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This review is taken from PN Review 90, Volume 19 Number 4, March - April 1993.

PROVINCES AND PROVINCIALS The Chosen Ground (Essays on the Contemporary Poetry of Northern Ireland, edited by Neil Corcoran (Seren Books)
Stephen Regan, The Critics Debate - Philip Larkin (Macmillan)
A.T. Tolley, My Proper Ground - A Study of the Work and Development of Philip Larkin (Edinburgh University Press)
Michael O'Neill and Gareth Reeves, The Thirties Poetry - Auden, MacNeice, Spender (Macmillan)
Robyn Marsack, Open Guides to Literature - Sylvia Plath (Open University Press)

The argument for Northern Irish poetry to be treated separately from British and Southern Irish poetry is one which stretches back some ten years to the Motion and Morrison Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry. In his introduction, Corcoran determinedly justifies this collection of critical essays which studies the Ulster poets in depth. He rejects Thomas Kinsella's view of the poets' importance being merely a 'journalistic' phenomenon and, using a negative argument, claims that as the poets neither fit an exclusivist British or Irish account, they must be studied individually.

Corcoran needn't have worried. The essays which follow are in the main close readings of individual poets. They provide certain proof that these poets demand and produce their own unique critical insights and clear unifying themes emerge as the book progresses.

The essays resonate with questions of identity - both personal and national. Peter McDonald's analysis of Michael Longley's work brings out the contradictions and multitudinous identities of the poets' 'Homes'. Stan Smith applies Seamus Heaney's critical term 'place and displacement' to the poet himself. This is also applied to Derek Mahon in Hugh Haughton's essay. Haughton succeeds in taking the poet's personal lack of ...


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