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Monthly Carcanet Books

This review is taken from PN Review 76, Volume 17 Number 2, November - December 1990.

MY NEED Padraic Fallon: Collected Poems, edited by Brian Fallon, with a foreword by Seamus Heaney. (Carcanet Press) £18.95

We now have a chance to take a fresh look at Padraic Fallon. This book is both handsome and complete. It contains the poems which appeared in the Dolmen Press edition in 1973 and the Carcanet Poems and Versions, which came out in 1983. Added to these are a handful of early poems and some additional lyrics from his radio plays.

Now that the work of a superb, insistent voice in our poetry is available, it makes it both possible and necessary to see Fallon for what he was: a part of the discourse of Irish poetry without which that discourse is neither accurate or complete. A contemporary of Macneice, Clarke, Kavanagh, he sheds light on them all. In some ways he shares their preoccupations. In others, he is quite different. He armed himself, for instance, against the Irish Revival in a way which was both separate and unique. The classical references, the freedom from Jansenism, the proud detachments in his work are important clues to his concept of the poet. And that in turn had more to do with the 18th-century spirit of Irish poetry than the 20th-century strategies of the Revival.

It is important, however, that he should be truly reassessed. His work deserves it. Its weaknesses and strengths need to be viewed together, poem by poem. A pious welcome is not what this work deserves.

To start with, he is not - despite appearances - a nature poet; there is ...


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