Thomas Dillon Redshaw, ‘“The Dolmen Poets”: Liam Miller and Poetry Publishing in Ireland, 1951-1961’, in Irish University Review: A Journal of Irish Studies (March 2012).

[Source: available at Humanities Library - online; accessed 23-09-2012. Click on highlighted references to reach the corresponding footnotes below and return using the "Back" icon in your browser - or the quick keys "ALT <-" since the footnotes are not backwards linked to the text.]

With the publication of The Dolmen Miscellany (1962) and the inception of Poetry Ireland the same year, Liam Miller’s Dolmen Press came to represent artistically and commercially Irish poets and their works within the Republic of Ireland and abroad. In Miller’s publishing practice, the liberal notion of ‘Poetry Ireland’ had come to supplant a narrower one: the idea of the ‘Dolmen Poets.’ As the nineteen fifties drew to a close, the Dolmen Poets were Padraic Colum and Austin Clarke (but not Patrick Kavanagh), Richard Murphy, John Montague, and especially Thomas Kinsella. In Dolmen’s earliest years, however, the notion of the ‘Dolmen Poets’ had entailed other figures - David Marcus, Donald Davie, Valentin Iremonger - as well as a “group” editorial method and small, economical print format suited to Dolmen’s elementary technical facilities. When, in the ‘Dolmen Poets’ format Miller printed the programme for the famous, three-way reading by Murphy, Montague, and Kinsella at the Royal Hibernian Hotel on 3 February 1961, both the occasion and the souvenir programme signalled Miller’s embracing of the concept of ‘Poetry Ireland’.


The end of the Dolmen Press came with the death, on 17 May 1987, after two years of precarious health, of Liam Miller. Miller’s Requiem Mass at Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross, and his interment in the old churchyard at Clonenagh, Mountrath, were occasions of national importance. Miller’s eulogist, Rev Kevin O’Neill, celebrated Miller’s life in religion as well as Irish culture. Miller’s interment at St. Fintan’s, Clonenagh, marked the central position he held not only in Irish publishing, but in the Irish theatre, literature, music, and the graphic arts in the middle decades of the twentieth century. [1] Among those crowded amid the mossy, heaved stones were Thomas Kinsella, John Montague, and Dardis Clarke, representing his late father Austin Clarke. Along with Padraic Colum, Clarke, Montague, and Kinsella remain the poets most closely linked to the reputation of the Dolmen Press. In his last months at the hospice, Miller had occasion to think of those Dolmen poets when the graphic designer Bill Bolger - whom Miller had come to know in the late nineteen seventies - asked him to reflect on the Dolmen enterprise. In notes responding to Bolger’s questions, Miller recollected that his starting intent had been ‘to make writings by Irish writers ... available in a modest style. We hoped to achieve circulation (small) for collections of poems - being inclined towards a love of verse’. [2]

Miller conflates poetry with writing - and the Irish poet with the Irish writer - and he does so because the urge to set verse into print, however determined by the limited technology available to him in the early nineteen fifties, lay at the heart of his enterprise and attracted its first community. In his 1975 introduction to Dolmen XXV, for example, Miller’s most lively recollections centre on the idea that he and his wife Jo ‘should ourselves print and issue work by Irish poets’ and that ‘as friends began to know of our efforts, they came to lend a hand - poets setting up their own work’. [3] Likewise equating ‘writer’ with ‘poet’, early Dolmen prospectuses reiterated the same fixed intentions. Prefacing his retrospective 1962 catalogue, Miller insisted that ‘[f]or over ten years this Press has pursued a policy of publishing new works by Irish writers and works of Irish interest generally ... New books from Pardaic [sic] Colum and Austin Clarke are announced as well as works by younger Irish writers.’ [4] Those ‘younger’ writers - ’a new generation of writers.... probably the most interesting since the 1930s’ - appeared in The Dolmen Miscellany of Irish Writing (1961). [5] Chief among them were Richard Murphy (b. 1927), John Montague (b. 1929), and Thomas Kinsella (b. 1928). Because Miller concurred with Montague’s characterization of the Dolmen Miscellany as ‘representative’, their work may be construed as the poetry of Ireland, or ‘Poetry Ireland’. [6] That titular phrase had almost continuous currency in Ireland from mid century onwards. Investigating what such a phrase may represent in the context of Ireland’s literary and publishing history constitutes the modest intent of these paragraphs. In particular, the purpose here is to illustrate what broad critical choices preceded Liam Miller’s 1962 revival of Poetry Ireland.

