The Pressed Melodeon: Essays on Modern Irish Writing

Ben Howard, Author Story Line Press $12.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-885266-24-8
""Pomeroy, Fintona-/ place names that sigh/ liked a pressed melodeon/ across this forgotten/ Northern landscape."" This verse from John Montague's book-length poem, The Dead Kingdom, gave Howard's collection of essays on contemporary Irish literature its intriguing title. Howard, who teaches literature and writing at upstate New York's Alfred University, provides a personal exploration of Irish writing in the postwar period, and offers the diligent reader a lively, readable analysis of many of the main poets and writers, and a few lesser-knowns as well. In the first essay, the inherently fractured nature of Irish literature (a result of dual languages, religions and social traditions), is illustrated through consideration of established poets like Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Heaney, Montague, and Thomas Kinsella. In the second, Howard discusses anthologies of Irish verse that have tried to address this range and diversity, providing some valuable pointers on available publications. After a piece on Louis MacNeice's critical work, he revisits The Bell, a literary review of the 1940s and '50s, and then elaborates on The Field Day Anthology, a 4000-page opus covering 1500 years of Irish writing. In ""After the Coronachs,"" he highlights what distinguishes the poets from the North of Ireland, including Derek Mahon, Medbh McGuckian, Tom Paulin, Ciarar Carson and Paul Muldoon, and examines the influence of sectarianism on their work. The book's second section, made up of seven separate essays on individual writers, provides a well-rounded and erudite conclusion to this analysis of writing in Ireland today. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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