Munira H. Mutran & Laura P. Z. Izarra, eds., Irish Studies in Brazil [Pesquisa e Crítica, 1] (Associação Editorial Humanitas 2005), 406pp.

CONTENTS: Preface [by] Martin Greene/Ambassador of Ireland [9]; Introduction [13]. PART I: John Banville, “Fiction and the Dream” [21]; Paul Durcan, “The Last Shuttle to Rio” (to Patrick Early) [29]; Michael Longley, “The Leveret “ (for my grandson Benjamin) [33]; Billy Roche, “Maggie Angre” [35]. PART II - Drama: Dawn Duncan, ‘Compassionate Contact: When Irish Playwrights Reach Out For Others’ [49]; Nicholas Grene, ‘Reality Check: Authenticity from Synge to McDonagh’ [69]; Heinz Kosok, ‘The Easter Rising versus the Battle of the Somme: Irish Plays about the First World War as Documents of a Post-colonial Condition’ [89]; Ann Saddlemyer, ‘Shaw’s Playboy: Man and Superman’ [103]. Fiction: John Cronin, ‘“Beasts in the Province”: The Fiction of Janet McNeill’ [127]; Declan Kiberd, ‘Growing up Absurd: Edna O’Brien and The Country Girls ’ [143]; Maureen Murphy, ‘The Literature of Post-1965: Indian and Irish Immigration to the United States ’ [163]. Poetry: Terence Brown, ‘John Hewitt and Memory: A Reflection’ [175]; Maurice Harmon, ‘Personal Helicons: Irish Poets and Tradition’ [185]; Edna Longley, ‘Poetry & Peace’ [211]. Culture and Translation: R. H. Buchanan, ‘Northern Ireland: Politics and Regional Identity’ [223]; David Harkness, ‘Meanderings’ [235]; Haroldo de Campos, ‘Ulysses by James Joyce’ [243]; Donaldo Schüler, ‘A Alquirma da Tradução’ [247]; Maria Tymoczko, ‘Joyce’s Postpositivist Prose Cultural Translation and Transculturation’ [261]. PART III - Irish Studies in Brazil: A Backward Glance, 1980-2005: ‘MA Dissertations and PhD Theses at USP’ [297]. Reviews of Published Dissertations and Theses: Marie Arndt, ‘Séan O’Faolain’s Letters to Brazil’ [315]; Beatriz Kopschitz Xavier Bastos, ‘O Teatro de William Butler Yeats: Teoria e Prática’ [319]; Richard Allen Cave, ‘Séan O’Casey’s Letters and Autobiographies: Reflections of a Radical Ambivalence’ [324]; Peter James Harris, ‘George Bernard Shaw e a Renovação do Teatro Ingles’ [331]; Peter James Harris, ‘Bernard Shaw’s Novels: His Drama of Ideas in Embryo’ [336]; Solange Ribeiro de Oliveira, ‘Álbum de Retratos: George Moore, Oscar Wilde e William Butler Yeats no Fim do Século, XIX: Um Momento Cultural’ [341]; Hedwig Schwall, ‘Mirrors and Holographic Labyrinths’ [343]; Exhibition: Gavin Adams, ‘RASTRO by James Concagh’ [349]. Bibliography: Peter O’Neill, ‘Irish Literature in Brazil since 1888’ [357]; Peter O’Neill, ‘Irish Drama in Brazil since 1940’ [401]. [END]

