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This review is taken from PN Review 52, Volume 13 Number 2, November - December 1986.

INDUSTRY AND POETRY AND THE POETRY INDUSTRY Poets of Munster, edited by Sean Dunne (Anvil) £10.95, £5.95 pb.
The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, edited by Ian Wedde and Harvey McQueen, £5.95 pb.
The Oxford Book of Short Poems, edited by P. J. Kavanagh and James Michie, £9.50

To most readers, contemporary Irish poetry means verse that has come out of or is concerned with Ulster - a poetry heavy with a sense of responsibility to the past and its contradictions, whose language is weighed, clipped and self-consciously tamped into place, whose occasional joy-rides of serendipity take their frisson from the way they fly in the face of bleakness and worry. Sean Dunne's Poets of Munster reminds us that plenty of poetry gets written out of earshot of Unionist rhetoric.

As with Ulster poetry, the presence of the past is a dominant theme, but the book's elegies (it is full of them - the title of one of Thomas McCarthy's poems, 'The Sorrow Garden', could almost have been used for the whole volume had McCarthy not already used it for a volume of his own) are sweeter, gentler than their Ulster equivalents; the past is not appealed to as a witness to arraign the present, it is simply there, loved and regretted. Many of the poets represented will be relatively unfamiliar to English readers and they should be better known; Sean Lucy and Michael Hartnett in particular deserve an audience beyond Ireland's shores. Occasionally cultural differences are an obstacle; Paul Durcan's poems tend to rely on his audience finding the mention of sex shocking or ipso facto hilarious; he gets a great deal of fun out of playing up to and guying this expected reaction, but to an outsider it is as wearying as a ...


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