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This review is taken from PN Review 136, Volume 27 Number 2, November - December 2000.

RIVERRUN Watching the River Flow: A Century of Irish Poetry, edited by Noel Duffy and Theo Dorgan (Poetry Ireland)

In his disappointingly brief introduction to this selection of Irish poetry, Theo Dorgan states that 'This is neither a representative nor a canonical anthology.' Given the anthology's refreshingly novel structure - in which ten 'section editors' are allocated a decade each, from which to mine ten poems - the absence of both an overarching critical narrative and a substantial sampling of twentieth- century Irish poetry is inevitable. In its place Noel Duffy and Dorgan asked their ten chosen poets to choose works that 'mark or contain in themselves something of the essential character of [each] decade' of the twentieth century in Ireland. Precisely what might constitute this 'character' is given the reader in the often valuable contextual headnotes that precede each poets selection.

Eavan Boland's evocative introduction to the poetry of the first decade of the century reminds us how distant its political and social 'hinterland' now seems. Rightly drawing our attention to Padraic Colum's Wild Earth (1907) and the poetry of J. M. Synge, she might have further adduced George Russell's crucial 1904 anthology, New Songs, in Irish poetry's turn from the introspective, lyrical mode of the Celtic Twilight to more robust, folkloric forms. Marring her analysis of this decade is the claim that this shift is unrelated to literary movements beyond Ireland. Her contention that 'Modernism, stirring in New York and London, has not yet come to the edges of the Irish poem,' not only neglects the centrality of the Irish Literary Revival of the ...


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