John Banville, ‘Fiction and the Dream’
‘It was one of those dreams that seem to take the entire night to be dreamt. All of him was involved in it, his unconscious, his subconscious, his memory, his imagination; even his physical self seemed thrown into the effort. The details of the dream flood back, uncanny, absurd, terrifying, and all freighted with a mysterious weight - such a weight as is carried by only the most profound experiences of life, of waking life, that is. And indeed, all of his life, all of the essentials of his life, were somehow there, in the dream, folded tight, like the petals of a [21] rosebud. Some great truth has been revealed to him, in a code he knows he will not be able to crack. But cracking the code is not important, is not necessary; in fact, as in a work of art, the code itself is in the meaning.’ (pp.21-22.) [...] But what if, instead of accepting the simple fact that our most chaotic, our most exciting, our most significant dreams are nothing but boring to others, even our significant others - what if he said to his wife, All right, I’ll show you, I’ll do more than show you, I’ll sit down and write out the dream in such an intense and ravishing formulation that when you read it you, too, will have the dream; you, too, will find yourself wandering in the wild wood at nightfall; you, too, will hear the dream voices telling you your own most secret secrets . / I can think of no better analogy than this for the process of writing a novel. The writer’s aim is to make the reader have the dream - not just to reading about it, but actually to experience it; to have the dream, to write the novel.’ (p.23.) ‘I should emphasise here that I have no grand psychological theory of the creative process to offer you. I am not a Freudian, although I admire Freud as a great literary fabulator. [...]’ And I am [24] certainly not a Jungian. Indeed, when I hear the word psychology applied in the area of fiction I tend to reach for my revolver. (Fiction is the presentation of hard evidence - but that’s another day’s lecture.) I do not pretend to know how the mind, consciously or otherwise, processes the base metal of quotidian life into the gold of art. Even if I could find out, I would not want to. Certain things should not be investigated. / When I began to write I was a convinced rationalist, if a decidedly ecstatic one. I believed, and fiercely and indignantly defended my belief, that I, the writer was in control of what I wrote. [...]’ (p.25.) [Gives an account of the complex rational schema of Copernicus and Kepler.] ‘The point is, I saw myself as the scientist-like manipulator of my material, the “devised deviser devising it all”, as Beckett beautifully writes of one of his fictional alter egos. But then, around the middle of the 1980s, something happened, I am not sure what it was, or what caused it, whatever it may have been. Both my parents had died within a few years of each other, and perhaps I was in a state of sublimated grief. Certainly there was a great deal of pain and sorrow in the novel I wrote in that time. The book, Mefisto, is a sort of demented dream. It was dreamlike not only in its content and the mode of its narration, but in the manner in which it was written. For the first time, out of whatever extreme of distress it was that I was in, 1 began to let things happen on the page which my conscious, my waking, mind could not account for. And this was, 1 realised, a new way of working. I do not say it was a freer way, or even that it was a more productive way, but certainly it was different.’ (p.26.) [Gives an account and record of a dream which he incorporated in The Sea, viz.: ‘A dream it was that drew me here . not knowing rightly where I was except that I was going home’ . &c.; p.27-28.] ‘What encoded meaning or message did it carry out of my subconscious into the hospitable medium of cold print? [Speaks particularly of something ‘plangent, grief-stricken, almost, in that word home ’ in the dream-passage quoted and cites Wallace Stevens’s phrase “pierces me with relation”.] Further, ‘The writing of fiction is far more than the telling of stories. It is an ancient, an elemental, urge which springs, like the dream, from a desperate imperative to encode and preserve things that are buried in us deep beyond words. This is its significance and its glory.’ (p.28.) [End].

Dawn Duncan, ‘Compassionate Contact: When Irish Playwrights Reach Out For Others’ [49].
Cites Cathy Leeney, ed., Seen and Heard: Six New Plays by Irish Women ( Dublin: Carysfort Press 2001), incls. Anne Le Marquand Hartigan, La Corbière; Dolores Walshe, In the Talking Dark.

In Hartigan s La Corbière, sexist attitudes and actions taken by the male tools of empire are challenged in a chilling recreation of the carelessness of the men toward the women they force to sexually serve them. Most of the women die in a shipwreck that is imaginatively evoked through chanting and lamentation, through the crossed dialogue of soldiers and women. The soldiers who have over-run the homeland of these women and ripped them from their homes have no concern for their lives, shrugging aside the human loss: “Klaus: their lot Kurt: got their lot Klaus: deserved Kurt: their lot Klaus: harlot harlot (Hartigan 192)

However, the women will not die easily or unremembered. In Hartigan’s hands and in the voice of the narrating survivor, these women call out to all other women who have been brutalized by men who march over their lands and over their bodies with the same disregard:

Rise up from the bottom of the sea. Rise up from the bottom of their minds. Rise. Up pushing down the sea. Rise. Shout out so loud that the world will burst. From the bottom of the sea the world will burst (184).

