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This review is taken from PN Review 180, Volume 34 Number 4, March - April 2008.

H. C. K. THOMAS KINSELLA, Selected Poems (Carcanet, £9.95)

Thomas Kinsella's Selected Poems offers readers a chance to encounter or return to one of the best and most rewarding poets of the last half-century. For readers unfamiliar with the trajectory of his work, some background may be necessary. Born in Dublin in 1928, Thomas Kinsella attended an Irish-speaking school and began studying science at UCD. He left university to join the civil service and was quickly promoted, working for young government ministers at the time when Ireland was rejecting its isolationism and preparing for its eventual accession to the EEC. Parallel with this career, he published four collections with the Dolmen Press and worked as a translator and editor. In 1963, he left the civil service and began to move between Ireland and American universities, working on poetry and translation. The first fruit of this change was his translation of The Tain (1968), a remarkable book illustrated by the leading modernist Louis le Brocquy. Kinsella's work also led him to other arts: he was a close friend and ally of the composer Sean O Riada, whose use of traditional Irish music led to the formation of the Chieftains: their example, alongside Kinsella's Tain translation, inspired the band Horslips to make their international hit single 'Dearg Doom'. That period was the peak of Kinsella's reputation, and it also set the pattern for his continuing work: sequences that he began to publish under the imprint of Peppercanister with OUP and, latterly, ...


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