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Awake in America

On Irish American Poetry

Daniel Tobin

Publication Year: 2011

As the first comprehensive study of Irish American poetry ever published, Awake in America seeks to establish a conversation between Irish and Irish American literature that challenges many of the long-accepted boundaries between the two. In this distinctive book, Daniel Tobin presents a series of essays that combine poetry and literary criticism to form what he calls the poet’s essay. The first section of Awake in America reconsiders the dual tradition of Irish poetry through discussions of nineteenth- and twentieth-century poets as well as contemporary writers. The second section features a series of shorter chapters on poets in America. The third section explores the theme of “Crossings” and includes a consideration of Irish American and African American literature. The fourth, and final, section is comprised of a compositional memoir in which Tobin explores the role of hidden history in his own long poem, The Narrows. Awake in America offers an innovative reading of literary tradition in light of the routes by which tradition evolves as well as the roots from which tradition originates. It will be welcomed by poetry aficionados and by all scholars and readers of Irish and Irish American literature.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xiii

The title of this book presents a double entendre to the reader. On the one hand it alludes to the oft-performed ritual of the American wake, that sad and raucous gathering experienced in so many nineteenth-century townlands in which families unable to sustain any more members at home feted their emigrant sons and daughters...

Double Life

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pp. xv-

Part 1 Double Lives

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pp. xvii-

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1. Dinner at the Café Marliave

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pp. 1-56

Emerging from the busy underground of the Park Street T stop at the corner of Tremont and Winter, where the green fan of the Boston Common flares out between Downtown Crossing and Beacon Hill toward Boylston Street, Chinatown, and the Back Bay, you can join those stepping from a motorized trolley or one of the neon pink amphibious...

Near Hag’s Head

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pp. 57-

Part 2 Readings

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pp. 59-

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2. Modernism, Leftism, and the Spirit: The Poetry of Lola Ridge

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pp. 61-86

Born Rose Emily Ridge in Dublin on December 12, 1873, the woman who would reinvent herself to become perhaps the most impassioned and certainly the most authentic of the proletarian poets of the New York modernist avant-garde emigrated with her mother as a child to New Zealand...

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3. The Westwardness of Everything: Irishness in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens

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pp. 87-112

In his centrally important essay “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words” Wallace Stevens argues that in a world in which religious belief has declined the poet must “give to life the supreme fictions” without which the world itself is unable to be conceived.1 In linking the poet’s imaginative work to what was once the work of religion...

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4. Lines of Leaving, Lines of Returning: John Montague’s Double Vision

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pp. 113-135

In his autobiographical essay, “The Complex Fate of Being Irish-American,” John Montague asks why his poem “All Legendary Obstacles” cannot be found in any anthology of American poetry—“Is it because I am supposed to be only Irish?”1 Montague’s question is significant beyond the poet’s obvious sense of being slighted...

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5. Starting from Wexford, Ending in the Sublime: The Poetry of James Liddy

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pp. 136-157

Does the writer have any purpose? In an interview given in 1983 to Adrift, James Liddy answered this question with these words: “I have never been very good on purposes; I don’t see the poet as an analytic thinker except in a very compressed way. I don’t see my purpose...

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6. Two for the Road: The New Irish Routes of Eamonn Wall and Greg Delanty

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pp. 158-195

About a week after the 2008 presidential election, a college friend of mine of Irish American descent, with an ardent consciousness of that history and strong ties to Galway, forwarded me a web link to the One Eyed Parrot Dance Club and its YouTube performance of Hardy Drew’s “No One as Irish as Barack OBama.” ...

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7. The Parish and Lost America: The Witness of Michael Coady’s All Souls

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pp. 196-216

In the Brooklyn neighborhood where I grew up, one locale that most impressed its oddly indigenous vitality into my sense of place and self was Bay Ridge Post 157 of the American Legion. My father bartended weekends at the post, where he was elected commander in 1955, the year before my older brother was born and ten years after he had been...

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8. Back Through Distance: Currents of Tradition in the Poetry of Louise Bogan and Thomas McGrath

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pp. 217-244

Some twenty-five years ago I enrolled in a class on modern drama with the aim of broadening the course of study for my doctorate. Though my abiding interest was poetry, as an undergraduate I’d taken an introductory course in continental European drama that included Goethe, Racine, Molière, Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, and Beckett...

Crossings

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pp. 245-

Part 3 Crossings

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pp. 247-

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9. The Need for Routes: Genealogy in Irish American Poetry

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pp. 249-278

One of my first memories to become more than a hazy backward prospect into the beginnings of my conscious life, the kind of memory that by force of ritual shapes itself into one of the primary channels of identity, is my lying awake nights in my room in our walk-up apartment listening to foghorns sounding on the Narrows. ...

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10. From Crispus Attucks to Mr. Bones: Race in Irish American Poetry

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pp. 279-321

It is amazing how the invisible shapes our perception. In the “dry” Zen garden at Ryoan-ji outside Kyoto, a rectangular expanse of white, raked gravel composes an ocean in which five islands of stones arranged in a precise, though seemingly random, pattern affects the eye so pleasingly that its power has been the subject of speculation for centuries. ...

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11. Over There: Irish American Poets Return

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pp. 322-361

About the weight and size of a small chapbook, bluish-black, with the gold-embossed faded seal front and center looking more like a Rorschach pattern now than an emblem of Empire, my grandfather’s passport rests comfortably in my hand, though every time I lift it from the locked safety box I feel myself drawn into an almost palpable...

A Green Road in Clare

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pp. 363-364

Part 4 The Wake of Everything Gone

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pp. 365-

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12. Soundings and Erasures: An Irish American Poet Digs Up His Past

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pp. 367-400

Atop the bookshelf across from the desk in my study I’ve propped an old postcard of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge a friend sent me several years ago, a thoughtful gesture to modestly commemorate my Brooklyn origins. The photograph, taken at night, is a time exposure, so the bridge appears vaguely hieratic with its hazy coronas of streetlamps...

The Line

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pp. 401-402

Notes

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pp. 403-432

Works Cited

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pp. 433-443

Index

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pp. 445-464


E-ISBN-13: 9780268093754
E-ISBN-10: 026809375X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268042370
Print-ISBN-10: 0268042373

Page Count: 424
Illustrations: No e-rights for image; text only.
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • National characteristics, Irish, in literature.
  • Irish Americans in literature.
  • American poetry -- Irish American authors -- History and criticism.
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