Thomas Kinsella Mirror In February Essay Definition
1928- ; b. 4 May, Dublin, to a working-class family traditionally employed at Guinness Brewery, Dublin [fam. Guinnesss], descended from a family (Kinsellas or Kinchellas) of Co. Wicklow (Tullow, Coolatin, Tinahely and Farnese) and the Casserlys of Co. Westmeath (his mothers people); grew up in the North Central Dublin of Inchicore, Kilmainham and Thomas St.; ed. Model School, Inchicore, and afterwards the OConnell Schools (Christian Brothers); abandoned Science Scholarship at UCD and entered Civil Service, 1946, reaching post of Asst. Principal officer in Dept. of Finance before retiring in 1965 [19 yrs service]; completed Arts degree at UCD through night-classes; met Eleanor Walsh (A Lady of Quality and The Familiar), and visited her in hospitalised for a year with TB of the throat; m. 1955; introduced to Liam Miller by Capt. Henry Neville Roberts and published Poems (1956); issued Another September (1958), winner Guinness Poetry award and choice of Poetry Book Society; issued Moralities (1960); winner of Irish Arts Council Triennial Book Award, 1961;
issued Downstream (1962); winner of Arts Council Award for American edition of poems and translations, 1962; Eleanor Kinsella successfully treated for myasthenia gravis, though with serious speech impairment, Chicago, 1962; Kinsella first travelled to America with six-month fellowship from Bórd Scoldireachtai Cómalairte, 1963; embarked on main translation of Táin Bó Cuailnge; received Denis Devlin Memorial Award, 1965; elected MIAL, 1965; retired from Dept. of Finance and Civil Service; appt. poet-in-residence, Carbondale, S. Illinois, 1965 [1965-69], where he finished his trans. of the Táin, taking the Yellow Book of Lecan as his basic source; wrote Poetry Since Yeats (1965); presented a paper on The Irish Mind to MLA (NY, Dec. 1966); issued Wormwood (1966); issued Nightwalker and Other Poems (1968); received Guggenheim fellowship in 1968-69; issued The Táin (1969), ill. by Louis le Brocquy; appt. Professor of English, Temple College [err. University], Philadelphia, 1970;
acted as director of Dolmen and Cuala presses for Liam Miller and afterwards fnd. Peppercanister to publish his own verse, 1972; issued Butchers Dozen (1972), being the first volume of the privately-printed Peppercannister series and written in response to the Bloody Sunday atrocity perpetrated by British paratroopers in Derry on 30 Jan. 1972 (and condoned by Widgery hearing), with a reading of the same at the Clonard Monastery, in the Ardoyne, Belfast; awarded Guggenheim Fellowship, 1971-72; pub. The Divided Mind (1973), in which he characterises the examples of Yeats and Joyce as the major models and options for contemporary Irish writers; issued Vertical Man (1973); issued A Technical Supplement (1976), an esoterically personal collection; returned to Ireland, 1976; continued Peppercannister series with The Messenger (1978), printed with a cover based substituting a Guinness label for the papal crest on the Jesuit pious publication of the same name; followed with Song of the Psyche (1985), Her Vertical Smile (1985), and Out of Ireland (1987), a meditation on Irish identity;
issued St Catherines Clock (1987), and jointly re-issued the foregoing as as Blood and Family (OUP 1988); ed. with own translations, The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse (OUP 1986), supplying a lengthy preface; issued Collected Poems (1996); Peppercanister Press subsumed in J. F. Deanes Dedalus Press; issued The Pen Shop (1997), poetry pamph.; papers held at Emory University (Atlanta); there is a head by Louis le Brocquy in the RDS; first winner of Translation Prize of European Poetry Academy, April 2001; issued Marginal Economy (2006), viewing contemporary life through eyes of Marcus Aurelius; awarded Freedom of the City of Dublin, issued A Dublin Documentary (2007), part poetry, part memorabilia; issued Selected Poems (2007), which notably omits Butchers Dozen, became the Poetry Society Recommendation; Prose Occasion 1951-2006 (2009) was edited by Andrew Fitzsimons; there is a documentary on Kinsella made by Seán Ó Mordha, assisted by Seán Ó Coileain and with an appearance from Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill; he was the subject of a public celebration of his life and work at the Gate Theatre, 27 July 2007 attended by the majority of his literary Irish contemporaries who read his poetry, including Colm Toibin, Eavan Boland, Eieann Ni Chulanain, and others - at which he himself read from Belief and Unbelief. DIW DIL FDA OCIL
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See Kinsella's Poetry Ireland reading on YouTube - infra
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|Poetry pamphlets (Peppercanister series)|
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|Peppercanister - per series|
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See also See also his contribution to Pat Boran, ed., Watching the River Flow: A Century of Irish Poetry , updated in Flowing, Still : Irish Poets on Irish Poetry (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2009).
