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

COFFEY FILTER DÓNAL MORIARTY, The Art of Brian Coffey (University College Dublin Press) £13.95 and £29.95

Brian Coffey laboured in an obscurity incommensurate with his accomplishment as a poet. A writer who contributed to the shaping of Irish poetic modernism in the 1920s and 1930s, and who had a long and diverse poetic career, his achievement has been eclipsed by more acclaimed peers such as Samuel Beckett. Despite a number of important essays and reviews, and an issue of the Irish University Review devoted to his work, this is the first monograph on Coffey's poetry. And it is long overdue - Coffey's reputation as a difficult and obscure writer has not been helped by a lack of critical attention. As Moriarty writes, 'Mistaking compression of meaning for gnomic impenetrability or creative ambiguity for wilful obscurity, many readers flinch from a direct and meaningful engagement with Coffey's work.' Moriarty's book is an attempt to introduce readers to Coffey's poetry without trivialising the complexities of the poet's thought, and it skilfully achieves this through a combination of close reading, explication of the more obscure of Coffey's references, and an examination of the philosophical ideas that underlie his poetry. The result is a book that moves from the particular to the more general with surprising ease.

Moriarty's book is ambitious in its scope, working chronologically from Third Person, Coffey's first full collection, published in 1938, through his translation methods, focusing on Dice Thrown Never Will Annul Chance, his version of Mallarmé's Un Coup de dés jamais nabolira le hasard, to Death of Hektor (1982). In this ...


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