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Monthly Carcanet Books

This review is taken from PN Review 35, Volume 10 Number 3, January - February 1984.

STEVENS AND RAFTERY Padraic Fallon: Poems and Versions (Carcanet) £3.95 pb.

John Montague once observed that a typical Padraic Fallon poem reads like 'a cross between Wallace Stevens and Raftery'. This wittily locates the exuberant oddness of Fallon's work, in which the landscape, history and mythology of the West of Ireland can be dimly perceived behind an hermetic, symbolist code and a ruminative, withdrawn cadence. The hermeticism was fostered, no doubt, by Fallon's refusal to publish much during his lifetime; the only book-length collection available prior to the book now under review was the beautifully produced Dolmen Poems, published in 1974, just before Fallon's death. The new collection, edited with an informative afterword by the poet's son, Brian Fallon, the literary editor of the Irish Times, provides the opportunity to consider once again the work of this neglected writer, and to take stock of a very private, but heroically patient and dedicated talent.

The overriding impression left by reading Fallon in any bulk is of a poet fearlessly taking on everything. The unavoidable relationship with Yeats is articulated and worked through; the inheritance of the French symbolists is manifested and personally transformed; a profoundly religious scepticism searches out the ambiguous value that can still be attached to ritual and myth; the frequently reiterated abstractions of 'history' and 'geography' are incarnated in loving explorations of his own time and place; and, in the new book, Fallon's immersion in the world of the Greek and Roman classics is given its full weight for the first time. The voice addressing the ...


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