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  • Nótaí na nEagarthóirí:Editors’ Notes

When Catherine Phil MacCarthy received the University of St. Thomas’s 2014 O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award, the citation read on that occasion took note that “No small part of a poet’s task is to keep us awake to the world.” In our opening memoir, MacCarthy tells of her own, deeply personal, series of awakenings. We read of her entry into the sensually rich childhood she knew on a farm in County Limerick; we read, too, of how her father’s openness to the world around him—even in such simple excursions as a trip to visit cousins, or a day at the seaside in Ballybunion—filled her with the intuition that there was a larger world beyond the farm, waiting to be discovered. That outward voyage of discovery led MacCarthy to University College Cork, to work in the theater, to London, and finally, to poetry. She closes with a moving description of how poetry stole over her, making her a poet almost against her will.

The contradictions in the life and thought of Young Irelander John Mitchel can be, well, baffling. An Irish revolutionary, after Mitchel’s escape from an Australian penal colony he settled in the American South, where he became a fervid defender of slavery. Dr. Andrew Kincaid opens a new way of looking at Mitchel’s dramatic life by considering Jail Journal—a text written wholly at sea—as an example of “maritime modernism.” Oceanic literature, he argues, invites all kinds of experimentation: literary and stylistic, social and political. By looking at the stylistic and thematic openness in Mitchel’s text, Kincaid exposes fresh possibilities, including transnational connections with other postcolonial cultures; empathy for English victims of industrialization who have been labeled criminals; and even brief moments of sympathy for the enslaved in the Americas. The author of Postcolonial Dublin: Imperial Legacies and the Built Environment (2016), Andrew Kincaid writes often on Irish modernity, especially urbanism, as well as on Irish noir and detective fictions. [End Page 5]

A new novel from Colm Tóibín always marks a significant occasion in the literary culture of Ireland, and his 2014 book Nora Webster met with overwhelmingly positive reviews. Dr. Kathleen Costello-Sullivan—the author of the first monograph on Tóibín’s oeuvre, Mother/Country: Politics of the Personal in the Fiction of Colm Tóibín (2012)—observes, though, that few reviewers took note of the novel’s intertextuality with the works that preceded it. In Tóibín’s fiction, nurturing mothers are scarce indeed: the authorial decision to tell this story from Nora’s point of view “radically alters our ability to understand and to relate to this grieving mother,” a leap of empathy and forgiveness that Tóibín has not previously made when crafting a mother figure. As readers, we share in Nora’s sense of foreclosure, bewilderment, and limitation as she faces the prospect of raising her children alone. “Nora Webster,” Costello-Sullivan concludes, “signals a hopeful gesture toward the likelihood of emotional recovery from grief.

Poems, and the inspirations for poems, can have long gestations. Frank Ormsby kept a 1984 exhibition catalogue, The Irish Impressionists: Irish Artists in France and Belgium, sitting on his shelves for three decades before he opened it again and was spurred to write poems in response. In our selection of these ekphrastic poems, Ormsby sometimes speaks in the voice of the painter, as when Joseph Malachy Kavanagh opens, “Homesick for Brittany, I don my Breton beret / and pick my spot in a snowy Dublin street.” In other poems, he imputes a story to the image presented, such as his take on Aloysius O’Kelly’s “The Christening Party,” where the speaker runs into the blank wall of speculation: “I wish I knew what they are drinking and what / name the child was given that day in 1908.” In all the poems, Ormsby’s gift for a humane historical imagination shines through. The winner of the O’Shaughnessy Award in 2002, Frank Ormsby’s The Darkness of Snow will appear next year.

In Ireland in the years 1920 to 1950, infanticide was by no means rare: more...


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