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|The Táin [editions & related printings]|
—For Translators Note & Introduction from the 1970 Edn., see Quotations, [infra].
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See Google images of Kinsella online - always noting that some of these are not our Thomas Kinsella and others are mis-captioned [accessed 28.06.2011].
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Irish University Review, 31, 1 [Thomas Kinsella Special Issue, Guest Editor, Catríona Clutterbuck] (Spring/Summer 2001). CONTENTS, Catríona Clutterbuck, Introduction [vii ]; Dennis ODriscoll, His Wit: Humour and Satire in Thomas Kinsellas Poetry ; Donatella Abbate Badin, Rhyme and Rhythm and Beauty: The Abandoned Formalism of Kinsellas Early Poetry 1956-1968 ; Alex Davis, Thomas Kinsella and the Pound Legacy: His Jacket on the Cantos ; Ian Flanagan, Tissues of Order: Kinsella and the Enlightenment Ethos ; Maurice Harmon, From Basin Lane to Old Vienna: Place: Transcendence and Counterpoint in Thomas Kinsella ; Peter Denman, Significant Elements: Songs of the Psyche and Her Vertical Smile ; Thomas Kinsella, The Affair ; As an nGéibheann ; Donatella Abbate Badin, From An Interview with Thomas Kinsella ; Jefferson Holdridge, Homeward, Abandoned: The Aesthetics of Home and Family in Thomas Kinsella ; Lucy Collins, A Little of What We Have Found: Kinsella, Women, and the Problem of Meaning ; Ruth Ling, Re-familiarizing The Familiar: From Effigy to Elegy in the Recent Marriage Poems of Thomas Kinsella ; Derval Tubridy, Difficult Migrations: The Dinnseachnas of Thomas Kinsellas Later Poetry . Also Book reviews [187-209].
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Irish Studies Review, 16, 3 - Kinsella at Eighty [Special Issue, guest ed. Derval Tubridy] (August 2008), -367pp. [Preliminary:] Introduction: Keep us alert / for the while remaining: Kinsella at eighty; ; Catriona Clutterbuck, Scepticism, faith and the recognition of the Patriarch-Mother in the poetry of Thomas Kinsella; ; Andrew Fitzsimons, Let the Fall begin: Thomas Kinsellas European dimension; ; Lucy Collins, Never altogether the same. But the same: strategies of revision in Thomas Kinsellas Notes from the Land of the Dead; ; Dillon Johnston, Kinsellas Dublins and the Stone Mother; ; Ian Flanagan, Hearing the American Voice: Thomas Kinsella and William Carlos Williams; ; David Wheatley, All is emptiness / and I must spin: Thomas Kinsella and the romance of decay; ; Derval Tubridy, Thomas Kinsella: A Selected Bibliography 2008; . Also, Tubridy, pencil port. of Thomas Kinsella [229; front.; poems by Floyd Skloot and David Wheatley.]
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[See separate file, infra]
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[See separate file, infra]
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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, selects The Irish Writer [625-29; see also under Daniel Corkery, Rx]; from Another September, Another September, Baggot Street Deserta; from Moralities, Song, Mirror in February; from Wormwood, Wormwood; from Notes from the Land of the Dead and Other Poems, Ancestor, Tear, Hen Woman, St Pauls possessed; from One and Other Poems, His Fathers Hands; from Out of Ireland, The Furnace, Entrance; BIOG, 1432; b. Dublin 1928 [no further family information], attended UCD and thereafter entered Civil Service; left position as assistant principal officer in Dept. of Finance to take up post at Southern Illinois Univ., 1965; began teaching at Temple Univ., Philadelphia, 1970; co-founder with Liam Miller of Dolmen Press; awards incl. Denis Devlin Memorial Award, Guinness Poetry Award; Irish Arts Council Triennial Book Award, and two Guggenheim Fellowships; lives in Co. Wicklow. WORKS & COMM [as supra].
