Modern Irish Poetry: A New Alhambra

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Recently, chapters on individual Irish-language authors have formed part of publications regarding modern Irish art and culture in general. Such chapters are welcome but they have excited the curiosity of readers to the degree that longer, more detailed works are now required to put writing in Irish into perspective. In this study of four modern poets (two each from two generations), Sewell attempts to illustrate not only the accumulative but the transformative nature of tradition. Chapters 1 and 2 turn from the mid-20th century master Sean O Riordain to the contemporary poet Cathal O Searcaigh because the comparison and contrast highlights significant aspects of the amazing development of Irish poetry and, indeed, society in the period. Here, importantly, the word 'development' is meant in a neutral way - the image used is that of a zig-zag movement in the pattern of the continuing Irish tradition. Chapter 3 returns to the slightly earlier, major Irish-language poet Mairtin O Direain. In doing so, it returns home (from the internationalism of the previous chapter on Searcaigh) to Ireland - a major focus and concern for the more solely traditionalist O Direain. This switch back (in time, geography, social mores or outlook) fits and illustrates Sewell's concept of the zig-zag movement of a country's culture as it proceeds from generation to generation. The positioning, therefore, has a thematic purpose. The fourth and final chapter focuses on the contemporary poet Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill who has managed to synthesise tradition and modernity (central concerns of this book) and who, in doing so, has become the current trail-blazer of Irish poetry in either language.