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 Issue 155, Summer 2024

Issue 155, Summer 2024

Imperishable Song

One of the many remarkable aspects of the recent selection of Seamus Heaney’s letters (The Letters of Seamus Heaney, edited by Christopher Reid, published by Faber & Faber) is the recurring echo of WB Yeats’s voice. Heaney frequently used Yeats’s vocabulary and diction when writing to fellow poets or others likely to appreciate the echo. […]

Ukraine Diary

January 2nd, 2024 The rain wouldn’t let up last night, this morning really. At 3.10 am I picked up my phone to find a Substack note linked to a piece on Gaza that had a familiar construction: commonly recognised facts, followed by unnecessary adjectives, significant omissions, self-indulgent insertion of personal disgust, all tied together with […]

Myths About Migration

This year an unprecedented number of elections are taking place around the world. At or near the top of the agenda in many of them is immigration. Hardly any other issue has a more polarising impact. Fear, suspicion and ignorance fill the spaces around it. Xenophobic falsehoods are being widely disseminated. The arrival in Europe […]

Witness for the Prosecution

The Romance of American Communism, by Vivian Gornick, Verso, 265 pp, £14.99, ISBN: 978-1788735506 In a TLS podcast in March 2021 the reviewers Thea Lenarduzzi, Lucy Dallas and novelist Claire Lowdon tried to puzzle out why eighty-something-year-old Vivian Gornick was ‘having a moment’. None could fully account for whey the critic, essayist and memoirist was […]

A Century of Art

Irish Art 1920 – 2020: Perspectives on Change, Catherine Marshall & Yvonne Scott (eds), Royal Irish Academy, 448 pp, €38, ISBN: 978-1911479826 Irish Art 1920-2020: Perspectives on Change is an excellent collection of twelve intersecting perspectives that examine Irish art and design as it has evolved over the long twentieth century into the present. The […]

Attack, attack, attack

During his tenure as president, Donald Trump used his office to grant executive clemency to more than 200 individuals charged or convicted of federal criminal offences. That may seem like a lot, but it is fewer than many of his predecessors: Bill Clinton, for example, pardoned more than twice that number. However, Trump’s use of […]

Lost Poets’ Society

I teach a class in Irish poetry a couple of times a year and I always begin with Sappho, fragment 31, chanted in a YouTube video by a chorus of voices in the original Aeolic Greek. It causes confusion: at least two students in every group begin their weekly journal with ‘My favourite Irish poet […]

Literary / Capital: Dublin

At St Stephen’s Green in 2024, sandwich-snatching seagulls, mangled-footed pigeons, office workers and the growing numbers of Dublin’s tented population comingle on a weekday lunchtime. The twenty-seven-acre park was originally built in 1680 on the outskirts of a city that was, according to a 1635 city assembly, ‘groweing very populous’. The opening of Grafton Street […]

The Causes of Quarrels

There are fascinating parallels between Anna Parnell’s The Tale of a Great Sham and Andrew J Kettle’s The Material for Victory – two recently republished memoirs of key protagonists in Ireland’s Land War of 1879-1882. Both accounts contain unvarnished critiques of shortcomings of the Land League movement, revolving mainly around failures of leadership and execution […]

Just Ourselves

In his 1993 book Pleasant the Scholar’s Life: Irish Intellectuals and the Construction of the Nation State, Maurice Goldring emphasised the role of intellectuals in shaping Irish cultural nationalism. He distinguished between revolts and revolutions. Without some articulation of ideas that might drive change a revolt could never become a revolution: ‘Gavroche, in Les Misérables, […]