Edna Longley

Edna Longley teaches at Queen’s University, Belfast. Her book Poetry in the Wars was reviewed by Patricia Craig on 19 February.


One is Enough

9 March 1995

Ian Hamilton makes a mystery out of a molehill when he asks: ‘Why did Louis MacNeice have to wait thirty years for a biography?’ Anthony Thwaite (Letters, 23 March) also worries unnecessarily. There was no censorship. Some delay was certainly due to the sensitivities surrounding a once-divorced, once-separated man, who died prematurely and had a child by each marriage. Indeed, Jon Stallworthy still...

Call me Longley

8 October 1992

I was gratified by Tom Paulin’s regret (LRB, 8 October) at my absence from Patricia Craig’s Rattle of the North: An Anthology of Ulster Prose, even if he phrased that regret in rather patronising terms. (This is the second occasion on which an Irish male contributor to your pages has seen fit to call me simply ‘Edna’.) However, born and reared in Dublin, I had no expectation of being included....

Irish Writing

9 January 1992

Padraig O Conchuir (Letters, 13 February) wilfully misrepresents not only my attitude, but that of the School of English at Queen’s University, to the Irish language. We offer an ‘MA in English (Irish Writing)’, rather than one in ‘Anglo-Irish Writing’, because the hyphenated term carries excess historical baggage. Students entering an English Department, as opposed to the University’s...

Belfast Diary: In Belfast

Edna Longley, 9 January 1992

Nina FitzPatrick’s Fables of the Irish Intelligentsia won the Irish Times/Aer Lingus prize for a first work of fiction, only to be disqualified when the pseudonymous author was deemed to be more Polish than Irish. This made the book the stuff of its own fables, which satirise an inbred and confused intellectual milieu. Since 1960 the Republic of Ireland has certainly provided grounds for confusion: modernisation and secularisation; the women’s movement; determined rearguard action from the Catholic Church; a conservative-radical split within the Church’s own ranks; a new urban youth-culture; urban-rural tensions aggravated by swelling Dublin; Northern Ireland; Europe; and – for the intelligentsia – Marxism, Post-Structuralism and all that. Ideological tides often reach Irish shores just as they start to ebb elsewhere.’

What the doctor said

Edna Longley, 22 March 1990

Most books offered as poetry never leave the condition of prose – which is not to say they are good prose. But when a prose voice enters poetry, it can clear and freshen the air. Beside Raymond Carver’s posthumous collection, the others I have been reading seem musty, costumed, made-up. Anyone who finds his poems flat or prosaic might consider Edward Thomas’s defence of Robert Frost: ‘if his work were printed [as prose] it would have little in common with the kind of prose that runs to blank verse … It is poetry because it is better than prose.’ A New Path to the Waterfall is poetry because it is better than prose. Another of Thomas’s insights into Frost also applies to Carver at his best: ‘with a confidence like genius, he has trusted his conviction that a man will not easily write better than he speaks when some matter has touched him deeply, and he has turned it over until he has no doubt what it means to him, when he has no purpose to serve beyond expressing it, when he has no audience to be bullied or flattered, when he is free, and speech takes one form and no other.’ Let the theorists make of that what they will.’

Weasel, Magpie, Crow: Edward Thomas

Mark Ford, 1 January 2009

‘Prends l’éloquence et tords-lui son cou!’ Verlaine resonantly, and eloquently, declared in his ‘Art poétique’ of 1874. The line must have lodged in...

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Like the trees on Primrose Hill

Samuel Hynes, 2 March 1989

In ‘The Cave of Making’, his elegy for MacNeice, Auden describes his friend as a ‘lover of women and Donegal’. The geography seems a bit wrong – the Irish counties...

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Green War

Patricia Craig, 19 February 1987

Wars and battles: these words, appearing prominently in the titles of two of the books under consideration, might give the impression that poetry, or criticism, or the criticism of poetry, is a...

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Valorising Valentine Brown

Patricia Craig, 5 September 1985

In a recent Times article, Philip Howard pounced on the deplorable word ‘Valorisation’ which seems to be trying to edge its way into the English language. ‘To enhance the price,...

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