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 Taking Liberties

Taking Liberties

Ross Moore
From There To Here: Selected Poems and Translations, by Ciaran Carson, Gallery Press, 201 pp, €13.90, ISBN: 978-1911337492 This volume appears ten years after Ciaran Carson’s Collected Poems and it has been a busy interval for the author. In the decade since his Collected appeared, Carson has published four new poetry collections along with two novels, The Pen Friend and Exchange Place. This productivity provides one raison d’être for the appearance of Selected Poems; another may be the symmetry of the Collected Poems marking his sixtieth birthday and this Selected his seventieth: it’s a type of correspondence that sits easily with the mirror and shadow arrangements common to Carson’s poetry collections. From There To Here emphasises the importance of translation to Carson. The volume opens and closes with Irish translations. Of the seven poems taken from First Language three are versions (from Ó Ríordáin, Rimbaud and Baudelaire) while two of those selected from Opera et Cetera are after the Romanian of Stefan Augustin Doinas. Carson’s volumes of translations, The Alexandrine Plan (with versions after Rimbaud, Mallarmé and Baudelaire) along with the two recent collections In the Light Of (verse translations of Rimbaud) and From Elsewhere (translations from and versions after Jean Follain), are well-represented. In a contemporaneous review on the publication of Belfast Confetti (1989), Sean O’Brien wrote: “It might sound odd to say so, but it’s rare to find a book of poems whose subject-matter is in itself as interesting as this one’s.” It’s still an apt observation, some thirty-odd years on, and we can note the extent to which subject and form both play off and shape each other in Carson’s work. This results in poetry which radically evolves with each new collection, but despite this many of his major concerns and tropes have remained surprisingly constant. His reformulations take place on a deeper level than changing the topic at hand. As such, Carson’s interest in early Irish poetry (along with an interest in haiku and, probably, the work of early Derek Mahon) lend the poems of his first collection, The New Estate (1976), an unadorned lucidity. By the time of his second collection, The Irish For No (1987), the rambling, digressive attributes of Irish traditional music and song influenced both the narrative nature of the poems and the structure of the lines. Indeed traditional music, with its ethos of continual change within definite formal frameworks and repetitions, has frequently provided the terms for discussion of Carson’s poetry. The shaping of the lines of the poems of Belfast Confetti, poems which were often set in pubs, and which relayed fragmented…

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