In 1931 William Empson arrived to teach at the Imperial University of Tokyo. Unable to speak Japanese and undoubtedly intimidated by officialdom, he turned inward instead, remarking all sorts of new energies in language, life and art and finding things to live by and live for.
America’s founding generation, it has been said, was divided between the party of memory and that of hope, between those who saw the need for periodic revolution to start the world anew and those who wished to avoid the cruelty and violence of the Old World that had been left behind.
The animosity between the smuggler Murtaí Óg Ó Súilleabháin and John Puxley, both of whom died violently in the 1750s, was once seen as symptomatic of wider societal divisions. But in fact Puxley, though employed as a revenue officer, had had a notable career in smuggling too.
In Northern Ireland in 1972, 470 people were killed, 1,853 bombs were planted and 18,819 kilos of explosives found. Some thought a United Ireland was close, others a civil war. At the same time the Dublin and London governments were working diligently with moderate politicians for a settlement.
In a reimagined continuation of the Huckleberry Finn story, Huck is a reluctant witness to the march of ‘sivilization’ as it rampages across America. His relentlessly unheroic perspective and humanitarian pragmatism offer a partial antidote to the warlike machinations of his compatriots.
Religion, Hubert Butler believed, should be a place of truth-telling rather than a mere symbol of decorousness and respectability. Croatia’s Cardinal Stepinac felt he had nothing to be ashamed of in his record on the forcible conversion of orthodox Serbs during World War Two. Butler disagreed.
Tara Bergin’s second collection displays an intellectually adroit interplay between disciplines not often evident in Anglophone poetry. Bergin excels at seeing patterns and connections; her poems challenge us to reconsider everything, trust nothing, and treat the past as a series of riddles.