From Publishers Weekly
The premier publisher of contemporary Irish poetry in America offers generous samplings of nine Irish women poets, some well-known and some unknown in America; if most U.S. knowledge of Irish poetry consists almost entirely of male writers, O'Brien means to correct the balance. Already-devoted readers of Eavan Boland (Outside History; The Lost Land) will have the opportunity to rethink Boland's expressionist achievement. The slippery brilliance of Medbh McGuckian (Shelmalier) deserves far more attention than it gets, especially from fans of John Ashbery: "Wednesday comes/ Out of the rim of bones with a port-wine/ Stain on its face, a day of possible/ Excitements," McGuckian explains in the enticingly, and typically, oblique "Sea or Sky?" The versatile and poignant Nuala N Dhomhnaill is the leading writer of poetry in the Irish language (and the only Irish-language poet here). Perhaps most welcome of all the fine work here are N Dhomhnaill's near-collaborations with Paul Muldoon, who gives her poems larky, sexy English translations. Eil an Ni Chuillean in, Rita Ann Higgins, Paula Meehan, Moya Cannon, Mary O'Malley and Kerry Hardie round out the selection, each given plenty of room: O'Malley makes her own haunted uses of Connemara folklore, contemplating "the price of leaving,/ the cost of coming home." O'Brien, a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, contributes a near-meaningless introduction, in which clause after clause erases what preceded it: "these poems subvert every preconception about what it means to be at once a woman and Irish... and yet together they constitute... a poetry that is distinctly Irish and female." But nobody reads anthologies like this one for the introductions anyway: what matters are the poems, and there are plenty of good ones here. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information, Inc.