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The New North is a landmark anthology of contemporary poetry from Northern Ireland with a wide-ranging introduction that gives the reader valuable historical perspective into political and cultural contexts. A brief selection of classic poems by more established authors introduces the featured poets (born between 1956 and 1975); together they represent the past and the future of poetry in the small but fertile culture.
Through descent and pastiche, influence and departure, the younger poets respond to the North’s rich poetic tradition, as well as to previous political and social realities, yet reveal that other styles and subjects are equally important in their art.
“These poets are more likely to be interested in new technology, ecology, Eastern Europe or bilingualism, than in any expected manifestation of ‘the Northern Issue’ ... It is indeed the poetry of a new North” —Chris Agee, from the ‘Introduction’.
Featuring poetry from Cathal Ó Searcaigh, Jean Bleakney, Chris Agee, Moyra Donaldson, Gary Allen, Andy White, Matt Kirkham, Geróid Mac Lochlainn, Frank Sewell, Paul Grattan, Sinéad Morrissey, Alan Gillis, Leontia Flynn and Nick Laird, as well as classic poems by Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, Ciaron Carson, Paul Muldoon, Medbh McGuckian and Michael Longley.
‘The New North: Contemporary Poetry from Northern Ireland.... [T]he poems and poets offer an insightful, lyrical look into the psyche of 21st-century Northern Ireland.’ —Irish America Magazine
‘American-born editor Chris Agee, who has lived in Northern Ireland for decades, provides a meticulous introduction with judicious context to explain the convoluted motives and historical betrayals that forged contemporary Northern Ireland.’ —Rain Taxi Review of Books
‘American-born editor Chris Agee, who has lived in Northern Ireland for decades, provides a meticulous introduction with judicious context to explain the convoluted motives and historical betrayals that forged contemporary Northern Ireland, suggesting as he does that the ‘creative interaction’ of poets working in a ‘damaged, and damaging, society’ has freed a previously ‘hidden’ and therefore distinctive contemporary ‘Ulster’ poetics set in a ‘post-imperial’ climate ... Women’s voices are better represented in The New North than in any previous collections spotlighting Northern Irish poets published on either side of the Atlantic.
The gunfire and bombings are fading in these poems, but cultural troubles linger. These resonate with the most acute psychological complexity in the bilingual poets, from Cathal O Searcaigh’s ‘Caoineadh’ (‘Lament’) which (in its facing-page English rendition) tells us, ‘To-day it’s my language that’s in its throes, / The poets’ passion, my mothers’ fathers’ / mothers’ language, abandoned and trapped,’ to Gearoid Mac Lochlainn’s ‘Aistriuchain’ (‘Translations’) which (with its built-in devastating contradiction) refuses to convert its Irish original text into ‘hub-bubbly English / that turns the ferment of my poems / to lemonade’ to be condescended to by Anglophone readers who would ‘love to have the Irish’ but prefer the laziness of ‘cafe culture’ and ‘Seamus.’’ —Rain Taxi Review of Books
‘The New North, edited by Chris Agee (Salt, £9.99)
This anthology offers a snapshot of the contemporary scene in Northern Irish poetry. All the 14 writers whose work provides the main focus here were born after 1955 and the book emphasises the idea of the short lyric poem, flexible, unpredictable, free of an overemphasis on craft, as the marker of a new sensibility. Leontia Flynn's writing is fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek, swerving knowingly between the celebratory and the confrontational, and is a delight. Equally compelling are the darker notes and concentrations of Sinéad Morrissey. Both these poets are very much concerned with travel, with new places and new subject matters. Cathal Ó Searcaigh, one of two Irish-language poets included and several of whose pieces are translated by Seamus Heaney, frequently celebrates home through the possibilities of other places (see the excellent poem to Jack Kerouac). However, it's in the slender throwaway lines to be found in the work of Andy White, with their impressive lightness of touch, that the book best embodies its declared faith in the virtues of "the smaller thing".’ —Charles Bainbridge
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