The call for shouting, for disturbing the equilibrium and bringing to the surface the horrors that have been perpetrated, forcing the world to hear the voice of the oppressed is not only dramatically startling; it is also political activism. Hartigan’s choice of story is a significant political act in our world today: first, because sexual exploitation of the vulnerable is a hidden daily occurrence in a world with more permeable borders; and second, because wars waged on a large scale and with technological developments that allow killing without fully encountering the human other have reduced recognition of human loss to unnamed numbers of “collateral damage,” as the military term such losses.

Nicholas Grene, ‘Reality Check: Authenticity from Synge to McDonagh’, pp.69-88.
‘In October 1997, I went along to the Olympia Theatre in Dublin to see Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane. The Leenane Trilogy had been premiered in Galway earlier that year, coproduced by Druid Theatre Company with the Royal Court, and it had gone on to a massive success in London. I had heard mixed reports from friends, and decided to book for just one of the plays instead of signing on for the whole three. I sat through The Beauty Queen stony-faced, in indignation and outrage, made worse by the fact that all around me the audience were clearly loving it - cracking up with laughter, on the edge of their seats with suspense in the suspenseful moments. How could they fall for these ancient melodramatic tricks, I thought, how could they laugh at these slick sitcom one-liners? A part of my anger had to do with what I felt was the factitious unreality of what purported to be an Irish play: the unreality of the language, of the situation, of the way the characters behaved. This is not Ireland, I said to myself, this is not Leenane in the 1990s. [69] / Suddenly this sounded familiar.’ (pp.69-70.)

‘McDonagh’s plays have everywhere produced public controversy and at the centre of that controversy has been the issue of authenticity.’ (p.71.)

[On Synge’s Playboy:] ‘If we try to find a source for this preoccupation with reality and authenticity at the time of the literary revival, the colonial context is no doubt important. A colonised people is forced to accept forms [75] of identity from elsewhere. They are the mimic men, to use the title of an early novel by V. S. Naipaul: their culture, their behaviour, their very being is derived from the colonising centre. Always cited to illustrate this idea in an Irish context is the famous passage in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young man where Stephen Dedalus reflects on his knowledge of English as against that of the English Dean of Studies: “The language which in which we are speaking [., &c.] acquired speech.” Given the insecurity of a long colonised country, the lack of self-belief that we are our own people, it may be understandable that reality should be so important to us. Somewhere, at some time in Ireland, there must be or must have been a reality that is not merely mimic culture shipped in off the mailboat. Synge in writing his plays believed he was in touch with such a reality; his opponents vehemently insisted they knew better. But both claimed privileged knowledge of the “real spirit of the island”. And this reality was something other than the actuality of what went on day by day in the accidental life of the here and now.’ (pp.75-76.)

[...] Even when The Plough was produced, its first night was applauded, the reviews were on the whole very favourable. [...] The row over the Plough did not ignite until the fourth night of its run, and when it did it was in some sort a continuation of the Civil War by other means. [...] Of course it was significant that in 1925 the Abbey had been given a [77] subsidy by the Free State government, that Yeats, one of the founder-Directors of the Abbey - he of the thundering denunciation of the audience - was a Free State Senator who had supported the government in their draconian anti-Republican legislation. This gave the protesters a thick stick to beat the play and the theatre. “The Free State government is subsidising the Abbey to malign Pearse and Connolly”, declared Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, leading spokeswoman on the Republican side. [...]

Once again, the row produced ludicrous-seeming arguments over authenticity, turning particularly on the second act, with the notorious appearance of Rosie Redmond the prostitute.

[...] Great offence was taken at the appearance of a prostitute in such a situation [i.e., when Pearse’s oratory is heard off-stage]. Prostitutes: there were no such people in the holy city of Dublin. (This was not the experience of Ria Mooney, the young actress who played the scandalous part of Rosie against the advice of many older colleagues. In the old Abbey there was no way actors could cross from one side of the stage to the other behind the scenes [other than going] down a lane at the back of the theatre. [...] This Ria Mooney had to do every night in her whore’s costume; and every night she was attacked by the real street-walkers who imagined she was invading their pitch.

