Some Irish Poets : While there's little doubt that some of the finest English-Language poetry - especially in the 20th century has been by Irish poets, it must also be stated -

That some countries receive privileged attention and, consequently, an exaggerated bestowing of honours on their writers for reasons unconnected with literary art.

It's more to do with the nation's political afflictions suffered by its people either at the hands of its own government - as happened in Russia under the Soviet Union - or invading imperial neighbours - as with Poland and Northern Ireland.

W,B. Yeats was Ireland's voice in the early 20th century, dominating English poetry even after the Americans T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound brought modernization to London.

Their numbers diminished by the two world wars English poets reduced to the mediocrity of poets such as Philip Larkin and Elizabeth Jennings appealing to English provincialism by turning their backs on American and European modernism.

Excellence among English poets would be restored later. First, rather sensationally, as a phenomenon sustained by personal gossip, by the emergence of Ted Hughes, and then more lastingly and at greater intellectual depth by Geoffrey Hill and Chistopher Middleton.

After Yeats death in 1939, the engaging new English poetry was the work off his Irish successors, notably Patrick Kavanagh and Thomas Kinsells - certainly, Kavanagh's book Come Dance with Kitty Stobling had a natural musicality that was missing from Larkin's followers.

And then there were Seamus Heaney and John Montague, two Irish youngsters whose voices had London's literary scene in the 1960s listening with fresh delight.

Then came the time of Irish Troubles, with their Protestant - Catholic killings and the British invading the country to keep it split. Both Heaney and John Montague's poetic responses to the Troubles drew general praise.

Heaney championed the common people's cause during the Troubles, with poems showing ordinary farmers going about their humble work while quarrelling religious and imperialist factions bloodied their land.

But as so often happens when their socio-political subjects win them immediate universal attention, writers produce more variations on the same theme and their work becomes formulaic.

Take, for example, 'The Toome Road', from Heaney's 1979 book Field Works. It starts :

'' One morning early I met armoured cars

In convoy, warbling on powerful tyres, with

''headphones soldiers standing up in turrets''

He then suggests how the farmland country is peacefully asleep, its people, from the beginning of time,

''Sowers of seeds, erectors of headstones''

-creators of life and commentators of death.

Yet here are the barbarians invaders who think

 they can tear down that eternal order.

Fair enough. We get the idea. But we also remember W.H. Auden's 'Musee des Beaux Arts' [Museum of Fine Arts] with its unforgettable image of the ploughman carrying on working though Icarus has just fallen from the sky, and recall the explosive time-bomb effect that good poetry has on our imagination.

More unfortunately, in 1979, we also remember seeing the same armoured cars on the evening television news and have a clearer image of them in our minds than the cliche poet gave us.

Of course, the human condition never changes and, whether it's a foreign tyrant or a popular elected leader promoting national divisiveness for his own corrupt ends, the farmer still needs to observe the seasons' dictate to sow seeds and harvest crops.

But if you're compelled to write a poem about it, then it had better be more than the familiar raising of the flag.

And, be more precise. What on earth do ''powerful'' tyres look like? Again, we get the idea, but it's a generalisation, not a precise image. In some later poems, carelessness with language has Heaney slipping into such cliches as ''bald as a coot'' and ''hard as nails''.

The publishing continues to Part 2. The World Students Society thanks author Zulfikar Ghose, Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas, a literary critic and fiction author.


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