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Sundry anthologies, Robin Skelton, ed., Six Irish Poets (OUP 1962) incls. selection of Kinsellas poetry, with others [Austin Clarke, Richard Kell, John Montague, Richard Murphy & Richard Weber]; David Livingstone & Anne Sexton, eds., Poems (OUP 1968); Maurice Harmon, ed., Irish Poetry After Yeats: Seven Poets (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1979); Andrew Carpenter & Peter Fallon, eds., The Writers: A Sense of Place (Dublin: OBrien Press 1980), incls. four love poems, being literal translations from the Irish (My own dark head …), with photo-port., pp.98-100. Finestere was printed in Robert ODriscoll, ed., The Celtic Consciousness (Dolmen/Canongate 1981), pp.xxvii-xxxi [with a poem by John Montague, both arising from a conference of 1979].
Patrick Crotty, ed., Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1995), selects Chrysalides� ; from Notes from the Land of the Dead: Hen Woman� , Ancestor� , Tear� ; from One: 38 Phoenix Street� , His Fathers Hands� ; from Anniversaries, 1956� ; from The Messenger ; from Out of Ireland: Harmonies� ; from One Fond Embrace� .
Peter Ellis (Cat. 10; 2002) lists A Selected Life (Dublin: Peppercanister 1972); 6pp. [100 bound copies signed]; A Technical Supplement (Dublin: Peppercanister 1976) [550 signed copies]; Song of the Night and Other Poems (Dublin: Peppercanister 1978), 15pp. [each £95; remainder reduced to £75 in 2004.]
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Two traditions? : Kinsella wrote in his Introduction to The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse (1986) that Irish tradition is a matter of two linguistic identities (p.xxvii), and dismissed the so-called Northern Ireland Renaissance as largely a journalistic entity (p.xxx). He was also scathing about Terence Browns conception of Northern Voices conceived as a separate tradition, and spoke of the language-shift as having left a majority audience divided from the past (p.xlvii), affirming instead the essential continuity of Irish writing.
Two traditions? : Robert Greacen wrote to The Irish Times (18 Aug. 1995) defending John Hewitt against charges of bigotry laid against him by Kinsella in The Dual Tradition [see further under Greacen, infra.]
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Bards all: Kinsellas poem Finestere takes Amergins chant in Leabhar Gabhála as its basis (see Paddy Bushe, A resonant tradition, some Gaelic poetry of Uíbh Ráthach, in Daniel OConnell: Political Pioneer, ed. Maurice R. OConnell, 1991, pp.86-97; p.88).
Nightwalkers: The Nightwalker is also the title of a dramatic ballad by Gerald Griffin (see Poems by Gerald Griffin Dublin: Gill 1940).
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Peppercanister: Kinsella set up shop to sell the Peppercanister Poems from 47 Percy Lane. The Familiar (No. 20); Godhead (No. 21); Citizen of the World (No. 22); Littlebody (No.23.)
Academy Prize: Kinsella was the first winner of the European Poetry Academy:s triennial prize for publication of poetry in several countries, a copy of his poetry in Finnish being presented in Dublin (The Irish Times, 29 April, 2001; with photo of the poet and Mr Phillippe Jones, presenting, at Joyce Tower, Sandycove; see also under J. F. Deane.)
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From the outset of his career, Thomas Kinsella has shown an unremitting preoccupation with large themes. Love, death, time, and various ancillary imponderables are persistently at the forefront of Kinsella’s poetic activity. Such concerns beset all poets, no doubt, as well as all thinking beings. More often than not, Kinsella grapples with these overwhelming subjects without the alleviating disguise of metaphor, and he confronts them without the consolations of philosophy. Their reality consists of the profundity of the poet’s human—and hence, frequently baffled and outraged—experience of them.
