NEW HIBERNIA REVIEW GEIMHREADH/ WINTER 2012

Nótaí na nEagarthóirí: Editors' Notes

KIERAN QUINLAN
Kirwan Street, In Memory

lAIN TWIDDY
Cancer and the Ethics of Representation
in Paul Muldoon's Horse Latitudes

MICHELLE O 'SU LLIVAN
Filíocht Nua: New Poetry

CATHERINE M. BURNS
The Courtship of John Rooney and Katharine Cusack, 1887-93:
Obligations and Marriage Ideals in Irish-American New England

LAURA ELDRED
"Discursive Nonsense":
Narrative Structure, Trauma, and History in Call Me the Breeze\

GRACE NEVILLE ,
Remembering and Forgetting the Great Famine
in France and Ireland

GRAHAM PRICE
Impure and Complicated Truth:
Brian Friel's Faith Healer and John McGahern's "The Country Funeral"

SEAMUS O'MALLEY
Amnesia and Recovery of the Great War in Plays
by McGuinness and Barry

PATRICK O'DONNELL
The Irish Connection:
Tyrone Guthrie and Regional Theater

 

 

Nótaí na nEagarthóirí:
Editors' Notes

Writers on place will sometimes speak of the "primal landscape" when referring to the environment in which we first encounter the world. Such a landscape can certainly include the built environment, as is did for Dr. Kieran Quinlan, whose first landscape was Kirwan Street in Dublin's Stoneybatter area. Here, Quinlan recalls a childhood in which his immediate neighborhood comprised a knowable world. Kirwan Street's eccentricities, its residents' reputations (both earned and unearned), and its entrenched but often unspoken awareness of class and status existed in a balance as delicate as any charming river valley or country village.Like many memoirs, Quinlan's story is one of circling outward into a world that is vastly larger; yet, a half-century later and an ocean away, the old self-consciousness of place still holds. Kieran Quinlan is the author of three books, including Strange Kin: Ireland and the American South (2005).

As the author of Pastoral Elegy in Contemporary British and Irish Poetry, published earlier this year, Dr. lain Twiddy is well-placed to comment on contemporary poems of grief and loss. Here, he turns to four "cancer poems" in Paul Muldoon's Horse Latitudes (2006), in each of which the disease-and its effects and treatments-provides both subject matter and metaphor. Drawing on Susan Sontag's cautionary writings on illness as metaphor, and on other writers on elegy (among them the poet Douglas Dunn), Twiddy acknowledges that the presence of cancer in a poem can be uniquely troubling. One complicating aspect, for instance, is that much of the language of cancer treatment, such as "invasiveness," "cells," or "eradication," is also the language of the so-called war on terrorism-a concern that is key to the title poem of Horse Latitudes. In the end, Twiddy contends, Muldoon's "unhindered sympathy with victims both known and unknown" allows him to show that it is possible "to write with ethical integrity when using cancer metaphorically."

 Michelle O'Sullivan makes her home near Ballina, County Mayo, and in her suite of new poems presented here the shaping presence of the West can be felt and heard. Or almost heard-for these poems are also steeped in the quiet of the West, as in "The Silent Flock," where she writes, "There are no boats. No bells. No wind. I Breath by breath these creatures come and go. I Without emptiness. Without fuss." Sunlight, flowing water, birds and their nests fill these short and closely observed poems, but it would be a mistake to read them as mere nature poems. Her human voice, often a voice tinged with loss, also sounds clearly. The closing lines of "Watermark" could be said to apply to all these poems: ''An irregular heartbeat struggles I begins to breathe life in your head." Michelle O'Sullivan's first collection, The Blue End of Stars, is new this year from The Gallery Press.

Deep in the archives of Schlesinger Library at Harvard, Dr. Catherine Burns came across a remarkable collection of correspondence: nearly two hundred letters written by a courting couple (each the child of Irish immigrants) in late nineteenth-century New England. Little in these letters seems love-struck. Rather, John Rooney and Catherine Cusack display a lively engagement with social thought, with literature, with their Catholic faith, and most especially with Cusack's unquestioned sense of duty to her widowed mother. Her "duty" was complicated by the mother's insistence that Rooney save the then-enormous sum of $6,ooo before the marriage could take place. Burns's analysis finds that Irish Catholic thinking on family and gender roles, imparted to the couple through distinctly local channels, pervaded all areas of the couple's lives-even in the most secular of places, the young man's bank account. An independent scholar, Catherine M. Burns lately contributed a chapter on the Irish republican Kathleen O'Brennan to the 2010 volume The Irish in the Atlantic World.

 It is no secret that none of Patrick McCabe's eight novels that followed The Butcher Boy (1992) has attained the earlier work's critical success; but the disdain that reviewers expressed for his novel Call Me the Breeze (2003) was especially harsh. Readers and critics alike have objected to the novel's admittedly disjointed narrative. Dr. Laura Eldred seeks to rescue the novel from this scornful consensus, starting from the premise that the later work is McCabe's first work to engage seriously with the question of how trauma inflects personal and autobiographical narratives. Indeed, the jumble of pop culture references in Call Me the Breeze, such as rock songs and the movie Taxi Driver, accurately mirrors the internal confusion of the central character Joey as he gropes toward a cohering narrative of his own life in the aftermath of personal and national violence. Laura Eldred also wrote on McCabe's Butcher Boy in New Hibernia Review in 2006.

