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This review is taken from PN Review 172, Volume 33 Number 2, November - December 2006.

IRISH INHERITANCES SEAN DUNNE, Collected (Gallery) £ 9.95
VONA GROARKE, Juniper Street (Gallery) £8.50
CATHAL Ó SEARCAIGH, By the Hearth in Mín a ' Leá (Arc) £10.99

Contemporary Irish poets have received so much attention over the past two decades that one is hesitant to add yet another name to a national roster that includes Heaney, Longley, Boland, Mahon, and Muldoon. Yet Sean Dunne, one of Ireland's most underrated contemporary poets, deserves recognition alongside his more famous peers. With the publication of Dunne's collected poems, we are now able to assess his considerable achievement, and take proper stock of a poetic voice silenced by early death in 1995. One hopes Collected will help to redress a poetic reputation that has languished too long in the shadow of contemporaries.

Dunne shares similar preoccupations with Michael Longley, whose meditations on love and nature bring to mind 'The Bluebell Ring', one of the most accomplished poems in Dunne's first book, Against the Storm. Here is the last stanza:

Settled in a ring of bluebells, we watch
the gardens empty as late light fades,
the spray of fountains stilled, hounds
calmed by darkness covering yards.
The last bus grumbles through the gates
and we delve into woods towards the dark.
Courtly, precise, we arrange the ground.
Your dress slips from you without a sound.

'Courtly' and 'precise' describe many of Dunne's poems, which are technically accomplished. Yet his verse exhibits little pretentiousness or trickiness. He favors traditional set stanza forms such as the sonnet and ballad, and prefers harmony to irony. Most contemporary ...


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