that poets always know their own mind and that their own intentions are forever and completely transparent to them. Yet, Hartnett's complex publishing history and his letter to Fallon, quoted in his `Afterword', which disclosed `The clouds are moving away ... Here is A Book of Strays', surely suggests that this poet was often in a muddle - which is not necessarily a bad place to be - about what he was doing, highlighting a necessity for editorial intervention and artfulness. For instance, Fallon places `I have tried to write for the people...' as `a kind of epigraph' to the collection, hinting that the `ancient impulses and sources' in this ...


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