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.

Michael Hinds

Ciaran Carson 1948-2019

Ciaran Carson drew on the supple lines of narrative, melody and rhythm that run through traditional music. As with other great modernist poets, he brought poetry beyond word-music into a dizzying and organic dance; for rhythm, the closest to him in the past century was Fred Astaire.

Look at Me

The sonnet emerged in the Renaissance just as the concept of an explorable and variable self became culturally pervasive. Like a multi-barred cage within which the heart, mind and body paces like a bear, the form allowed sophisticated selves to show themselves to be sophisticated.

Funny Ah! Aah!

To write comic fiction in a context where everything seems risible, to orchestrate chaos in the necessary fashion, you have to be incredibly smart, in the sense of that term as both verb and adjective. To be smart, your words also have to smart; to give pleasure, you must also bring pain.

A Gift of Cleverness

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.

So Many Haters

Plato did not hate poetry, though he wished to ban poets from the ideal Republic. In such a state you would not want to let it hold sway, even if in a real one it has its critical power and function. In an ideal Republic of course, you would not feel like a drink after a day’s work ...

No Sweat

James Joyce and Walter Benjamin worked hard over decades to evolve idiosyncratic methods apt for the city-text they wanted to communicate. But Kenneth Goldsmith’s montage version of New York comes from a culture that no longer attaches value to work, only to product.

Wee Book, Big Muscles

Don Paterson should be recognised as a poet who offers us strenuousness and sweetness in a way that nobody has since John Donne; he kills his enemies and loves his friends, making us vibrantly aware of poetry’s capabilities as an affectionate medium.

Mister Perfect

The frequently quoted descriptions of Michael Donaghy as a modern metaphysical may make prospective readers nervous; yet in the main there is nothing ostentatiously intellectual about his work. Rather, the abiding impression is that a poem is a minor fuss worth making.

The Big Cabbage

In the original Chandler novels, mansions, money and manicured lawns did not necessarily presage either virtue or happiness. In Black-Banville’s remake we seem to have taken cognisance of what has happened in the interim, with a Philip Marlowe who strangely equates sports cars and ‘money to burn’ with ‘class’.

The Sexual Caterwaul

It is difficult, in a permissive society, to define what is obscene. But to find at least something obscene shows that you are a sentient person.