Chronologically speaking, Miller’s creative enthusiasms began with theatre in late nineteen forties London, with the Green Line Players; and in Dublin at Simpson’s Pike Theatre, continuing with Patrick Funge’s Lantern Theatre into the nineteen seventies. Abetted by his architectural training, Miller’s interest in theatre and stagecraft led him to focus on graphic design, typography, and book design, and his tastes proved largely antiquarian, revivalist, and humanist in character. [7] Even so, Miller sometimes entertained modernist notions, as in his design of the journal Forgnan for the architect Michael Scott. [8] When Miller and his wife came to practise the craft of printing for themselves in 1951, verse came to hand as text most practicable because it best fit their technical resources. Indeed, Miller defined publishing by poetry in his preface to Dolmen XXV:

A training at architecture and a first love for the theatre, combined with a voracious and undisciplined appetite for reading, were poor equipment for what we set about. Uncritical of writing and ignorant of the printer’s craft, I set about making a tiny wooden implement (it could hardly be called a press) and, with a card fount of type set up a verse, inked it and pulled an impression or two. [9]

Miller’s acquisition of the Salkelds’ wooden hand press and a case of Bodoni type - and later a case of Caslon type and an Albion flat bed press - confirmed his commitment to ‘verse’. [10] This technical limitation opened Miller’s editorial interests to the heritage of Irish poetry in English and to a sense of ‘Poetry Ireland’. And the poets came to him: Donagh MacDonagh, David Marcus, Thomas Kinsella.

Although Miller’s school notes contain extensive exercises in Irish in Gaelic script, as well as his own illustrations of the Tain stories, for him ‘Poetry Ireland’ was not Eigse Eireann. It was, however, a term defined for him by the accomplishments of the Protestant and then Roman Catholic poets of the Literary Revival. We know the names: Yeats and Colum, Ewart Milne and Austin Clarke. During Miller’s time at University College Dublin just after the ‘Emergency’ years, the term ‘Poetry Ireland’ also encompassed Denis Devlin and Brian Coffey, the printings of the Gayfield Press, and such fugitive efforts as, for example, the nineteen forties UCD broadside titled N. Above all, for Miller the term ‘Poetry Ireland’ began as a generational one encompassing writings by Richard Weber (b. 1932), Pearse Hutchinson (1927-2012), John Montague, and Thomas Kinsella.

Miller’s efforts had begun to attract national attention in the late nineteen fifties, often through the efforts of Seamas Kelly writing for the Irish Times as ‘Quidnunc’. In the late nineteen sixties and early nineteen seventies, some in literary Dublin saw Dolmen as posing Yeats against Kavanagh and serving as Miltonic heaven to the Pandemonium of the Bailey or McDaids. Even so, through Poetry Ireland, Dolmen printings began to reconfigure the term ‘Poetry Ireland’ to include later generations of writers like James Liddy (1934-2008), or like Michael Hartnett (1941-99) and Michael Smith (b. 1942) - who read at the Lantern ‘under the banner of POETRY IRELAND’. [11] The printed record from Dolmen confirms the homosocial character of the term ‘Poetry Ireland’, and, in particular, its circumscription by the boundaries of the Republic and of Dublin, to the deficit of writers in the North. [12]

Nowadays, most readers recognize the English title Poetry Ireland Review - rather than its Gaelic equivalent Iris Eigse Eireann - as the title of a well-designed quarterly that has served Ireland’s contemporary poets and their readers at home and abroad since 1981. ‘Poetry Ireland’, of course, is also the corporate name of the nonprofit organization now located in Kildare Street that publishes the review and sponsors readings and schools programmes throughout the Republic. At the start in 1981, Poetry Ireland Review was edited by John Jordan (1930-88). [13] Both Poetry Ireland and Poetry Ireland Review descend directly from Poetry Ireland, founded and published by John F. Deane between 1978 and 1980. Tom Clyde’s Irish Literary Magazines (2003) gives concise accounts of both magazines as well as of Poetry Ireland, published by Liam Miller. [14] Intended as a quarterly, and also edited by John Jordan, this Poetry Ireland was modelled after Harriet Monroe’s Poetry (Chicago) and reflected the American interests of its editorial board.

The Dolmen Poetry Ireland had its origin, of course, in two prior incarnations of the title published first from Cork and then from Rathmines. This Poetry Ireland was edited by the novelist and poet David Marcus, whose first version of Poetry Ireland lasted for nineteen issues from 1948 to 1952. In Poetry Ireland, Marcus presented Irish poets of the post-‘Emergency’ period and the Irish avant-garde of the nineteen forties, as well as American and British poets. The second version of Marcus’s Poetry Ireland appeared as a separately bound, but flimsily printed, supplement to Irish Writing. A substantial journal of international stature, Irish Writing replaced Sean O’Faolain’s The Bell and supplemented the Dublin Magazine for eleven years from 1946 to 1957. Edited first by David Marcus and later by Sean White, Irish Writing proved distinctive editorially and also visually, owing to Liam Miller’s design of Marcus’s last issues and White’s very first ones.

The connection between Dolmen and Dolmen’s Poetry Ireland runs directly through David Marcus. Marcus’s Six Poems (January 1952) was the third publication from Dolmen and was itself a special edition. It was finished just as Miller and Michael Biggs launched themselves into designing and decorating, and then into printing and binding, the first of Dolmen’s livres d’artiste - The Midnight Court (April 1953) as translated by Marcus. In terms of design and format, Six Poems provided the pattern for many of Dolmen’s poetry collections throughout the nineteen fifties. Likewise, Marcus’s Midnight Court, followed directly by Ewart Milne’s Galion (June 1953), anticipated the style for those special Dolmen editions published from 1966 through to Le Brocquy’s Dubliners of 1987. Marcus’s Six Poems is one of what Miller called ‘sixteen small books, in editions of five hundred or less, totaling two hundred and sixty-six pages’. [15] Through the nineteen fifties and into the nineteen sixties, Miller artfully designed, set, and printed editions of Clarke and Colum, Montague and Murphy - and especially Kinsella - that embodied a standard of respect for ‘Poetry Ireland’ that job printers in Ireland could not, and did not, often equal.

