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This article is taken from PN Review 193, Volume 36 Number 5, May - June 2010.

The Poetry of Paula Meehan Jody Allen Randolph

Contemporary Irish poetry has benefited enormously from its engagement with North American poetry of the latter half of the twentieth century. The power and influence of that open-ended dialogue are clearly visible in the impact of Robert Duncan on John Montague, Robert Frost and Robert Lowell on Seamus Heaney, Adrienne Rich and Sylvia Plath on Eavan Boland, and in the traffic between the American postmodern aesthetic of Susan Howe and Lyn Hejinian with that of Catherine Walsh, whose formal innovations owe more to American models than to Irish ones. While the dialogue between American and Irish poets in the late twentieth century has been a multi-layered and often tense conversation, one of the most direct lines of American influence has been on the work of Paula Meehan.

Over the past quarter century, through six volumes of poetry and eight plays, Paula Meehan has uncovered a terrain unique to her vision: lyric, dramatic, committed and communal. This essay explores the development of that vision, locating Meehan within Irish and American literary contexts and surveying some of the critical response to her work. As a young Irish poet, Meehan found her world by displacing it. She left Ireland behind and travelled to the United States for an MFA programme in Washington State. In her studies and travels on America’s west coast, she immersed herself in countercultural aesthetics, seeking out new narratives of Buddhism, neo-shamanism, bioregional ethics, and holistic healing. By so doing, she began her life as a poet ...

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