[Ftn., I was told this story by Ann Saddlemyer, who had it from Ria Mooney herself.]

[...] Whatever the absurdity of such claims, what was at issue was a felt need for a complete identity between the sacred and the real. Easter 1916, the foundational act in the creation of the new Ireland, was a sacred drama, played out as such by its leaders with a full sense of the symbolic and the theatrical: in the choice of Easter as a date, in the occupation of the GPO right across from Nelson’s Pillar, centre of Ireland’s capital city, in the reading out of the Proclamation before those imposing neo-classical pillars. But it was a sacred drama acted out by real men in a real theatre of war, bringing with it a transformation of ordinary, everyday reality that on-one ever expressed better than Yeats in his poem “Easter 1916”. (p.79.)

In one sense, there is no doubt that Deane and Kiberd are fight: O’Casey does upstage the Rising, reduce it to a series of noises and, while he foregrounds its impact on non-participant Dubliners. It is equally clear that his selection of extracts from Pearse’s speeches and writings, placed in the Voice of the unnamed Man at the window m the back of the pub in Act II, is a malicious medley of the most bloodthirsty, the purplest of purple patches from the orator’s greatest bits. This is politically unbalanced reporting. But of course O’Casey is not a reporter, he is a playwright, a creator of dramatic fictions. Why should he be expected to tell the historical truth, and what sort of historical truth is it that Deane and Kiberd want him to tell? What they want, it seems to me is a certain story of 1916 that places it at the origin of modern Ireland . Roy Foster’s book The Irish Story has as its subtitle “telling tales and making it up in Ireland”. That is not intended to suggest that the Irish story, the construction of a historical narrative for Ireland, is just made up, just a fictional tale. The leaders of 1916 did fight bravely in what they knew was a doomed cause. Their deaths did transform what had been a thoroughly unpopular rebellion into a politically unstoppable movement: witness the 1918 General Election two and a half years later in which Sinn F6in carried all before them. The complaint about O’Casey is not just that he leaves out these facts as facts, but that he excludes the heroic narrative built upon those facts that for post-] 916 Irish nationalists was to become the primary reality of their nation. The Plough and the Stars, from that point of view either in the original protest of 1926 or in the latter-day critiques of Deane and Kiberd, misrepresents the reality of the Rising. (p.81.)

The famous theatrical device at the centre of the [82] play is the convention that the Ballybegers are supposed to be speaking Irish, the English soldiers English, and that they are mutually incomprehensible to one another - even though all the lines are actually in English. But, objected the historians, English was in fact a principal subject taught in the hedge schools. Friel’s image of a school community moving between their own native Irish and the classical languages of Latin and Greek, overtaken by a modernising colonial system bent on imposing English on them, is a romantic fiction. Parents who paid to send their children to the hedge schools wanted them to learn English because it was their passport to success in a wider world. Further objections came from John Andrews about the representation of the map-making. The Ordnance Survey did not, as in the play, make up English place names, obliterating the Irish originals. Although Anglicised transliterations of the place-names were introduced, great care was taken to consult local sources to try to render the names as accurately as possible. What is more, John O’Donovan, the real-life equivalent of Owen in the play, was one of the great Irish scholars of his day, whose work for the Ordnance Survey was of crucial importance in recording the oral folklore associated with particular places and placenames. Finally, the draconian scorched earth act of reprisal threatened by the English army commander when one of his fellow officers is missing presumed dead, would have been quite impossible, according to John Andrews. Such a commander would have had no authority to make or carry out such a threat, and the soldiers involved in the Ordnance Survey were unarmed.
 A debate was organised in the wake of the play’s production in which [Friel] met face to face with Andrews so they could argue the case. Although the playwright admitted to having unfairly misrepresented O’Donovan, on the whole he stood his ground, acknowledging only “tiny bruises inflicted on history in my play” [...] (pp.82-83; cites Brian Friel, John Andrews & Kevin Barry, ‘Translations and a Paper Landscape’, in Crane Bag, 7, 2, 1983, pp.118-24;123-24.)

