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Diary

Edna Longley: Ireland by Others, 17 September 1987

... On the 11th of July the Belfast-London shuttle was an airlift by jumbo-jet. But the exodus I joined had nothing to do with political panic. It meant holiday-time – ‘the Twelfth fortnight’. The Protestants left behind to march, and Catholics left behind to object to their marches, were mostly those who couldn’t afford Corfu. In The Crack: A Belfast Year 1 Sally Belfrage notes: ‘A look at the class-composition’ of the Twelfth procession was ‘to see overwhelmingly the poor, albeit with the gentry to the fore, and it ill becomes middle-class snobs to sneer at this celebration of who they were ...

Belfast Diary

Edna Longley: In Belfast , 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 ...

England and Other Women

Edna Longley, 5 May 1988

Under Storm’s Wing 
by Helen Thomas and Myfanwy Thomas.
Carcanet, 318 pp., £14.95, February 1988, 0 85635 733 2
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... The structural ironies of Edward Thomas’s life still condition his reputation. Just as he made a late poetic start, so criticism has been slow to gather momentum. Even the recent spate of studies – by Michael Kirkham, Stan Smith, and the contributors to Jonathan Barker’s Art of Edward Thomas – seems more fortuitous than co-ordinated. Thomas, as Robert Frost reminded him, ‘knew the worth of [his] bays ...

What the doctor said

Edna Longley, 22 March 1990

A New Path to the Waterfall 
by Raymond Carver.
Collins Harvill, 158 pp., £11, September 1989, 0 00 271043 9
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Wolfwatching 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 55 pp., £8.99, September 1989, 0 571 14167 6
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Poems 1954-1987 
by Peter Redgrove.
Penguin, 228 pp., £5.99, August 1989, 0 14 058641 5
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The First Earthquake 
by Peter Redgrove.
Secker, 76 pp., £7.50, August 1989, 0 436 41006 0
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Mount Eagle 
by John Montague.
Bloodaxe, 75 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 1 85224 090 3
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The Wreck of the Archangel 
by George Mackay Brown.
Murray, 116 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 7195 4750 4
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The Perfect Man 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Abacus, 96 pp., £3.99, November 1989, 0 349 10122 1
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... 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 ...

Green War

Patricia Craig, 19 February 1987

Poetry in the Wars 
by Edna Longley.
Bloodaxe, 264 pp., £12.95, November 1986, 0 906427 74 6
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We Irish: The Selected Essays of Denis Donoghue 
Harvester, 275 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 7108 1011 3Show More
The Battle of The Books 
by W.J. McCormack.
Lilliput, 94 pp., £3.95, October 1986, 0 946640 13 0
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The Twilight of Ascendancy 
by Mark Bence-Jones.
Constable, 327 pp., £14.95, January 1987, 0 09 465490 5
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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl 
edited by John Quinn.
Methuen, 144 pp., £8.95, November 1986, 0 413 14350 3
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... poetry, is a belligerent business. It doesn’t stop with the book titles, either: the chapter on Edna Longley in W.J. McCormack’s short and contentious study of Irish cultural debate requires us to attend to ‘the reaction from Ulster’, and sums it up thus: ‘Fighting or Writing?’ This humorously echoes the famous anti-Home Rule poster with its ...

Like the trees on Primrose Hill

Samuel Hynes, 2 March 1989

Louis MacNeice: A Study 
by Edna Longley.
Faber, 178 pp., £4.95, August 1988, 0 571 13748 2
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Louis MacNeice: Selected Poems 
edited by Michael Longley.
Faber, 160 pp., £4.95, August 1988, 0 571 15270 8
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A Scatter of Memories 
by Margaret Gardiner.
Free Association, 280 pp., £15.95, November 1988, 1 85343 043 9
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... like Frank Ormsby’s Poets from the North of Ireland, and poets like Derek Mahon and Michael Longley praise him. The praise doesn’t come because he wrote about Northern Ireland – there are a few fine Irish poems, but not many. No, MacNeice’s importance for current Northern Irish poets must have more to do with the kind of poetry he wrote, the way ...

Weasel, Magpie, Crow

Mark Ford: Edward Thomas, 1 January 2009

Edward Thomas: The Annotated Collected Poems 
edited by Edna Longley.
Bloodaxe, 335 pp., £12, June 2008, 978 1 85224 746 1
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... for this.”’ ‘As the team’s head-brass’ was composed in May 1916, by which time, as Edna Longley points out in a note in this compendious new edition of his work, Thomas was growing increasingly frustrated with his duties as a map-reading instructor at a military camp in Essex. His determination to seek frontline action surfaces in many of ...

