The Irish Poet as Critic

Hugh Haughton

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Poetry

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199561247
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

The Irish Poet as Critic

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)


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Irish poet-critics, with the exception of W. B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney, have not generally developed an international reputation like T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Randall Jarrell, or Paul Valéry. In his Decolonisation and Criticism, an historical overview of Irish criticism, Gerry Smyth largely omits poets altogether apart from Yeats and Patrick Kavanagh. The critical prose of Irish poets has often been treated as a side effect of their poetry rather than part of the development of criticism or poetics in or outside Ireland. In 1890, on the crest of late nineteenth-century nationalism, Yeats wrote that ‘There is no great literature without nationality’ and ‘no great nationality without literature’. Aside from Yeats, another influential Irish poet-critic has been Stephen Dedalus. In 1973, Thomas Kinsella argued that there is a need for ‘a good critic’ to deal with the ‘few advances’ and ‘many throwbacks’ in contemporary Irish poetry. The most influential contemporary Irish commentator on poetry is Paul Muldoon.

Keywords: poet-critics; Irish poetry; Ireland; W. B. Yeats; Seamus Heaney; Paul Muldoon; Thomas Kinsella; Stephen Dedalus; Gerry Smyth; nationalism

Article.  10794 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (20th Century onwards) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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