Thomas Kinsella was not as closely connected to Dolmen’s Poetry Ireland as to The Dolmen Miscellany of 1961 and to The Dolmen Chapbook, which Miller saw as a way to fit ‘individual type and illustration’ to poetic text. The Dolmen Chapbook came to be the seed-bed for the next decade of Dolmen publications, as Miller’s further drafts of a second and third series suggest. [16] In the late nineteen fifties, Miller envisioned the Chapbook as an ‘extension of the broadsheet idea’, as if it had the nature of an occasional periodical. In hindsight, he counted the Chapbook as a series, begun in 1954 and completed in 1960. By doing this he assumed that ‘Poetry Ireland’ would have duration; that poetry in Ireland would continue to be spoken and written, performed and read. His preface to Dolmen XXV suggests those aims, but it does not mention Miller’s hopes for another series titled ‘The Dolmen Poets,’ begun also in 1954. ‘The Dolmen Poets’ proposed to be, as Miller noted later on, a venue for ‘young people who were growing up in Ireland at the same time as I was, people who were beginning to write new poetry in Ireland.’ [17] Miller tried to raise funds for the project: at one point, the actor Cyril Cusack hinted that 150 [pounds sterling] would come from him. [18] That Miller conceived so confidently of such a series in straitened technical and financial circumstances attests to his idealizing view of the state of ‘Poetry Ireland’.

Miller sketched, costed out, and then fabricated, a dummy of the standard ‘Dolmen Poets’ volume on 1 December 1954. He planned on a series of six octavo pamphlets (19 x 12.5 cm) of sixteen pages sewn into paper boards. Rhoda Coghill’s Time is a Squirrel (November 1956) exemplifies this modest format. [19] Each volume would have a wrapper, and after the sixth pamphlet Miller planned to issue a slipcase to hold the series. The standard colophon would read:

DOLMEN POETS: [Roman Numeral] | The Title of the book by the author’s name is handset in 14 point Perpetua [written over Caslon] type & printed at [in] the Dolmen Press Dublin in an edition of 250 copies of which 100 are reserved for subscribers & Acknowledgement is made to Etc. | [Dolmen device] | [Date].’ [20]

The first in the series was to be a collection by Kinsella titled ‘Dusk Music’.

‘The Dolmen Poets’ attempted more than just a publishing project. Miller enlisted Kinsella, Sean White (then editing Irish Writing), and the poet and scholar Donald Davie, at that time a lecturer at Trinity College, in the venture. They agreed to solicit submissions and to debate together the character and print-worthiness of each submission. Sometimes discussions were held in person and sometimes they were conducted by post, for metropolitan Dublin then had the luxury of two weekday deliveries. Some of the typescripts considered had already arrived on Miller’s doorstep at Sion Hill; others were encouraged. White and Davie both complemented and countered Miller’s editorial instincts. As editor of Irish Writing, White was well situated to recommend Irish poets for the project. As a practitioner of academic criticism, Davie was also familiar with the emerging Movement poets in Britain. Indeed, he solicited a typescript from Philip Larkin, then librarian at Queen’s College, Belfast. That submission was later published by Faber and Faber as The Less Deceived in 1955.

Miller and Kinsella, White and Davie, banded together to form a ‘group’ that had several ambitions but lacked a venue, despite both Davie’s post at Trinity College and Miller’s own hospitality. The idea was to give prospective Dolmen poets a sympathetic hearing that would lead to editorial advice coming from four perspectives: the poet’s or Kinsella’s, the publisher’s or Miller’s, the editor’s or White’s, and the critic’s or Davie’s. The intent of this, in turn, was to engage the Dolmen poets in shared practical criticism. So, in the mid-nineteen fifties, Miller, Kinsella, White, and Davie attempted to establish an editorial process that could encourage and sometimes promise publication. The archival record suggests that this process was to serve as a sort of mail-order workshop, but the task proved too daunting. Miller, Kinsella, and White had livings to earn in difficult economic times, and Dolmen had already weathered a fiscal crisis in 1955. Even so, in 1956, Miller listed the first three ‘Dolmen Poets’. They would be Kinsella, Donald Davie, and Fergus Allen. Submissions by Patrick Galvin, John Hewitt, Richard Kell, Philip Larkin, Basil Payne and Bernard Share were declined or put on the long finger. [21] More particularly, the consensus of this loose editorial process, about which Davie was unhappy, defined ‘Poetry Ireland’ as the work of poets nurtured in the national literature of neutral Ireland and unaffected by postwar British tendencies such as those exhibited by the Movement poets.