Beauty Queen of Leenane: This is the standard old Irish country cottage kitchen in a desolate and isolated landscape of social stagnation. From Synge on this has been brandmarked as the reality of Ireland . It remained so even down to the 1990s when emigrants from the Galway small town of Leenane were much more likely to be going off to highly paid jobs in banking or information technology than to the building sites in England or the US which is all that is on offer to Pato in the Beauty Queen. I may seem only now to be echoing the protesters of 1907 - “That is not the West - “this is not 1990s Leenane”. The difference is that Synge’s play was a highly original one, a new imaginative vision of Ireland, with its reality hotly contested. McDonagh’s play is ostensibly a self-conscious parody of its predecessors, but its actual claim to authentic reality is paradoxically sponsored by those predecessors. Audiences at Beauty Queen are disposed to accept the genuineness of this Leenane because it is like Synge only more so, in its extremity destroying any lingering vestiges of an idealised, romanticised Ireland, and revealing the raw reality beneath. But, from the point of view of those of us who react against McDonagh, it is not raw reality, it is pre-cooked, stage-reality rechauffé. (p.86.)

Heinz Kosok, ‘The Easter Rising versus the Battle of the Somme: Irish Plays about the First World War as Documents of the Post-colonial Condition’.
Quotes Frank O’Connor: ‘The first great masterpiece of literature written in English in this country is A Modest Proposal, and I would ask you to remember that it is a political tract. That political note, I would suggest, is characteristic of all Anglo-Irish literature. I know no other literature so closely linked to the immediate reality of politics.’ (The Backward Look, 1967, p.121; here p.89.)

On First World War plays: ‘Technically, most of them utilise the perspective of the memory play where the last eye-witnesses of the War are about to die, taking the experience of the War with them into oblivion. The most successful of these plays is McGuinness’s Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme which centres on one Kenneth Pyper, the last survivor who [94] as an old man is haunted by memories of the War and in vain tries to understand them. His attitude throughout the play reflects a petrified myth of loyalty and devotion which has led to the self-engendered isolation of today’s Ulster Unionists. According to McGuinness, it results from the experience of the First World War. Mirrored in Pyper’s consciousness, McGuinness shows the fate of eight Ulstermen from different regional and social backgrounds seven of whom are killed on the Somme . Significantly, their devotion to an abstract, romanticised image of Ulster leads them into extinction, which, combined with the incomprehension of the lonely survivor, is a bitter verdict on present-day Ulster Unionism.’ (pp.94-95.)

‘G. P. Gallivan in Decision at Easter [1959] was the first to take the daring step of bringing all the leaders of the Rising onto the stage, and it needed a highly apologetic foreword to the printed edition, emphasising that “the problems confronting the author were of a peculiar delicacy and difficulty”, because “the mental pictures of the executed leaders are sacrosanct”. (p.8; cites Ignatius Johns, ‘Foreword’, Decision at Easter, Progress Hse n.p.)

[Tom] Murphy’s The Patriot Game proved that even in the Nineties there was an audience in Ireland ready to underwrite the type of hero-worship [of the 1916 leaders] that O’Casey, some sixty years before, had set out to debunk. Murphy’s somewhat anachronistic approach can perhaps be explained by the fact that the play had its origins in a much earlier television script of 1966. By 1991, he argued that “the danger in the Irish Republic was as much one of ‘repressing’ the Rising from national memory as of glorifying it into a national illusion.’ ([Quoted in] Fintan O’Toole, Tom Murphy: The Politics of Magic, rev. edn. Dublin: New Island Books; London: Dick Hern Books 1994, p.151; here po.98.

‘That such fear was not totally unwarranted [i.e., the fear of the Rising being ‘repressed’ from ‘national memory’ rather than ‘glorifying it into a national illusion’ contemplated by Tom Murphy in 1991], can perhaps be inferred from Sebastian Barry’s great play White Woman Street of the following year. The action of White Woman Street is dated to Easter 1916, but it is set in Ohio, and from this telescopic distance the events m Dublin are hardly discernible. The only direct reference to the Rising comes in a paragraph from a newspaper, misquoted by an uncomprehending bar-keeper: “We get plenty Irish here. Place there burning like Richmond, I mean, Some big mail depot or someplace. Fire and ruin in Dublin . Fellas put in jail and likely to be shot. Fighting the English.” (Three Plays, 1995, p. 175.) And before this, the Irishman in the play had already placed the events in Dublin in a wider moral perspective when he asks: “Ever see an Indian town - the tent towns? Put me in mind of certain Sligo hills. The English had done for us, I was thinking, and now we’re doing for the Indian.” (Ibid., p.158.) Here the postcolonial approach characteristic of all the dramatisations of the Easter Rising has been extended to encompass the share of Irishmen in other colonialist measures, counteracting the vision of Ireland as the one-sided victim of colonialism. Judging from such examples, the ghosts of the country’s colonial past are perhaps at last being laid to rest.’

