Peacock Alan J. and Kathleen Devine (editors)
The Poetry of Michael Longley

The Poetry of Michael Longley


21.6 x 13.8 cm    illus.   Ulster Editions & Monographs Series (ISSN 0954-3392) volume 10

Nuala Ní Dhomhnail included Michael Longley’s ‘Ceasefire’ in her choice of ten representative poems of the 1990s in Irish poetry in the following terms: ‘it made its first electrifying appearance in print in The Irish Times to coincide with the announcement by the IRA of the first Northern Ireland ceasefire. . . its effect was dynamic, and rippled right through the community, both North and South, having a galvanising effect that can only be imagined of some lines of Yeats, perhaps, at the turn of the century’.

This underlines both Longley’s stature and his humane response to the Northern Irish ‘Troubles’; and the Homeric base of ‘Ceasefire’ exemplifies his distinctive ability to find trans-cultural perspectives on localised issues. A creative tension between the general and particular is the hall-mark of his work as love poet, nature poet, and poet of conflict; and the spare, concentrated focus of his lyric practice is at the heart of his ability to image the macrocosm in the microcosm.

His status as a poet resident in Belfast throughout the ‘Troubles’ has been of talismanic importance over the last three decades. Just as significantly for his open outlook, his ‘home from home’ in Carrigskeewaun in the West of Ireland has been the inspiration for a rich and luminous body of lyric poetry where what he sees as his basic themes of love and death are broached via a naturalist’s intimate involvement with the elemental processes of the physical world.

In his latest volume, The Weather in Japan, winner of the 2000 Hawthornden Prize for ‘best work of imaginative literature’, Italy and Japan further extend the geographical and cultural co-ordinates within which his poetry finds its moral and aesthetic realisation. This new collection continues the remarkable resurgence in Longley’s career during the 1990s, marked by the lyric intensities of Gorse Fires (1991) and the more unruly lyric energy of The Ghost Orchid (1995). These volumes consolidate Longley’s position at the forefront of contemporary Irish poetry.

The present volume, the first book devoted entirely to Longley’s work, brings together a number of experts on Longley and Irish poetry in general – Michael Allen, Terence Brown, Neil Corcoran, Douglas Dunn, Elmer Kennedy-Andrews, Peter McDonald, Alan Peacock and Robert Welch. Through a variety of thematic, contextual and technical approaches it examines the whole of his career up to and including The Weather in Japan.

The majority of the essays were given as papers at the 1996 session of the Ulster Symposium at the University of Ulster, Coleraine.

Kathleen Devine lectured in English at the University of Ulster at Coleraine, where Alan Peacock also lectured in Classics and English.

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