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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 71, Volume 16 Number 3, January - February 1990.

IRISH GIFTS Thomas Kinsella, Blood & Family (Oxford University Press) £6.95
Thomas Kinsella, One Fond Embrace (The Dedalus Press) £10.00 bound, £6.00 pb
Ciarán Carson, The Irish For No (Bloodaxe) £4.95
Hugh Maxton, The Puzzle Tree Ascendant (The Dedalus Press) £6.00 bound, £3.60 pb
Ciaran Cosgrove, Lassoed Suns (Montezuma Publications) £3.50

Irish poetry, much of it, has become a classical locus for the challenging interplay of history and hope, actuality and the imagination. In this it enacts much that is central to twentieth century consciousness - but it also embodies at its best powerful gifts expressed in an idiom peculiar to itself: a cherishing of the embattled moment, a real generosity, a narrative verse unrivalled anywhere, a canniness which can be humble as well as knowing, a sense of anger which ensures that ghosts have their politics and elegies their edge. In very different ways the work of Thomas Kinsella and Ciarán Carson displays the best of these Irish gifts.

Blood & Family collects work of ten years that originally appeared as five pamphlets (each now one of the book's sections) from Thomas Kinsella's Peppercanister Press. Like all Kinsella's work, it is distinguished by a persistently challenging mind and by a refusal to settle for anything short of exactitude. Even if this can result in a certain gauntness at times, the principle remains admirable. The opening section, 'The Messenger', in memory of the poet's father, is one of the best, anchored as it is in marvellously acute observation and informed by an affection which is never sentimental. It is impossible to represent fairly by short quotation, but it includes such memorable moments as the priest's reaction to Kinsella père et fils leaving church in the middle of Mass -

Father Collier's top half in ...

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