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This article is taken from PN Review 164, Volume 31 Number 6, July - August 2005.

Contemporary Poetry: Keeping the Conversation Going Denis Donoghue

I hope I may be permitted to speak somewhat autobiographically, to begin with, if only because reading a poem is one's experience of reading it. I don't recall when I started reading American poetry. I was a student at University College, Dublin, reading Latin and English for a BA degree, but we did not have any courses in American literature, or indeed in the literatures of Canada, Australia, or any other such English-speaking countries. A few of the major books in American literature were mentioned, in passing, as adjuncts to English muses, but American Independence was not yet recognised. We were instructed in the mysteries of the English language and of English literature from the Anglo-Saxon period to - roughly speaking - the years of Hopkins and Newman. Modern literature was something we were free to read in our own time. The only exception to this freedom was a set of courses on Anglo-Irish literature and drama, designed to help us in our engagement with Yeats, Joyce, Synge, Lady Gregory and their companions.

It was a further complication that the libraries in Dublin during those years had very few American books. I first read the American poets and novelists by courtesy of the United States Information Service, which opened an office in Dublin and kept it going for several years. Modern American music, too, was available from the same source. I recall presenting, on Radio Éireann, a series of six programmes featuring the music of Aaron Copland, ...


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