Since Éire-Ireland last printed a selection of new Irish poets in 2005, the cultural landscape of the country has experienced dramatic change. After the boom years of the Celtic Tiger, the economic bust and bailout leave ghost estates and empty shop fronts in their wake. This staggering rise and fall forms the backdrop for the early twenty-first century, the period during which the poets here gathered published their first collections.
Perhaps even more notably for literary culture, new media and digital technologies have reshaped the very way that we receive news, communicate with each other, network professionally and personally, and even read poetry. In addition to established and influential print-based journals like Poetry Ireland and The Stinging Fly, poets can now publish in Irish-based online journals like Southword and Poetry Proper, or in a variety of new print journals including Iota (Scotland), and The Moth, a magazine designed and edited by Rebecca O’Connor, whose work appears in these pages. Geographical boundaries have never much hampered the publication of poetry, but the last decade’s worldwide rise of online journals and print journals with a web presence provides Irish poets with a truly global community.
A shift in economics means that in the years since the Celtic Tiger went bust, Ireland is once again a country of emigrants, even as its own population reflects new waves of diverse immigration as never before. The poets featured in these pages represent this globalized Ireland, with some of them living in Massachusetts, Indiana, New York, Scotland, and England. The work gathered here also reflects a broad stylistic range and diversity of subject matter; all of these poets display sophisticated formal and technical skill, and, perhaps in keeping with a world of geographical boundlessness and boundless digital information, all push and pull at language’s boundaries. From the rich amalgamation of images in Ciaran Berry’s long poems, through [End Page 303] the slangy conversation of David McLoghlin’s “Dublin, 1989,” to the playful verbal acrobatics of Miriam Gamble’s “The Mare Spikes a Glassy Loch,” these are poets who adeptly use the logic of sound in order to create sense.
Formal and stylistic range here also translates into a dynamic variety of subject matter, with these voices taking us through the classical Greek world, nineteenth-century Ulster, the dark landscape of the Irish Civil War, and into the little rooms and interior spaces of personal revelation. Nor does this group shy from the clamor and modernity of our times; Ailbhe Darcy’s “Service Not Included” situates familial connection in the Dundrum Shopping Centre, and Andrew Jamison deftly blends the underworld existing under Hades’s gaze with mojitos and binge-drinking in student pubs. The urgency of the private lyric holds us transfixed in Michelle O’Sullivan’s quiet couplets and in Leanne O’Sullivan’s sonnet “Sparrow.” Rebecca O’Connor makes the nursery-rhyme language of her “Lullaby” go suddenly strange, “all buzziness,” enacting for us what these poets all do: they transform the familiar and the known so that we see it anew.
These poets represent just a handful of the many new voices writing in Ireland, for limitations of space permit only a small selection from a vibrant generation of writers. All chosen for this portfolio have grown up in Ireland and have published two or fewer collections.1 Finally, these are writers whose work is both challenging and aesthetically pleasing—the qualities of enduring poetry. [End Page 304]
Kelly Sullivan is a Ph.D. candidate at Boston College, where her dissertation looks at the role of epistles in the fiction and poetry of late-modernist Irish and British writers. She is also the editorial assistant at Éire-Ireland. She has recently published essays on Irish visual artists Harry Clarke and Gerard Dillon. Her novel Winter Bayou appeared in 2005.
1. An exception is Leanne O’Sullivan, whose third full-length collection was just released in Ireland in April 2013.