Ann Saddlemyer, ‘Shaw’s Playboy: Man and Superman’ [103-26
Copied directly to Shaw [quotes and bibl.]

John Cronin, ‘Beasts in the Province”: The Fiction of Janet O’Neill, pp.127-42.
‘Gospel Truth, her prize-winning play of 1946, is a telling indictment of a kind of dreary, Ulster religiosity which was to remain one of her principal fictional targets. Herself a daughter of the manse, she invariably writes with insight and sympathy about Presbyterian ministers but roundly condemns conformity to the letter of a joyless creed.’

‘Stephen Cross, the unwitting author of all this emotional havoc, is the first in what will be along line of sexually inadequate males in McNeill’s fictional world. Handsome, clever, idealistic and ruinously well-intentioned, he fails completely to response to Alison’s obvious interest in him and his judgement on sexual matters is invariably poor. Naively unaware of his effect on women, he offers the comically pretentious Miss Sparrow advice which unfortunately results in her breaking off her engagement to the church organist, Mr. Thompson. In a lighter vein, McNeill embodies her dislike of [129] joyless conformity in the excellent comic character of Sam Lumsden [...] a noisy drunkard with a ruinous fondness for poetry, but [...] now a reformed character who avoids both the bottle and William Shakespeare with equal zeal. [...] In her novels, McNeill spans a similar religious gamut but moves firmly away from working-class figures like the Lumsdens to concentrate on middle-class, middle-aged Protestants as her exclusive concern.’ (p.128)

[Quotations from Maiden Dinosaur directly to Ricorso]

Describes The Maiden Dinosaur (1964), in which the liberal minister Mr Ballater refused to provide the anti-Republican rhetoric required by his congregation in the wake of an IRA explosion and in which the educated, articulate women who are the novelist’s principal concern no longer feel any commitment to the faith in which they were reared’ (Cronin).

‘McNeill’s authorial voice has the magisterial acidity of an impatiently intelligent headmistress. She rules her fictional world with such impressive authority that one can understand the impatience expressed by John Wilson Foster, who [...] clearly values her work so highly that he wishes she had taken more risks. (See Foster, as supra.)

Quotes her remarks on ‘The Regional Writer and His Problems’ (1956):

‘The regional writer from Northern Ireland is not long in discovering when he tries to market his work across the water, that there are some regions in which a book gains by being placed, and others for no reason that a publisher or an agent can explain to him which lose, and that the scales in this case are against him.’ ‘Primarily, I think, that old bogey, the Stage Irishman, is at the bottom of it. He got there first and, as far as popular appeal goes, he knows all the answers.’ (p.4)

‘Nobody I know has ever met a Stage Irishman - he shares this honour with the flying saucer - and I don’t know enough about the peasant people in the South and West of Ireland to be able to say whether in fact he does exist.’ ‘We allow our regionalism - our difference - to stick out a mile, but make no effort to explain it. Could we not, when we are outside our own region be a little more willing to discuss ourselves and not quite so surprised when we find out how little other people know about us?’ ‘A phonetic rendering of our native speech is quite impossible [...] we have an infinite number of agile tones, moods and significances in the placing of a single word in our Ulster tongue’ ‘Forrest Reid had an answer to this difficulty. He used sparse, stripped speech, containing nothing purely colloquial in its origin. / This may in part, but only in part, account for the popularity and the appreciation of his books across the water. / He was one of the rare exceptions. An Ulster writer who, using the materials readiest to his hands and heart, gained a welcome from readers outside Ulster . [...] But it entails a certain restrictive poverty of dialogue.’ (p.4).

