My teaching this semester at NUI Galway includes a seminar on Contemporary Irish Poetry and a lecture on W.B. Yeats. In the lecture course, I'm placing three late twentieth-century/early twenty-first-century poets (Merrill, Rich, and Rankine) in dialogue with Yeats. But for the “Contemporary” seminar, I decided pretty quickly that I wouldn’t do an “After Yeats/Kavanagh” course and call that “Contemporary”: the notion of such a determinate genealogy casts recent poets in a frame that's not of their own making, and that comes problematically gendered and ambiguously politicized. I wanted to avoid that.
So the course on “Contemporary Irish Poetry” would have to have different variables. My idea was to make a syllabus that featured, as much as possible, poems from books published between 2012-2014 or so. I arranged those poems into groups that were neither strictly thematic, nor strictly formal, but rather categories that were sensitive to the material and political conditioning of poetic structures (I'll publish the syllabus in a later post).
Unsurprisingly, the questions that emerged were questions that preoccupy current attempts to formulate a global aesthetics: the precariousness of life and work under contemporary formations of global capital; local landscapes refigured as the places and sites of global exchanges; an ethics of "radical alterity" in tension with an ethics of horizontality and non-sovereignty. As these Commentaries progress, I hope you'll send your ideas and reactions.
I'll feature many of those books here: books by poets of various ages, written in various forms, from many Irish counties. But this week, for the first set of Commentaries, I'll be in conversation with Sophie Collins, a poet and graduate student at Queen's University in Belfast. I've sent Sophie some questions. At the end of the week, I'm heading to Dublin, Belfast, and then Glenariff to see an old friend, the storyteller Liz Weir. So I'll publish what I find there, and what I hear.