By Andrew J. Auge
A Chastened Communion lines a brand new direction during the well-traversed box of contemporary Irish poetry by way of revealing how severe engagement with Catholicism shapes the trajectory of the poetic careers of Austin Clarke, Patrick Kavanagh, John Montague, Seamus Heaney, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paul Durcan, and Paula Meehan.
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Extra info for A Chastened Communion: Modern Irish Poetry and Catholicism
Austin Clarke was hardly the only Irish writer whose youth was marked by the shame and angst that accompanied the obligation to confess one’s sins in detail to a stranger. 20 But in the case of Stephen Dedalus (and of his creator as well), this experience in the confessional caps a temporary period of religious renewal that is quickly superseded by a commitment to an aesthetic vocation rooted in the pains and pleasures of temporal life. Tellingly, Joyce’s first published story, “The Sisters” from Dubliners, registers not only his awareness of the insidious power of confession but his ability to master it through his art.
While the poetry of Eavan Boland (1944–) challenges the code of female domesticity sanctioned by the Irish Catholic Church, it is the critique of the nationalist mythos of Mother Ireland that ultimately drives her poetry. The ludic experimentation with form and language that has elevated Paul Muldoon I n t roduc t ion | 15 (1951–) to a position of prominence in both Irish and American poetic circles touches only tangentially upon Catholic themes. With Thomas Kinsella (1928–), the omission is perhaps more debatable.
Commenting on the early nineteenth-century Irish poet Antaine Raiftearaí’s (Anthony Raferty) religious poetry, including his version of the aithri or traditional repentance poem, Gearóid Denvir goes even further. ”42 Nonetheless, there is evidence even in the Confession poem of the aura of authority associated with the ancient role of the Irish poet or file. Instead of submitting himself to a priestly mediator in a private confession, the poet writing in this form publically proclaims his sins, pronounces judgment himself upon them, and solicits on his own for their absolution.