Donald Davie (1922-95) is not much remembered in Dublin today, though the seven years he spent at Trinity (1950-57) left their mark. Had he stayed longer, the ‘Dolmen Poets’ project might have evolved into something more like Philip Hobsbaum’s group workshop up in Belfast. [22] Moreover, had Davie remained at Trinity, he could have encouraged the upcoming Trinity poets - Mahon, Longley, Boland - to take Dolmen as the venue for their work. Influenced by F. R. Leavis and Yvor Winters, Davie came to Dublin armed with a forthright critical stance against received rhetoric and unexamined tropes, and with expertise in the rhetorical verse of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. First published during his tenure at Trinity, and again just after the Yeats centenary, Davie’s Articulate Energy: An Enquiry into the Syntax of English Poetry (1955, 1966) braced the method and tone of criticism in Dublin. [23]

Davie’s early poems were to be published in 1956 under the title Aspects of Dissent. For this chapbook Miller created full-scale dummy. He chose a wrap of parchment and lettered it himself in black ink and drew in the image of St George’s Church overlooking Hardwicke Place on Dublin’s north side. Working from James Malton’s Picturesque and Descriptive View of the City of Dublin (1792), Miller catches only part of the meaning of Davie’s title. [24] Designed by Francis Johnson and begun by him just after the Act of Union, St George’s housed an Anglican and not a dissenting congregation. What Miller did capture was Davie’s early desire to articulate his Baptist upbringing and his interests in Augustan literature and Georgian Dublin. Miller repeated that emphasis by specifying a decorative border for the title page. The text was to be sewn in one signature into orange boards. Had Davie remained in Dublin to be published by Dolmen, his social and critical stances might have foreshadowed those articulated in the nineteen seventies by the Northern critic and poet Tom Paulin.

Aspects of Dissent went unpublished, as did Beatha Mhuire, its dialectical companion and cultural complement. While working with Davie on Aspects of Dissent, Miller was also designing a translation into Gaelic of Rilke’s Marienleben by the diplomat and poet Valentin Iremonger (1918-91). Miller proposed several large formats for Beatha Mhuire: one using drawings by the Dolmen artists Leslie MacWeeney, another having ten colour prints by the wood engraver Tate Adams. [25] He settled on and proofed, however, a more modest format: ‘a small squarish shape ... the small pages richly filled with black print’. [26] Iremonger’s text comes in Miller’s redoubtable Caslon face, while the titles are in Armenian red and in Victor Hammer’s American uncial. His choice of format indicates that Miller was thinking of Iremonger’s work in terms of the ‘Dolmen Poets’ scheme, even though Iremonger’s name did not figure in the original submission list. Moreover, this conjunction of Beatha Mhuire with Aspects of Dissent in the limbo of Dolmen’s momentary financial exigency underscores Miller’s ecumenical, hopeful, understanding of ‘Poetry Ireland’. As late as 1958, Miller still hoped to bring Beatha Mhuire into print in an edition of 500 copies, with subscriptions for 150 to finance the edition. [27]

Just before, and just after, Dolmen’s move to Upper Mount Street in 1958, Miller began to enlarge the ‘Dolmen Poets’ idea into ‘Poetry Ireland’ by undertaking the private printing of Too Great a Vine, Austin Clarke’s second Bridge Press suite of ‘Poems and Satires’, and publishing John Montague’s Forms of Exile. Again, the design of both titles descends directly from Miller’s initial vision of the ‘Dolmen Poets’ pamphlets. After the succès de scandale of Ancient Lights (1955), a chapbook modelled on Orwell Press productions, Austin Clarke commissioned Miller to design, print, and distribute Too Great a Vine. [28] Miller issued Forms of Exile in a similarly modest format and chaste printing, and with Tate Adams’s pressmark - a seated, cloaked reader - on the cover. [29] While Clarke was a Dubliner, Montague hailed from County Tyrone, and he went on to seek a wider audience and a publisher in London for Poisoned Lands (1961). [30] Clarke, however, committed himself to Miller and to Dolmen, which resulted in Later Poems (June 1961). Later Poems secured Clarke a critical readership in Ireland, in the United Kingdom, and in America, where Poetry (Chicago), hailed the book as ‘the poetic event of 1961’. [31] While both collections share a satiric stance, the objects of their disaffections differ. Both take the pieties of De Valera’s Ireland to task, but Montague includes postcards from his native America. Both collections eschew the Romantic stance, but by very different technical means. Both collections rely on the reader’s willing entertainment of often complicated allusions. Likewise, both collections offer, in hindsight, a clearer sense of what the term ‘Poetry Ireland’ was coming to entail - a more national than narrowly generational stance for Miller, for Dolmen, and for Dolmen’s readers.