The Great Famine has, as Dr. Grace Neville notes, come to be regarded as in many ways a case study in the Irish nation's reckoning with memory-as well as its reckoning with memory's shadow side, forgetting. But has this negotiation with memory been solely an Irish phenomenon? Certainly not, says Neville. After trawling literally thousands of nineteenth-century French writing (including travelogues, journalism, fiction, scientific writings, and poetry) that refer to the Famine, she finds that Ireland was already linked with poverty and starvation in the French imagination, even before the catastrophes of the 1840s. French commentators, it appears, were more likely than their Anglophone counterparts to construe the Famine as caused by political and social iniquities. And touchingly, the memory of the Famine also spurred Irish charity when the French faced widespread hunger in the 1870s. Among Grace Neville's many publications is France-Ireland: Anatomy of a Relationship (2004), which she jointly edited with Eamon Maher.

Superficially, at least, Brian Friel and John McGahern share much in common: generational cohorts from rural Ireland whose works are anchored in a specific place, each was known to admire the other's work. But few critics have tried to link their writings. Here, Dr. Graham Price proposes a relationship between Friel's Faith Healer and McGahern's short story "The Country Funeral." Guided by Julia Kristeva's theorizing of intertextuality-which resists the pursuit of simplistic one-to-one correspondences Price teases out multiple levels on which Friels's play and McGahern's story could be said to be in conversation with one another. Neither man, he concludes, "slavishly imitates the other's style." Rather, the two writers, and these two texts in particular, echo and develop one another, recasting their tropes and themes in original ways. Graham Price's articles have appeared in the Voicing Dissent collection (2012) and in Irish Studies Review.

As Ireland prepares for its upcoming "decade of commemoration" -in which it will mark the centennials of the Dublin Lock-Out, the Easter Rising, the AngloIrish war, and much else-it is worth recalling that it will do so against the backdrop of the still-larger centennial of World War I. Dr. Seamus O'Malley notes that recent historical writing has begun to record Irish involvement in the war. And playwrights, too, notably Frank McGuinness and Sebastian Barry, have probed the historical amnesia and enforced silence that attends the historical fact of Irish involvement in the British army. O'Malley finds Barry's Steward of Christendom a laudable attempt to reinstate the Irish Catholic experience of the war; McGuinness's Observe the Sons of Ulster likewise humanizes the received mythologies of the war-though it stops short of fully addressing the Irish Catholic experience. The co-editor of Ford Madox Ford and America (2012), Seamus O'Malley is currently researching the modernist historical novel.

 In an arresting metaphor, Dr. Patrick O'Donnell remarks that the Dublin-born director Joe Dowling (b. 1948) grew up in an "echo chamber" of influence from director Tyrone Guthrie (1900-1971), starting long before the former became artistic director of Minneapolis's Guthrie Theater in 1995. We could equally say that the "echo chamber" of Guthrie influence extends to the American regional theater movement as a whole. The Anglo-Irish Guthrie found midcentury Ireland stultifying, but as O'Donnell shows, his directorial genius nonetheless cast a long shadow on Dublin's stages. Like his brother-in-law Hubert Butler, Guthrie was a "determined decentralizer"; it was at Guthrie's family home of Annaghmakerrig that the director and his American colleagues laid the groundwork for a vigorous regional theater movement in the United States. Patrick O'Donnell is currently preparing his dissertation on the Guthrie-Dowling connection for publication; he also appeared in these pages in 2001, with a report on the Abbey Theatre's proposed relocation.

 

Clúdach: Cover

This year's covers have featured artistic responses to the urban environment, from artists associated with the Belfast Print Workshop-one of the key institutions in the Northern art scene. Residencies, exhibitions, and courses for both the general public and for experienced printmakers all feature in the Workshop's ongoing contributions to the artistic life of the city and region. Readers may wish to visit the Workshop's impressive web site at http://bpw.org.uk/home/.

 "Belfast Shadows" is a 2007 work by artist Ben Allen, b. 1962 in County Antrim. It is a photo-intaglio print that measures 22.5 x 15 cm. Like many of Allen's prints, it presents a familiar landmark, Belfast City Hall, in the distant space; unlike many of Allen's works that render the city in high color, the darkness of this image calls to mind the monochromatic palate of a woodcut. The scene, however, is edgily contemporary, and exists in an odd equilibrium; even as we see the anonymous human shapes moving away from us, the viewer can readily feel the stream of light and shadow coming near. The deliberate blurring of the image in a way that suggests movement inevitably evokes the photorealistic paintings of Gerhard Richter. Note, too, that the work-which at one level, actually resembles a Rorshasch Test-invites allusions to iconic pop culture imagery as diverse as evangelical renderings of the Rapture and the gunfight at OK Corral. An artist who experiments in many media, Allen also works in abstract painting, collage, video art, and sculpture. Allen studied BA Fine Art Painting at the University of Ulster in Belfast and continued his training with an MA in Environmental Media at the Royal College of Art in London. 

We thank the artist, as well as the staff of the Workshop, and especially director Tara Vallely, for kind assistance in providing this image.

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