From Kirkus Reviews
Mc Cormack, a professor of literary history at the University of London, has woven together a fascinating and problematic anthology. The subtitle, tailored to the American edition, is something of a non sequitur, since the selection includes only one poet before Swift, but 28 after Yeats. Interpretive refers to Mc Cormacks goal, as he states it in the introduction, of demonstrating how Irish literature can be read, not just as a national history, but also as a less orderly and more unexpected series of assaults, dialogues, embraces, exchanges, and propositions. The selections are often avowedly sectarian and provocative, but the virtual absence of biographical information or critical notescrucial for any American edition of such a politically oriented bookobscures the poems sometimes surprising relationships. Also confusing is the anthologys inconsistent approach to its treatment of poems in Gaelic, some presented in English with the original Gaelic, others exclusively in English, and one just in Gaelic. One may always complain too about omissionsPaul Muldoon and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill spring to mindbut, as a whole, Mc Cormacks painstaking selection does justice to the panoply of Irish poets, from the bardic pronouncements of Aodhagán Ó Rathaille to the slyly conventional sonnets of Lady Gregory to poems by moderns like Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, and Derek Mahon. The inclusions from Yeats and Joyce highlight a political engagement that frequently goes unnoticed in selections of their work. Perhaps most satisfying is the generous sampling of marvelous long poems like Brian Merrimans Midnight Court (translated by Frank OConnor), Austin Clarkes Orphide, and Patrick Kavanaghs Great Hungeralongside Oscar Wildes more famous Ballad of Reading Gaol. The poems in this volume do indeed reflect a national history, messy and complex, strident and joyful in the most tragic of circumstances. -- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
“McCormack's painstaking selection does justice to the panoply of Irish poets [and] does indeed reflect a national history, messy and complex, strident and joyful in the most tragic of circumstances.”
“Dr. McCormack's anthology is must reading for anyone who delights in the imaginative mind of the poet.”
-Council on National Literatures