Alan Gillis

Criticism

Life
1973- [Alan A. Gillis] b. Belfast, brought up in Newtownards; ed. TCD (English), and QUB (MA & PhD); with Aaron Kelly, dir. “New Voices” Post-grad. Conference, Belfast 2000; appt. Research Fellow of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at the School of English, QUB; issued Somebody, Somewhere (2004), poetry collection, short-listed for The Irish Times and winner of Eithne and Rupert Strong Award of the Dun Laoghaire “Poetry Now” Fest., 2005; issued Irish Poetry of the 1930s (2005) [pub. Aug. 15]; m., with one child; issued Hawks and Doves (2007), recommended by Poetry Book Society; researching the British and Irish influence of Wallace Stevens; lectured at the University of Ulster in 2006 and currently at Edinburgh Univ.; ed., with Fran Brearton, Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Poetry (2012).

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Works
Poetry
  • Somebody, Somewhere (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2004), 62pp.;
  • Hawks and Doves (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2007), 80pp.;
  • Here Comes the Night (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2010), 104pp.
Criticism
  • with Aaron Kelly, eds., Critical Ireland: New Essays in Literature and Culture [New Voices Conference, Belfast] (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2001), xviii, 221pp.;
  • Irish Poetry of the 1930s (OUP 2005), 220pp. [see details].
Miscellaneous
  • Contrib. to Love Poet, Carpenter: Michael Longley at Seventy, ed. Robin Robertson (London: Enitharmon Press 2009).
  • with Dermot Cavanagh, et al., The Edinburgh Introduction to Studying English Literature (Edinburgh UP 2010), 248pp.
  • ed., with Fran Brearton, The Oxford Hadnbook of Modern Irish Poetry (Oxford: OUP 2012), 743pp.

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Bibliographical details
Irish Poetry of the 1930s (Oxford: OUP 2005), 220pp. CONTENTS: 1. Introduction; 2. Louis MacNeice: The Living Curve; 3. Patrick Kavanagh and Austin Clarke: In a Metaphysical Land; 4. Denis Devlin, Brian Coffey, and Samuel Beckett: Across the Tempest of Emblems; 5. W. B. Yeats: Among the Deepening Shades; Select Bibliography. Dust-jacket quotations [reviews]: ‘The 1930s have never really been considered as an epoch within Irish literature, even though the Thirties form one of the most dominant and fascinating contexts in modern British literature. Alan Gillis shows that during this time Irish poets confronted political pressures and aesthetic dilemmas which frequently overlapped with those faced by “The Auden Generation”. In doing so, he not only offers a provocative re-reading of Irish history, but also advances powerful arguments about the way poetry is interpreted and understood.’ ‘Gillis redefines our understanding of a frequently neglected period and challenges received notions of both Irish literature and poetic modernism. Irish Poetry of the 1930s gives detailed and vital readings of the major poets of the decade, including original and exciting analyses of Samuel Beckett, Patrick Kavanagh, Louis MacNeice, and W. B. Yeats’. (See COPAC online; accessed 09.02.2011.)

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Criticism
Elmer Kennedy-Andrews, ‘New Voices (Peter McDonald, Sinead Morrissey, Alan Gillis and Leontia Flynn)’, in Writing Home: Poetry and Place in Northern Ireland, 1968-2008 (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer 2008), pp.249-86.

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Commentary
Malachi Doherty, “Shite? No’, review of Somebody, Somewhere, in Fortnight [Belfast] (Dec. 2004), p.27 [with cover-legend: ‘The Arrival of Alan Gillis’]: quotes “Last Friday Night” [‘... shite pos, but we’d fucking chance / it, great big fucking ditties, bouncin, shite / an thighs [...]’]; also “Progress” [‘Give time, one hundred thousand particles of glass / will create imossible patterns in the air / before coalescing into the clarity of a window’], and “Deliverance” [‘Clouds target the hillsides / bringing water, looking for all the world / like spaceships traying to beam themselves down’]; and “The Ulster Way” [‘This is not about horizons or other curving / limitations. This is not about the rhythm / of a songline. There are other paths to follow. / Everyone is about you. Now listen.’ Opens with remark: ‘Alan Gillis arrived unannounced’, and later comments: ‘Gillis is toying with clichés: sell you up the river; shoot the breeze; lifestyle options. There is an occasional cleverness in subverting their familiarity [...] In some of the poems, the language is startling in its inventiveness [...] There is a confident authority [...] Gillis takes the reader on several excursions into delapidation and confusion. Around him are the horrors of penury and addiction. His elaboration of these is fantastical and as indulgent as Kerouac [...] a poet of many images, from advertising and apparently science fiction [...] macho and slick [...] writes of adjusting his balls [...] watching a dancer do something impossible with gentle grace. You might even appreciate it enough not to notice him smirking at you.’

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Rory Brennan, review of Hawks and Doves, in Books Ireland (March 2008): ‘[...] All this is good rollicking stuff, almost always well chosen and infinitely preferable to the strained and restrained images and insights too often served up, a bone china sort of poetry [...] Driving (in small cheap cars) through such places as seaside county Down or urban-sprawl Belfast features quite a bit here. The windscreen is as multicoloured as a window in Chartres and so we get a version of the world as bright and brash as early technicolour, abundantly adjectival, with a dash of local “dialect” (or colour!) words such as clabber and blather. Yet the exuberance, even inebriation, of these poems can give them an irritating sameness like someone who always talks too loudly. They could be cut and pasted without difficulty - indeed they are a kind of digi-poetry, the existence of the e-world being taken for granted. Gillis can engage a little too much in a Northern brand of knowing parody or reference, something taken to the end of the seaside pier by Paul Muldoon. [...] The cover picture shows a crazed suburban interior that might still be found in Bangor. The author’s photo reveals him in a Hawaiian shirt against a bookcase background. This all matters - the book is a post-Punk, electric guitar rave by a scholar-performer. I'll log in here again and I suggest you do too.’ (p.48.)

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Rory Brennan, review of Here Comes the Night, in Books Ireland (Feb. 2011): ‘His ebullient, overflowing language was noted before on these pages. Did I remark then that the danger of this jampacked effervescence is clutter rather than vigour? This remains the case but how preferable is his burly - almost bulbous! - style to the snail-like trace that crawls across the page at the other end of the spectrum. These are high-visibility poems that come out roaring and nevertrail away into the undergrowth. Gillis takes the sonnet, which most poets still treat with kid gloves, and boxes a few rounds with it in marvellous sequences. A few snatches from this wordbinger: huff / hoofed, groaned / grutched, dootering, flappered / frazzled, lickety-split, honeycomb of sunglit, felt-pelted bumblebee, fizzing hedge, moongrey mizzle. But note his sonnets rhyme and scan with the unforced grace of ballroom dancers. Conventional subjects like the Mourne mountains do not get standard treatments. Randyvoo says Gillis for rendezvous. Well, be sure to make a randyvoo with this collection. And yes, vigour fights it out with clutter and wins the day.’

Quotations

See three poems in “Poetry Matters”, at the Tower Poetry (Dec 2004) online - or attached.

 

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