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This review is taken from PN Review 37, Volume 10 Number 5, March - April 1984.

DELAY AND DELIGHT Gregory A. Schirmer, The Poetry of Austin Clarke (University of Notre Dame Press and The Dolmen Press) £13.50.

Clive James, in a review of one of Seamus Heaney's books a few years ago, uttered the self-fulfilling prophecy that 'soon people are going to start comparing him to Yeats'. If James himself started it, however, others have been quick to follow his lead, and Heaney has often been - not compared to Yeats exactly, but mentioned in the same breath or sentence. The fact that meaningful comparison could hardly be taken very far suggests the probable truth behind the conjunction: Heaney is mentioned in the same breath as Yeats because Yeats is the only earlier Irish poet well-known to these critics. In particular, those poets of the generation immediately succeeding Yeats have not been assimilated by English criticism. The recent Carcanet publication of a selection of Padraic Fallon is a hopeful sign that the poems of that reticent, attractive writer will be given some posthumous recognition; and this new, full-length study of Austin Clarke could be taken as a sign that his star too is in the ascendant.

Given my own proselytizing interest in Clarke, it would be pleasant to be able to report that the book will compel further recognition for the achievement; but unfortunately this would not be true. It is dutiful and workmanlike in the great tradition of the American PhD, the form in which I imagine it began its life. There's no point in being snooty about dutifulness, which is a real virtue; but it can so easily turn into a kind ...


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