Miller issued Forms of Exile in a specially bound limited edition, and repeated the format with Words Alone Are Certain Good. William Butler Yeats: Himself, the Poet, his Ghost by Mary Ballard Duryee, which was printed at the Dolmen Press in March 1961. Even though this was a vanity printing subvented by Duryee, Miller marketed it as a Dolmen book, and returned payment to her. [32] Miller had met Duryee at the first Yeats Summer School in 1960, which she attended with her husband Samuel Sloan Duryee, a wealthy New York lawyer. [33] The Duryees had an apartment on Manhattan’s East Side, a summer home on Chebeague Island, Maine, and an affection for Sligo and the Yeats Summer School that others sometimes resented. Duryee commissioned Miller to produce the book when ‘she was persuaded that there were Irish readers ready to take the manuscript to their hearts’. [34] The example of Yeats tested Duryee’s inventiveness and chastened her usual diction. Words Alone gives a record of her largely Romantic engagement with Yeats’s life, world, and words in which one can detect the lectures and excursions of the Yeats Summer School. Miller underscores the work’s dialogue with the world of Yeats by engaging in red letter printing and letting the Cuala Press style elevate Duryee’s accomplishment. When he sent advance copies to her, Miller observed that he had ‘tried to capture the general feeling of a Cuala Press book without copying anything’. [35] So here Miller lets a commission link the idea of ‘Poetry Ireland’ back to the Revival, Yeats, and Cuala without direct imitation.

Like Austin Clarke, Padraic Colum (1881-1972) offered Dolmen a living connection back to the Revival. Colum had renewed his literary links with Ireland through his presidency of the Irish Academy of Letters and his social networks renewed during stays at his sister’s home in Edenvale Road, Ranelagh, from the mid-nineteen fifties through the nineteen sixties, just when the Dolmen Press was coming into its own. Miller welcomed Colum’s poem ‘Garland Sunday’ for the Dolmen Chapbook in March 1958. Three years before that, Colum had offered Miller a typescript titled ‘The Book of Kells: Eight Poems Written under the Equestrian Station in Washington [Square, New York City].’ [36] Miller designed it in the small ‘Dolmen Poets’ format and began to set type for it. ‘The Book of Kells’ appeared as Ten Poems in September 1957, set in Caslon and with Miller’s own tondo vignette in red on the cover and in sea green on the title page. The vignette depicts a tonsured monk holding open an illuminated codex, like the Book of Kells, displaying the initials T and ‘P’. Miller’s original cover and title page design, however, offer a sketch of the front cover of the Book of Kells on view in Trinity College. Although Colum sometimes testily complained about the erratic pace of production at Dolmen, especially in respect to Mary Colum’s The Life and the Dream (May 1966), Miller always treated Colum solicitously, owing to Colum’s direct connection to the Literary Revival. In Dolmen XXV, Miller proudly notes Colum’s ‘happiness at being able to identify with an Irish publisher, naming us [Dolmen] as his poetry publishers from then on.’ [37]

Miller’s notion of Dolmen as a publisher of poetry was again confirmed when Thomas Kinsella’s Another September won the Poetry Book Society’s recommendation in 1958. Miller confided to Valentin Iremonger: ‘Tom Kinsella’s book being chosen has given us a boost, indeed, it has warded off extinction.’ [38] Miller saw Another September as ‘the first fully “professional” publication from the Dolmen Press’. Its publication marked, too, the press’s ‘move to a Georgian basement in Upper Mount Street’, and Miller’s decision to make publishing and printing ‘a fulltime occupation’. [39] It also signalled the point at which Miller’s editorial attentions began to shift away from a parochial focus on ‘Dolmen Poets’ and more towards a sense of ‘Poetry Ireland’ that assumed that poetry printed and published by Dolmen was to represent Ireland to a wider, English language reading public. Likewise, the presumed criteria of criticism would shift away from home grown concerns and standards towards those articulated by example and expectation in, say, Poetry (Chicago) or The London Magazine or The New Yorker or Encounter.

Thomas Kinsella’s Another September opens with a few lyrics from his Poems, published in June 1956, which Miller originally intended as the first in the ‘Dolmen Poets’ series. [40] At the same time that White, Davie, Kinsella, and Miller were vetting the ‘Dolmen Poets’ files, Miller took a strong independent interest in Richard Murphy, whose name never appeared on the ‘Dolmen Poets’ list. Miller published Murphy’s self-funded The Archaeology of Love in October 1955, and followed it with a private printing of Sailing to an Island and The Woman of the House (1959). Murphy’s Anglo-Irish, County Galway background and his Oxford education contrast with Kinsella’s upbringing in Dublin and his education at UCD. Murphy’s ‘The Woman of the House’ occasioned a controversy about versification and diction in the Times Literary Supplement when it appeared in Sailing to an Island (1963), his first collection with Faber and Faber. Already the Irish poet most closely associated in Dublin with the Dolmen Press, Kinsella soon found publication in New York with Athenaeum in 1961. While Kinsella and Murphy were establishing these wider connections, Miller was linking Dolmen with Oxford University Press.

