I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Fencing Ireland’s Poets

Fencing Ireland’s Poets

John Minahane
Irish Bardic Poetry and Rhetorical Reality, by Michelle O’Riordan, Cork University Press, 455 pp, €55.00, ISBN: 978-1859184141 There’s an odd European country which loves to make a fuss about its writers and has brought the commercial exploitation of six or eight of them to a peak of perfection. But strange to say, that self-same country cares so little about some of its greatest poets that one can’t even find selections from their works in print. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries poetry had a great flowering in Spain, in England, and also in the land in question; but while anyone in Spain or England who is culturally aware can be expected to know something about the poets of that period, in the third country one expects nothing of the kind. Of the ten or so leading poets who were active at that time, only two have had their works published in collected editions. Poems by the others have been published in a host of books and journals, which may now be found in a few large libraries. In the case of at least one outstanding poet, about half of his poems have never been published at all. There is another who wrote a series of laments on the state of his country, unparalleled, I would think, in the literature of Europe. Those poems of his have never appeared together. Furthermore, even though all this remains undone, there is no sign of any inclination towards doing it. Admirable ground-breaking efforts were made in the course of the twentieth century, but they petered out about 1980. There are still university departments devoted to this literature and a special scholarly institute charged with studying it. But something of a revolution seems to have taken place in the scholarly institute, and its finest mind, who did much in his time, firstly to make the literature available and then to make it accessible and enjoyable, is now scorned, and none of these things are done any longer. The country I am referring to is Ireland. There may or may not be excellent reasons which explain why things are so, but we should not pretend that things are otherwise. When Michelle O’Riordan, assistant professor at the Institute of Advanced Studies, refers to the main body of the poetry mentioned above as “a much loved and much misunderstood” body of literature, one feels that she…



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