Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reviews of Spenser

'Spenser is a poem to be read through from start to finish and then revisited at leisure. Lysaght's lyricism and poetic strength add potency to the strong narrative quality of the text making for a deeply satisfying and stimulating read.'

Des Kenny Galway Advertiser

'Se├ín Lysaght’s Spenser is an elegant and arresting publication, a poem-length biography of the poet Edmund Spenser, coloniser, courtier and romantic. It is beautifully printed on expensive paper, with poem titles in red ink, and beautifully designed endpapers. As a book it is a work of art.'

Thomas McCarthy Southword

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Dr Steiner of Geneva

My friend Percy P. has recently responded to an article of mine in Poetry Ireland Review on 'Eco-poetry'. (See His generous response includes a hostile appraisal of George Steiner, whom I had quoted at the end of my piece in order to locate an idea of mystery at the heart of meaning in language. I knew that reference to Steiner was a risk, because of the extremes of irritation and admiration he usually provokes. So here's a little apologia for my reference to the polymath:

   I was introduced to GS by an American friend in the late seventies; she lent me a copy of Extraterritorial, his analysis of the outsider status of many leading modern writers and artists. After that I read Language and Silence, a collection of early essays, and After Babel, his study of language and translation. I could add a few more GS titles to my list, such as Real Presences, Errata, and the essay on Heidegger in the Fontana Modern Masters series. On the other hand, I never managed to get to his early books on the Russian novelists Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and on the death of Tragedy. While I was drawn into several passages of Antigones, I did not read it in its entirety. 

   During my days at UCD studying French and English, Continental culture was mainly represented by critical theory; the Anglo-American academy looked nervously on while whole swathes of scholarship were taken over by the 'radical' discourse of theory. Steiner's voice was singular and obstinate in the middle of all of this. Like many others, I was fascinated by the arguments, the range of reference, the alertness to historical cruelty and the regular raids on other fields such as music and linguistics.

   Some time after this, during my Lehr- and Wanderjahre, I went to Geneva on a Swiss government scholarship and attended GS's winter seminar. On that occasion he was lecturing on English romantic poets and the French Revolution, with a particular focus on Wordsworth and Coleridge. I found the atmosphere in the seminar very stimulating: Steiner had a great feeling for the historical context as well as for the literary object. He also had a genius for anecdotes that illuminated the moment.  

(to be continued...) 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

J.A. Baker's book, The Peregrine

'Wherever he goes, this winter, I will follow him. I will share the fear, and the exaltation, and the boredom, of the hunting life. I will follow him till my predatory human shape no longer darkens in terror the shaken kaleidescope of colour that stains the deep fovea of his brilliant eye. My pagan head shall sink into the winter land, and there be purified.' p. 42