Printed by hand in similar format, and issued from Silchester Park, Glenageary, both Kinsella’s Poems and Murphy’s Archaeology of Love share some thematic interests. Both are epithalamia, and both display a struggle to renew a genre inherited from the English Renaissance. Having first approached Miller late in 1954, Murphy sent a typescript from Renvyle, County Galway, in May 1955, and the next month a letter describing the mythologizing ‘device’ for the book: ‘Patricia & I pine for a Minoan double axe with unidentifiable bird - a partridge, if you please - perched on the protruding shaft, set erect like a cross with a longish handle.’ [41] Murphy had pointedly rejected Miller’s notion of using printer’s decorations - cupidons - but he did want The Archaeology of Love bound in blue paper on thin boards. In order to draw the Minoan axe device, Miller looked up the illustrations to Sir Arthur Evans’s The Palace of Minos (1921-36) in the National Library. [42] Working quickly, Miller issued The Archaeology of Love in October 1955. A year later, Kinsella’s Poems appeared from Dolmen in a similarly limited edition and in much the same format. Having produced Elizabeth Rivers’ Out of Bedlam also in 1956, Miller used her wood engraving of a risen cockerel standing above an empty water bowl as the title page’s device. Often cloaked rather than mythologized, Kinsella’s references are locally Irish, while Murphy’s plainer references are Cretan. Such characteristic differences of allusion underscore equally characteristic differences of diction and verse form. These contrasts - like those of Montague and Clarke - reveal the tensions in Miller’s editorial enthusiasms and, consequently, in the idea of ‘Poetry Ireland’ that the ‘Dolmen Poets’ printings project.

Two 1961 Dolmen printings could be said to mark the point where the ‘Dolmen Poets’ idea began to give way to the concept of ‘Poetry Ireland’ in Liam Miller’s publishing practice. The first is Three Irish Poets, published in February; the second is Austin Clarke’s Later Poems, published in June. Later Poems collects Clarke’s Poems and Satires in a standard library edition of two thousand copies suitable for distribution by Oxford University Press. [43] Lacking Miller’s usual design flourishes, Clarke’s Later Poems represents the ‘Poetry Ireland’ idea at its plainest, as Miller hinted when he observed that it did ‘much to establish the Press in a wider field’. [44] Later Poems exemplifies Miller’s confidence that Clarke’s measured craft and Hibernocentric allusiveness would find a world readership beyond the Pale. A tireless reviewer in print and on the radio, as well as a steady producer of verse drama on stage and in the studios of Radio Éireann at the General Post Office, Clarke gave authority to the term ‘Poetry Ireland’, for that is the fundamental sense of his Gaelic title Poetry in Modern Ireland/Filiocht Eireannach na Linne Seo, which Clarke wrote in 1950 for the Cultural Relations Committee of Ireland. Closing his essay, Clarke noted that ‘we have no publishers here to spend some of their profits on us’. [45] That only a few of the poets that Clarke listed at the end of his essay ever became Dolmen poets, reinforces the lingering generational focus of Miller’s sense of ‘Poetry Ireland’.

Three Irish Poets, however, sums up in one example Miller’s chapbook printing for the ‘Dolmen Poets’. It is the programme for a three-way reading given by Montague, Kinsella, and Murphy on 3 February 1961 at the Royal Hibernian Hotel, across from Hodges Figgis in Dawson Street. The eight pages of the programme contain Montague’s ‘The Old People’, Kinsella’s ‘A Portrait of an Engineer’ and Murphy’s ‘Sailing to an Island’, as well as a Dolmen list. The cover gives the title and Tate Adams’s image of the Dolmen reader in red. Peadar O’Donnell, who later played a role in the publication of both The Dolmen Miscellany (1962) and Dolmen’s Poetry Ireland (1962-68), chaired the reading, which had a significant audience and attentive reportage. Writing in the Irish Times more than a week before the reading, Seamas Kelly - always a supporter of Miller and Dolmen - emphasized the evening’s significance by noting that all three poets had won literary awards, that all three had been recognized in the London literary world, and that the BBC’s Third Programme would broadcast Murphy and Kinsella. He noted also the poets’ forthcoming collections: Kinsella’s Poems and Translations from Athenaeum, Murphy’s The Galway Hooker from Faber and Faber, and Montague’s Poisoned Lands, whose title he mistook as Private Lands. In this instance, the printed artefact of the programme recalls the ‘Dolmen Poets’ concept, while Dolmen publicity - elaborated on in Kelly’s commentary about the reading - outlines the concept of ‘Poetry Ireland’.

While The Dolmen Miscellany (September 1962) offered readers in Ireland and abroad a range of fiction, as well as criticism, its genesis recapitulated a number of hopes embodied in the evolving concept of ‘Poetry Ireland’. Montague played a leading role in the creation of the Miscellany. His draft outline of the project for Peadar O’Donnell offered two modestly Modernist titles for the publication - The Tower or Prospect - as well as an equally modest ‘Blurb, Prospectus, or Preface’, emphasizing Dolmen’s initially local focus (‘a new generation of writers has begun to emerge in Ireland’), and seeking in Joycean terms to present ‘a record of work in progress by a generation’. [46] Montague’s draft goes further, asserting that this Dolmen publication offers ‘a representative miscellany of recent writing’. [47]

From the outset, the creators of The Dolmen Miscellany understood that Dolmen was representing Irish writing - ‘Poetry Ireland’ - to reading publics outside of Ireland. Moreover, the Miscellany was distributed by Oxford University Press almost as a complement to Robin Skelton’s Six Irish Poets (1962), five of whom were Dolmen poets. [48] And the Miscellany would have been widely sold to America by Devin-Adair, had the publisher Devin Garrity not insisted that The Tower be its title. Indeed, Montague argued strongly against that title, and for Prospect or Forge, because he perceived that its associations with Yeats and the Literary Revival would overshadow the miscellany’s intent to be ‘representative of a new generation’ not only in Dublin, but also in London and New York. [49] Miller ‘had hoped to continue’ The Dolmen Miscellany as either an annual or occasional publication but, in the nineteen sixties, that role fell for a decade to the miscellany’s coeval Poetry Ireland.

