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This review is taken from PN Review 98, Volume 20 Number 6, July - August 1994.

REORIENTATIONS MARY O'MALLEY, Where the Rocks Float, (Salmon) £5.99
MARY O'DONNELL, Spiderwoman's Third Avenue Rhapsody, (Salmon) £5.99
CONOR O' CALLAGHAN, The History of Rain, (Gallery) £5.95

That contemporary Irish poetry is a contested space will come as no surprise to readers who have followed recent essays in PNR by Anne Stevenson, Nuala Ni Dhomhniall, and Eavan. Boland. The hottest flashpoints of the debate, sparked in part by a disgracefully sexist period of Irish poetry reviewing and anthology making in the eighties, have been Thomas Kinsella's Oxford Book of Irish Verse (1986) and Seamus Deane's Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (1991). While Kinsella's selection contained just one woman poet (from the eighteenth century no less), Field Day's nominated three women poets to its thirty-eight member canon of contemporary Irish poetry.

In a period of Irish literary politics where huge personal agendas are confusingly intermeshed with crudal ethical, political and literary issues, the debate about gender among the older generations of poets has placed a very strong pressure on the Irish poem written by the younger ones. At worst, there is a self-consciousness in the newest generations, a misplaced confidence in stances of gendered Irishness which can seem posed. Where this has been coupled with technical complacency, some truly bad poetry has been written. And yet what distinguishes these newest generations, perched as they are in the middle of the fiery debate about gender, are huge new energies and new original directions. Those pressures and energies are clearly visible in two of the books under review here, Mary O'Malley's Where the Rocks Float, and Mary O'Donnell's Spiderwoman's Third Avenue Rhapsody.

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