Even in Kinsella’s early love lyrics, it is impossible for the poet merely to celebrate the emotion. He cannot view his subject without being aware of its problematical character—its temporariness and changeability. Thus, to identify Kinsella’s themes, while initially informative, may ultimately be misleading. It seems more illuminating to consider his preoccupations, which a reader may label time or death, as zones of the poet’s psychic experience, and to recognize that a Kinsella poem is, typically, an anatomy of psychic experience, a rhetorical reexperiencing, rather than a particularly conclusive recounting. Such a view would seem to be borne out by the forms that his poems typically assume. Their fractured look and inconsistent verse patterns (unavoidably but not imitatively reproducing the prosody of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound) suggest an idea still developing. As Kinsella writes in “Worker in Mirror, at His Bench”: “No, it has no practical application./ I am simply trying to understand something/ —states of peace nursed out of wreckage./ The peace of fullness, not emptiness.”
An immediate implication of this approach to poetry is that it owes little or nothing to the poet’s Irish heritage. His concerns are common to all humanity, and while the conspicuous modernism of his technique has, in point of historical fact, some Irish avatars (the unjustly neglected Denis Devlin comes to mind), these are of less significance for a sense of Kinsella’s achievement and development than the manner in which he has availed himself of the whole canon of Anglo-American poetry. In fact, an interesting case could be made for Kinsella’s poetry being an adventitious, promiscuous coalescence of the preoccupations of poets since the dawn of Romanticism. Such a case might well produce the judgment that one of the bases for Kinsella’s general importance to the history of poetry in the postwar period is that his verse is a sustained attempt to inaugurate a post-Romantic poetic that would neither merely debunk its predecessor’s fatal charms (as perhaps Eliot desired to do) nor provide them with a new repertoire of gestures and disguises (which seems to have been Pound’s project). The effect of this judgment would be to place Kinsella in the company of another great Irish anti-Romantic of twentieth century literature, Samuel Beckett.
A more far-reaching implication of Kinsella’s technique is that it provides direct access to the metaphysical core of those preoccupations. Often the access is brutally direct. Throughout, Kinsella repeats the refrain articulated in the opening section of “Nightwalker” (from Nightwalker, and Other Poems): “I only know things seem and are not good.” This line strikes a number of characteristic Kinsella notes. Its unrelieved, declarative immediacy is a feature that becomes increasingly pronounced as his verse matures. There is a sense of the unfitness of things, of evil, of times being out of joint. The speaker is strikingly committed to his subjective view. The line contains a representative Kinsella ambiguity, depending on whether the reader pauses heavily after “seem.” Is “are not good” entailed by, or opposed to, “seem”? Readers familiar with Kinsella will hear the line announce a telltale air of threat and of brooding introspection. There is also, perhaps, a faint suggestion of meditative quest in “Nightwalker,” which occurs in other important Kinsella poems from the 1960’s (such as “Baggot Street Deserta” from Another September, and “A Country Walk” and “Downstream” from Downstream). Such an undertaking, however, is hardly conceived in hope and does not seem to be a quest for which the persona freely and gladly volunteers. Rather, it seems a condition into which he has been haplessly born.
It is not difficult to understand Kinsella’s confession that his vision of human existence is that of “an ordeal.” In fact, given the prevalence in his verse of ignorance, darkness, death, and the unnervingly unpredictable tidal movements of the unconscious—all frequently presented by means of apocalyptic imagery—there is a strong indication that the poet is doing little more than indulging his idea of “ordeal,” despite the prosodic virtuosity and furious verbal tension that make the indulgence seem an authentic act of soul baring. Such an evaluation, however, would be incomplete. Also evident is the poet’s desire to believe in what he has called “the eliciting of order from experience.” Kinsella’s verse is a continuing experiment in the viability of the desire to retain such a belief and a commitment to negotiate the leap of artistic faith that alone is capable of overcoming the abyss of unjustifiable unknowing that is the mortal lot. The possibility of achieving that act of composed and graceful suspension is what keeps Kinsella’s poetry alive and within the realm of the human enterprise.
