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Two Poems

Ciaran Carson, 7 September 2006

... Quarter we found Red Hand Commando masks and combat uniforms laid neatly in the attic along with some bomb-making literature and a token cache of weeping gelignite like their men had just gone off to mutilate their hand-guns with shipyard angle-grinders and we had taken them at their word for what it is worth which is to say that peace comes when t ...

The Story of Alouette

Ciaran Carson, 18 October 2007

... You were telling me a story of your great-grandmother’s over a bottle of Burgundy by a bubbling fire. Deep in the Forest of Language there dwelt a manikin not called Rumpelstiltskin. His name was not that important. One day a riderless mare trotted to a halt at his door. The manikin brought her to stable and fed her some hay. He was surprised when the mare upped and spoke in the King’s French ...

Opus Operandi

Ciaran Carson, 27 May 1993

... I Fatima handed out twelve teaching modules of the ‘empathy belly’ To the variously expectant fathers. Some were Paddy, and some were Billy. Today’s lesson was the concept ‘Orange’. They parsed it into segments: some were kith, And some were kin. They spat out the pips and learned to peel the pith. Then the deep grammar of the handshake, the shibboleths of aitch and haitch: It’s a bit like tying knots, whether Gordian or sheepshank, clove or hitch ...

Two Poems

Ciaran Carson, 4 July 2013

... after Francis Ponge Orange As for the sponge, so for the orange: the aspiration to regain face after being wrung into expression. However, the sponge succeeds always, the orange never, segments burst, its inner being squeezed to mush. Only the peel springs, albeit flabbily and slowly, back into shape; and yes, the consequential amber juice is fragrant, cool and sweet, but then too often comes the bitter matter of the unexpected pips you have to spit ...


Ciaran Carson, 2 March 1989

... As usual, the clock in the Clock Bar was a good few minutes fast, A fiction no one really bothered to maintain, unlike the story The comrade on my left was telling, which no one knew for certain truth: Back in 1922, a sergeant, I forget his name, was shot outside the National Bank ... Ah yes, what year was it that they knocked it down? Yet, its memory’s as fresh As the inky smell of new pound notes – which interferes with the beer-and-whiskey Tang of now, like two dogs meeting in the revolutionary 69 of a long sniff, Or cattle jostling shit-stained flanks in the Pound ...

Jamming up the Flax Machine

Matthew Reynolds: Ciaran Carson’s Dante, 8 May 2003

The ‘Inferno’ of Dante Alighieri 
a new translation by Ciaran Carson.
Granta, 296 pp., £14.99, October 2002, 1 86207 525 5
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... caught the vigour of his language at the cost of its variety. Before this new translation by Ciaran Carson, perhaps only Peter Whigham, whose version was left unfinished at his death, managed to re-create in English the full orchestra of Dante’s tongues, his ‘strange locust-like phonetics’ (to borrow the extraordinary vocabulary of Osip ...

The Gunman

Denis Donoghue, 27 November 1997

The Star Factory 
by Ciaran Carson.
Granta, 304 pp., £13.99, November 1997, 1 86207 072 5
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... by nature and on principle. But I’m a Dublin man by avocation, though not by right of birth. Ciaran Carson’s The Star Factory is a collection of evocations and sketches of Belfast: not a social history, but a book of snapshots. Several of its chapters describe scenes well known to me in kind but not in particular. The book consists of ...


Mark Ford, 19 January 1989

The Irish for No 
by Ciaran Carson.
Bloodaxe, 63 pp., £4.95, July 1988, 9781852240752
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On Ballycastle Beach 
by Medbh McGuckian.
Oxford, 59 pp., £4.95, June 1988, 0 19 282106 7
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Themes on a Variation 
by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 166 pp., £6.95, May 1988, 0 85635 778 2
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by George Szirtes.
Oxford, 68 pp., £4.95, June 1988, 0 19 282096 6
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April Galleons 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 97 pp., £8.95, June 1988, 0 85635 776 6
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... This is Ciaran Carson’s second collection of poems. His first, The New Estate (1976), revealed an intricate, lyrical poet intensely aware of traditional Irish cultures, and concerned to connect them meaningfully with the sprawl of modern living; these early poems are taut, rather literary, and often very beautiful ...