1. The Irish Times, 18 May 1987, p.1 and 20 May 1987, p.10.
2. 124.12, MS 1000, Dolmen Press Collection, Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Special Collections and Archives Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA. Hereafter cited thus: Dolmen Press Collection, 138.12. I thank Megan Mulder and Beth Tedford for their patient assistance during my visits to Wake Forest.
3. Liam Miller, Dolmen XXV: An Illustrated Bibliography of the Dolmen Press 1951-1976, Dolmen Editions XXV ([Dublin]: Dolmen Press, 1976), pp.7-8.
4. Dolmen Press Books (Dublin: Dolmen Press, April 1962), p.[1].
5. Dolmen Press Books, p.[5].
6. As late as December, 1978, Miller drafted plans for a new series of chapbooks under the rubric ‘Poetry in Cheap Format.’ Dolmen Press Collection, 16.3.
7. Miller tended to favour the ‘humanist’ Counter Reformation typefaces or their modern revivals dating from the nineteen thirties. For detailed explanations of the physical and visual traits of typefaces denoted by these terms, see Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style, Version 3.1 (Point Roberts, WA: Hartley and Marks, 2005).
8. Forgnan was the journal of the Irish Building Centre. Miller designed the May 1962 issue, and Michael Scott encouraged him to recruit Dolmen writers - Kinsella among them - as writers and reviewers. Dolmen Press Collection, 78.13.
9. Dolmen XXV, pp.7-8.
10. In the nineteen fifties Miller had difficulty acquiring printing supplies and equipment on a commercial basis owing to shortages in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Among Miller’s first sources was Dryad Ltd., a purveyor of craft supplies in Leicester. Miller also experienced problems in getting papers direct from Abbey Mills and had to rely on Spicers in Henry Street, Dublin. From the Adana dealer Eric Massey Ltd., in Harcourt Street Miller acquired Printing Explained: An Elementary Handbook for Schools and Amateurs (Leicester: Dryad Press, [1931] 1945). He obtained numerals in the Caslon face from William Miller and Sons, Type Founders and Printers’ Furnishers, in Upper Abbey Street. Dolmen Press Collection, 2.12.
11. Liam Miller to Thomas Kinsella, 5 April 1963. Dolmen Press Collection, 35.4. The first Poetry Ireland reading in the Lantern took place on 25 March 1963. It was promoted by ‘Quidnunc’ in the Irish Times, 23 March 1963, p.12.
12. A contemporary chronicler of the scene in her Irish Times articles and reviews, Eavan Boland recalls that ‘[t]he shadow of bardic privilege still fell on the Irish poem when I was young’ in Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996), p.91.
13. See Crystal Clear: The Selected Prose of John Jordan, ed. by Hugh McFadden (Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 2006).
14. See Tom Clyde, Irish Literary Magazines: An Outline History and Descriptive Bibliography (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2003), especially pp.209-16.
15. Dolmen XXV, p.8.
16. The second series was to be a set of ‘miniatures’ - small format chapbooks of sixteen pages - including Synge’s version of Petrarch’s Sonnets to Laura and a selection of Thomas Moore’s lyrics titled Miniature Moore, which Miller designed and costed out. The third series of chapbooks was to include plays by Jack Yeats and George Fitzmaurice, Caxton’s life of St Brendan and the Easter Proclamation; also a story by John Montague and a selection from Kinsella’s Tain. Dolmen Press Collection, 16.3.
17. John Unterecker, ‘Interview with Liam Miller’, in Modern Irish Literature: Essays in Honor of William York Tindall, ed. by Raymond J. Porter and James D. Brophy (New York: Iona College Press / Twayne Publishers, 1972), p.27.
18. Cyril Cusack to Liam Miller, 3 August 1954. Dolmen Press Collection, 14.13.
19. Dolmen XXV, p.28. Miller printed this ‘for the author’ from 23 Upper Mount Street, according to the colophon.
20. Dolmen Press Collection 15.4. Miller dated the design 1 December 1954. He planned to price each volume at a florin each and the subscription for all six issues at twelve shillings sixpence. He figured the total cost of production at sixty-three pounds.
21. Dolmen Press Collection, 15.4.
22. See Heather Clark’s The Ulster Renaissance: Poetry in Belfast 1962-1972 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006) for a telling history of the Belfast Groups.
23. Alan Swallow, a follower of Yvor Winters, published in the United States one of the first anthologies of Irish poetry after the Revival, and its introduction closes with an encomium to Liam Miller and the Dolmen Press. See New Poets of Ireland, ed. by Donald Carroll (Denver, CO: Alan Swallow, 1963), p.12.