Imbalance

Michael Hofmann: The Charm of Hugo Williams, 22 May 2003

Collected Poems 
by Hugo Williams.
Faber, 288 pp., £20, September 2002, 0 571 21233 6
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... three judges offering superlatives on the jacket of Hugo Williams’s Collected PoemsEdna Longley, Douglas Dunn and Peter Porter – none is English. And yet Williams, born in Windsor during World War Two, the son of the English actor Hugh Williams, schooled by Life and Eton, a youthful toiler for Alan Ross’s London Magazine, an erstwhile ...

On Michael Longley

Colin Burrow: Michael Longley, 19 October 2017

... There are​ few contemporary poets as likeable as Michael Longley. That’s not because his poems are simply amiable, but because he looks at things hard and clearly and invites his readers to share his acts of seeing. In his new book, Angel Hill (Cape, £10), even a cataract operation is an opportunity to celebrate sharpness of vision: ‘My eyeball’s frozen ...

Diary

Tom Paulin: In Donegal, 8 October 1992

... shows no sign of moving ... But why is Carson, Sir Edward, not in this Ulster Reader? And why has Edna Longley been excluded? I can see that Donoghue is a more graceful prose stylist, but an Ulster anthology without Edna? That’s strange. The knives will be out in Belfast, but then neither Craig nor I live there any ...

Valorising Valentine Brown

Patricia Craig, 5 September 1985

Ascendancy and Tradition in Anglo-Irish Literary History from 1789 to 1939 
by W.J. McCormack.
Oxford, 423 pp., £27.50, June 1985, 0 19 812806 1
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Across a Roaring Hill 
edited by Gerald Dawe and Edna Longley.
Blackstaff, 258 pp., £10.95, July 1985, 0 85640 334 2
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Celtic Revivals: Essays in Modern Irish Literature 1880-1980 
by Seamus Deane.
Faber, 199 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 571 13500 5
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Escape from the Anthill 
by Hubert Butler.
Lilliput, 342 pp., £12, May 1985, 0 946640 00 9
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... 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, value or status of by organised ... action’ is one of the meanings he quotes for it. Here is an example of one such usage: ‘the literary critics’ valorisation of tradition ...

A Bit Like Gulliver

Stephanie Burt: Seamus Heaney’s Seamus Heaney, 11 June 2009

Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney 
by Dennis O’Driscoll.
Faber, 524 pp., £22.50, November 2008, 978 0 571 24252 8
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The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney 
edited by Bernard O’Donoghue.
Cambridge, 239 pp., £45, December 2008, 978 0 521 54755 0
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... schools and then at Queen’s; his literary life with Seamus Deane, Derek Mahon, Michael and Edna Longley, Philip Hobsbaum, and the workshop that Hobsbaum convened, the Group; and the grisly metamorphoses of Northern Irish public life, from simmering inequality and half-suppressed resentment into the worst of the Troubles. Each of these developments ...

What a carry-on

Seamus Perry: W.S. Graham, 18 July 2019

W.S. Graham: New Selected Poems 
edited by Matthew Francis.
Faber, 144 pp., £12.99, September 2018, 978 0 571 34844 2
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W.S. Graham 
edited by Michael Hofmann.
NYRB, 152 pp., £9.99, October 2018, 978 1 68137 276 1
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... everyone has responded so warmly. In a memorably acerbic review of the Collected Poems in 1979, Edna Longley damned such passages as lapses into ‘the higher waffle’ and wrote that they ‘would not look out of place in the Thribb anthology’. Graham took the verdict on the chin: the notices for the book had generally been good, he reported to his ...

Diary

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 ...

The Ticking Fear

John Kerrigan: Louis MacNeice, 7 February 2008

Louis MacNeice: Collected Poems 
edited by Peter McDonald.
Faber, 836 pp., £30, January 2007, 978 0 571 21574 4
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Louis MacNeice: Selected Poems 
edited by Michael Longley.
Faber, 160 pp., £12.99, April 2007, 978 0 571 23381 6
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I Crossed the Minch 
by Louis MacNeice.
Polygon, 253 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 1 84697 014 6
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The Strings Are False: An Unfinished Autobiography 
by Louis MacNeice, edited by E.R. Dodds.
Faber, 288 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 0 571 23942 9
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... critics. The part they played has been recognised in this centenary year by the reissue of Michael Longley’s perceptive, beautifully introduced Selected Poems and by the addition of a fine preface by Derek Mahon to The Strings Are False. It would be good to have back in print Edna Longley’s study of 1988 ...

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