Although Kinsella’s oeuvre exemplifies, to a dauntingly impressive degree, persistence and commitment in the face of the virtually unspeakable abyss, it has gone through a number of adjustments and modifications. Taken as a whole, therefore, Kinsella’s output may be considered an enlarged version of some of its most outstanding moments, a sophisticated system of themes and variations. In the words of the preface to Wormwood, “It is certain that maturity and peace are to be sought through ordeal after ordeal, and it seems that the search continues until we fail.”
One of the most important adjustments to have occurred in the development of Kinsella’s poetic career is his emergence from largely private, personal experience, primarily of love. His early poems, particularly those collected in Another September and Downstream, seem too often to conceive of experience as the struggle of the will against the force of immutable abstractions. While these poems respect the necessarily tense and tentative character of experience, they seem also to regard mere experience as a pretext for thought. These poems share with Kinsella’s later work the desire to achieve distinctiveness through allegories of possibility. However, their generally tight, conventional forms have the effect of limiting their range of possibilities. In addition, the typical persona of these poems seems himself an abstraction, a man with only a nominal context and without a culture.
By Downstream, such isolation was being questioned. The concluding line of this collection’s title poem—“Searching the darkness for a landing place”—may be taken (although somewhat glibly) as a statement emblematic of much of Kinsella’s early work. However, the collection also contains poems that, while painfully acknowledging the darkness, consider it as an archaeological redoubt. One of the effects of this adjustment is that the poet’s personal past begins to offer redemptive possibilities. In addition, and with more obvious if not necessarily more far-reaching effects, a generalized past, in the form of Irish history, becomes an area of exploration. It is not the case that Kinsella never examined the past prior to Downstream (“King John’s Castle” in Another September is proof to the contrary). Now, however, to the powerful sense of the past’s otherness that “King John’s Castle” conveys is added a sense of personal identification.
The poem in Downstream that demonstrates this development in Kinsella’s range is “A Country Walk.” Here, the persona, typically tense and restless, finds himself alone, explicitly undomesticated, with nothing between him and the legacy of the past discernible in the landscape through which he walks. The poem does not merely testify to the influential gap between present and past (a crucial preoccupation in all modern Irish writing) but also enters into the past with a brisk openness and nonjudgmental tolerance. “A Country Walk” reads like a journey of discovery, all the more so since what is discovered is not subjected to facile glorification. The fact that the past is so securely embedded in the landscape of the poem suggests that history is in the nature of things and that there is as much point in attempting to deny its enduring presence as there is in trying to divert the river which is, throughout the course of the poem, never out of the poet’s sight. The poem ends, appropriately, on a note of continuity: “The inert stirred. Heart and tongue were loosed:/ ’The waters hurtle through the flooded night. . . .’”
If anything, the present is circumvented in “A Country Walk.” To ensure that the reader is aware of this, Kinsella daringly uses echoes of William Butler Yeats’s “Easter 1916” to show how antiheroic is contemporary Ireland and to emphasize that the country is still, to paraphrase a line from Yeats’s “September 1913,” fumbling in the greasy till. This moment in “A Country Walk” prefaces the understandable admission “I turned away.” The interlude, however, draws attention to a noteworthy feature of Kinsella’s verse: its satire. From the outset, Kinsella’s work was capable of excoriation. The addition of local, often contemporary, Irish subject matter has created the opportunity for some scalding satirical excursions.
Nightwalker, and Other Poems
Perhaps the most notorious of these sallies is to be found in the long title poem of Nightwalker, and Other Poems, a poem that, in many ways, is an illuminating counterpart to “A Country Walk.” Here, the setting is urban, contemporary Dublin, and the speaker, lacking the briskness of his opposite number in “A Country Walk,” refers to himself as “a vagabond/ Tethered.” The demoralizing spectacle of modern life is the poem’s subject. Nothing is spared. In particular, Kinsella’s years in the civil service are the basis for a damning portrait of national ideals stultified and betrayed. This portrait goes so far as to include figures from Irish public and political life who, although distorted by the poet’s satirical fury, remain eminently recognizable and still occupy the highest positions in the...
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