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This review is taken from PN Review 196, Volume 37 Number 2, November - December 2010.

GREECE, ANGELS, AND GRAMMAR THEO DORGAN, Greek (Dedalus) £10
EILÉAN NÍ CHUILLENÁIN, The Sun-fish (Gallery) £10.50
CIARAN CARSON, Until Before After (Gallery) £12.50
Throughout Greek, Theo Dorgan’s third collection, is a preoccupation with the relationship between then and now, as well as here and there; the past is no foreign country for Dorgan, and the present as ‘otherwhere’ (‘Begin, Begin Again’) is viewed as inescapably historical, the very opposite of Francis Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’. Dorgan’s poetic line is usually supple, fluent, and unrhymed, his vowel-music airily unobtrusive, his rhythms light and quick, creating a rhythmical flow which suits the poems’ matter. However, one or two more formally arranged poems, ‘Nike’ and ‘Nisos Ikaria’, particularly, might be slightly flat-footed; Dorgan seems to be at his best when ranging freely across the stanza unencumbered by pre-set forms.

Dorgan travels to ‘otherwhere’, too, to escape the morass of Irish cultural politics, as acknowledged in ‘Visitors’: ‘Like myself, they are on a break from history, / the soft-voiced, troubled language of our tribe’. ‘Spirits’ manages a Heaneyesque moral self-scrutiny, a drinking buddy providing the voice of accusation:

What do I care about Actaeon in your eyes,
this cultural tourism? Tell me about Ireland,
what ghosts you see when you walk the streets,
what ghosts prompt your murders…

However, the poem ends with the poet accepting his fascinated boy-self as the man he is:

and Artemis bumps the table, T-shirt and blue jeans,
a diamond glinting in one ear, phone to the other.
She stalks past, imperious and aloof,
radiant in ...


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