Don’t Move

Jeremy Noel-Tod: Fictional re-creations of Vermeer, 9 August 2001

Girl with a Pearl Earring 
by Tracy Chevalier.
HarperCollins, 248 pp., £5.99, July 2000, 0 00 651320 4
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Girl in Hyacinth Blue 
by Susan Vreeland.
Review, 242 pp., £6.99, May 2001, 9780747266594
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A View of Delft: Vermeer Then and Now 
by Anthony Bailey.
Chatto, 288 pp., £16.99, April 2001, 0 7011 6913 3
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Vermeer's Camera 
by Philip Steadman.
Oxford, 207 pp., £17.99, February 2001, 0 19 215967 4
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... Pater remarks of ‘Lady Lisa’ that she is ‘older than the rocks among which she sits’; Ciaran Carson (Fishing for Amber, 1999) feels that the 17th-century Dutch walls in Vermeer’s paintings are ‘as old as Egypt’. As a man Vermeer is little more to us than a signature. There is virtually no evidence for his artistic training, his ...


Paul Muldoon: Hiberno-English Shenanigans, 1 July 1999

... 10 March. At 6:45 a.m. I set off by car service to Newark airport to catch the 10 a.m. Virgin/Continental flight to Gatwick. At this time of the morning the New Jersey Turnpike is too busy altogether. This use of altogether, I’m reminded by Terence Patrick Dolan in A Dictionary of Hiberno-English, means ‘wholly, completely’ and may be compared to the Irish phrase ar fad, particularly in its positioning at the end of a sentence ...

Hand and Foot

John Kerrigan: Seamus Heaney, 27 May 1999

Opened Ground: Poems 1966-96 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 478 pp., £20, September 1998, 0 571 19492 3
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The Poetry of Seamus Heaney: A Critical Study 
by Neil Corcoran.
Faber, 276 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 571 17747 6
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Seamus Heaney 
by Helen Vendler.
HarperCollins, 188 pp., £15.99, November 1998, 0 00 255856 4
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... If you want robots, Astroturf and IT you should turn to the younger Ulster poets Paul Muldoon and Ciaran Carson.The difference, however, lies less in their subject-matter than in the sensibility associated with it. Next to their channel-hopping transitions, macaronic language games and subversions of cultural piety, Heaney often seems like a creature ...

We did and we didn’t

Seamus Perry: Are yez civilised?, 6 May 2021

On Seamus Heaney 
by R.F. Foster.
Princeton, 228 pp., £14.99, September 2020, 978 0 691 17437 2
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... not disguising its brutality’. Other reviewers took the opposite view, most vehement among them Ciaran Carson in The Honest Ulsterman. ‘It is as if he is saying, suffering like this is natural; these things have always happened; they happened then, they happen now, and that is sufficient ground for understanding and absolution’, he wrote: ‘It is ...

What is the burglar after?

T.J. Clark: Painting the Poem, 6 October 2022

... less exalted. Its subject is Hare Bowl (2008), a small oil painting by Jeffrey Morgan, owned by Ciaran and Deirdre Carson. Ciaran Carson’s poem about it, which starts in mid-flow, was written in the last months of his life.His gift revealed itself – a little book-sized still ...

Turning Wolfe Tone

John Kerrigan: A Third Way for Ireland, 20 October 2022

directed by Kenneth Branagh.
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Small World: Ireland 1798-2018 
by Seamus Deane.
Cambridge, 343 pp., £20, June 2021, 978 1 108 84086 6
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Irish Literature in Transition 
edited by Claire Connolly and Marjorie Howes.
Cambridge, six vols, £564, March 2020, 978 1 108 42750 0
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Ireland, Literature and the Coast: Seatangled 
by Nicholas Allen.
Oxford, 305 pp., £70, November 2020, 978 0 19 885787 7
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A History of Irish Literature and the Environment 
edited by Malcolm Sen.
Cambridge, 457 pp., £90, July, 978 1 108 49013 9
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... Jack, and on through periodicals and poetry from Sean O’Faolain to Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Ciaran Carson. The readings are tuned to the local, tracking water into the land along inlets and loughs, but there is a sense of the planetary and the political, especially the aftermath of empire, because the waters have taken people so far and create ...


Tom Paulin: Trimble’s virtues, 7 October 2004

... Protestants, even in the Republic. Then my old schoolfriend Ernie comes in with his friend Ciaran – they wave at the others and join us. Ernie is fascinated by cars and soon shifts the talk in that direction. ‘I see you’ve given up on the Toyota,’ he says. ‘How many miles had she on the clock?’ I tell him the car was so battered and ancient ...

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