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 Waltzes and Quicksteps

Waltzes and Quicksteps

Éamon Mag Uidhir
The Last Peacock, by Gerald Dawe, Gallery Books, 56 pp, €10, ISBN: 978-1911337683 Poet Gerald Dawe has done the art some service, to say the least. His ten collections before the present, The Last Peacock, including a Selected, form a publishing history stretching back four decades. He has held academic positions in Galway, in Dublin and at a number of North American institutions and, Belfast-born and -reared, has managed throughout his writing life to evade contamination with the sectarian and ideological toxins that pervade his native ground. In his person and in his work he constitutes the consummate united Irishman, being equally at home in Galway, Dublin and Belfast. Dawe has also been a well-regarded anthologist and in 2018 it would surely have been Cambridge University Press’s expectation that his were among the safest of hands to trust with their new Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets. Quite startling then it must have been when he and the book were roundly condemned in the inquisitorial pages of The Irish Times, accused of perpetuating the oppression of Irish women poets by the literary patriarchy. The gist of the case against the Companion and its editor was that it had far too few chapters devoted to female writers (a mere four out of thirty) and that far too few female critics had been commissioned to provide chapters (again four out of thirty). The latter castigation seems perfectly well-founded, given the gender make-up of the average university English department in Ireland, but the former is scarcely apt and seems to stem from a tendency to confound the notion of a literary canon with that of a corpus of literature. While the corpus of Irish literature, specifically Irish poetry, continues to swell as lost manuscripts and printings emerge and new or lost names from the past are added to the roster, the canon must forever be a moveable feast, inevitably governed by the subjective view of a particular speaker or a specific generation. Dawe’s task in compiling the Companion was to document the writers who were considered household names when he was schooled and who had been key influences on his own generation, not to provide an exhaustive gazetteer listing all the poets who ever versified in Ireland. The poets allocated chapters were thus all older than Dawe, with the exception of Nuala Ní Dhomnaill, born like him in 1952. His Companion introduction makes his parameters plain: “poets now born in the 1980s and…

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