24. Miller first issued James Malton’s Picturesque and Descriptive Views of the City of Dublin (1792) in a monochrome printing in 1978. Colour printings followed: first, in a large format, as Dublin Views in Colour (Dublin: Dolmen Press, 1981) and second, in a reduced format, as Georgian Dublin: Twenty-Five Aquatint Views in Colour (Dublin: Dolmen Press, 1984).
25. For a view of Leslie MacWeeney’s artistic associations with Dolmen, see Brian Lalor, Ink-Stained Hands: Graphic Studio Dublin and tire Origins of Fine-Art Printmaking in Ireland (Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 2011), pp.3-8, pp.67-70. For a survey of Tate Adams’s teaching and print-making career, see the Crossley Gallery, 1966-1980, ed. by Jenny Zimmer (Victoria, Australia: Macmillan Art Publishing, 2003), pp.21-35.
26. Liam Miller to Valentin Iremonger, 26 June 1956. Dolmen Press Collection, 29.11.
27. Liam Miller to Valentin Iremonger, 17 June 1958. Dolmen Press Collection, 29.11.
28. Writing to Clarke from Silchester Park, Glenageary, in September 1957, Miller gave an estimate for Too Great a Vine, sent a specimen page in Plantin type, and costed the edition of 200 copies at 19-2-9d [pounds sterling]. The book was to be completed by November 1957, but appeared a year later in September 1958. National Library of Ireland, Austin Clarke Papers, MS 38678/1.
29. Using the format of Too Great a Vine, Miller set Forms of Exile in Bembo type and issued the book from Upper Mount Street in May 1959, six months after the date given in the colophon.
30. Dillon Johnston examines Dolmen’s links with Oxford University Press and Miller’s editorial connections with John Bell and Jon Stallworthy. He contrasts Kinsella’s disregard for British literary competition, as expressed by the Poetry Book Society, with Montague’s striving, but disappointed, interest in it. See Dillon Johnston, The Poetic Economies of England and Ireland, 1912-2000 (New York: Palgrave, 2001), pp.128-47.
31. Charles Tomlinson, ‘Poets and Mushrooms’, Poetry, 100.2 (May 1962), 104-21.
32. Liam Miller to Mary Ballard Duryee, 30 June 1962. Dolmen Collection, 16.15.
33. In the nineteen twenties and nineteen thirties Duryee wrote for The New Yorker. During her lifetime she published, between 1914 and 1962, six collections of verse; a later collection, titled Signs and Wonders, was printed and sold by Dolmen in September 1972.
34. Dolmen Press Collection, 16.15.
35. Liam Miller to Mary Ballard Duryee, 15 May 1961. Dolmen Press Collection, 16.15. In a Dolmen notice advertising Words Alone Are Certain Good, Miller describes the book as ‘printed throughout in red and black on Irish paper and bound in quarter line, crown octavo in format, limited to 500 copies at 17s 6d ($2.50)’.
36. Dolmen Press Collection, 13.11. Miller’s association of Colum with the Book of Kells endured into the mid-seventies. In July 1975, he drafted ‘The Gospel Book’, a ‘treatment for a short film in colour’. Miller’s scheme was to use Colum’s poem ‘Amergin’s Song’ (1965) as the spoken text for a visual tour through the Book of Kells.
37. Dolmen XXV, p.28. Miller bound Ten Poems in boards covered with Swiftbrook laid and a green linen spine stamped in black. The interior carries on Miller’s fondness for red letter printing. The colophon states that Ten Poems was ‘finished’ at 23 Upper Mount Street.
38. Liam Miller to Valentin Iremonger, 17 June 1958. Dolmen Press Collection, 29.11.
39. Dolmen XXV, p.29.
40. Dolmen Press Collection, 15.4.
41. Richard Murphy to Liam Miller, 7 June 1955. This letter, enclosing a cheque for 25 [pounds sterling], answers Miller’s note to Murphy, 3 June 1955, in which Miller remarked that ‘[t]he situation in England makes it impossible for me to be sure of getting any extra supplies of type’. Dolmen Press Collection, 57.2.
42. Miller took these sketches from the Knossos illustrations as presented in J.D. Pendlebury, A Handbook to the Palace of Minos at Knossos: With its Dependencies (London: Macmillan, 1935).
43. Unterecker, ‘Interview with Liam Miller’, p.27.
44. Dolmen XXV, p.33.
45. Austin Clarke, Poetry in Modern Ireland / Filiocht Eireannach na Linne Seo (Dublin: The Three Candles, 1951), p.64.
46. The Dolmen Miscellany of Irish Writing (Dublin: Dolmen Press, September 1962), p.vii. Miller’s design of the miscellany’s cover suggests that he thought of the title simply as The Dolmen.
47. Dolmen Press Collection, 16.5.
48. Six Irish Poets, ed. by Robin Skelton (London: Oxford University Press, 1962). Richard Kell was published by Chatto and Windus.
49. John Montague to Liam Miller, 23 March 1962. Dolmen Press Collection, 54.3.

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