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This review is taken from PN Review 132, Volume 26 Number 4, March - April 2000.

SET TEXTS NEIL CORCORAN, Poets of Modern Ireland (University of Wales Press)

The title is misleading: Poets of Modern Ireland suggests a book that surveys the work of a wide range of contemporary poets. It suggests inclusivity, but this is not an inclusive book. It leans heavily towards the poets of modern Northern Ireland: the first three chapters on Yeats, Clarke and Padraic Fallon clear the southern vista and allow the author to fix his critical gaze on the richer drills of the northern poetic landscape. At no point does Corcoran justify his inclusions, or explain his exclusions.

A glance at the index reveals that what the blurb terms an 'illuminating contribution to the study of both Irish literature and modern poetry' manages to ignore the work of every Irish woman poet except Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, along with such significant figures as Durcan, Hartnett and Kinsella. Such exclusions may well be due to the fact that this book is actually a collection of individual essays which have been threaded together for the purposes of publication. The book lacks a central organising principle - the title attempts to foist one on the essays, but in truth, their topics are highly selective; their writing styles very various, and their preoccupations too disparate to merit the blanket title.

Corcoran's publishers have wisely kept his subtitle off the book's cover, for even the sturdiest of reader's hearts must fail at the troika 'text, context, intertext' written in charmless capitals on the title page. And indeed, there is scant let-up. This is ...


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