Terence Brown, ‘John Hewitt and Memory: A Reflection’, pp.175-84.
Brown engages with the question whether Hewitt is a poet of memory, and if so, whether in the atavistic sense predicated on a (here unspoken) association with nationalist identity and sense of loss. ‘Hewitt was always a poet who took for granted that bearing in mind the dead was part of a poet’s duty. Although he asserted of himself “I have no ghosts. / My dead are safely dead” (Coll. Poems, p.42) a considerable portion of his poetry, if not haunted, is certainly aware of the dead and his responsibility to them and conscious of their presence in his imagination.’ (p.176.) ‘Obituary verse in Hewitt may be a duty accepted and discharged by the poet as responsible citizen; but there is also evidence that the poet was in fact imaginatively absorbed by death itself. [...] As Hewitt’s editor, Frank Ormsby[,]remarks: “Hewitt depicts the approach and arrival of death as piteous, clumsy, aimless, crude and lonely, and is not disposed to be comforted by visions of an afterlife.” (Coll. Poems, p.lxxi.) For Hewitt, death truly seems to be the end of things. His is a secular consciousness for which death is cruel in its defining finality.’ (p.177.) ‘For Hewitt’s imagination is dominated by a consciousness of the patterns life weaves through the ages. Humankind is a product of nature, of place and weather, of cultural formations that determine habits and mores, of change that can disrupt long-settled ways. The family, the ties of kinship, for Hewitt are central to him as a poet for whom the patterns of human social existence are an abiding theme. His sense of the past is accordingly centred in familial acts of remembrance.’ (p.179.)

‘So many of Hewitt’s best poems are in fact poems of memory, in the sense that they are couched in a deliberative past tense, that they make recollections seem his characteristic stance in life. This then, as a mode of consciousness, becomes associated in the reader’s mind with one of the pleasure principals Hewitt’s verse affords: that sense of the world being received into the steady accumulative structures of his conscientiously composed stanzas. The effect is to suggest a reality, the past, made amenable to a sustained, reflective ordering that does not deny deep familial, communal, even national emotion. To remember past experience is to share in one of the mind’s most creative activities, the recalling and ordering of experience as the past constantly makes its presence felt in the continuous present tense of our lives. That activity, as Hewitt makes it known to us in his poetry, is a curiously exhilarating one, remote from mere nostalgia or easy sentiment, different from regret or romantic longing for what has gone. Rather it makes memory seem a living principle of mature sensibility without which the present would be bereft of real meaning. [...]’ (p.183.)

Maurice Harmon, ‘Personal Helicons: Irish Poets and Tradition’, pp.185-210
Contains close readings of multi-cultural poetry by Yeats, Kinsella, Heaney, Longley and Harmon himself involving chiefly draughts on Irish and classical (Graeco-Roman) culture.

Opening: ‘Understanding the conditions under which Irish writing has been produced helps to clarify its evolution and present state. As an island country with a recently lost language and culture and in close proximity to the rich and dominant English literary tradition, It was important for Irish writers in the late nineteenth century, when they began to develop a literature of their own in the English language, to distance themselves from English literature and to establish strong identifying connections with their own traditions and their own places. At that time English poets went for source material to classical authors (as Robert Browning had done), to the Arthurian cycles (as Alfred Lord Tennyson had done), or to Norse saga (as William Morris had done). The practice of drawing upon sources within Irish tradition did not begin with W. B. Yeats, but when he published The Wanderings of Oisin in 1889, he was making a statement about independence. As part of his programme to create an indigenous literature in Ireland, he drew widely from Irish culture for plays, short poems and poetic narratives.
  There was also a sense that Irish culture was under threat from a variety of causes - primarily from the dominant English influence, but also from massive emigration, all the media, increasing [185] travel and more recently the emergence of a multi-cultural population. While there are positive aspects to these forces of change, such as the invigoration of new ideas and new approaches, the negative aspects of cultural erosion and linguistic loss were considerable. The result was a determination to rescue tradition, to seek out Irish language texts, to edit and translate them, to reach back to the medieval period and to draw deeply from the earliest literature of myth, saga, and vernacular poetry.’ (pp.185-86.)

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