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Sunday, June 05, 2011

The New North, edited by Chris Agee (Salt, £9.99)

This anthology offers a snapshot of the contemporary scene in Northern Irish poetry. All the 14 writers whose work provides the main focus here were born after 1955 and the book emphasises the idea of the short lyric poem, flexible, unpredictable, free of an overemphasis on craft, as the marker of a new sensibility. Leontia Flynn's writing is fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek, swerving knowingly between the celebratory and the confrontational, and is a delight. Equally compelling are the darker notes and concentrations of Sinéad Morrissey. Both these poets are very much concerned with travel, with new places and new subject matters. Cathal Ó Searcaigh, one of two Irish-language poets included and several of whose pieces are translated by Seamus Heaney, frequently celebrates home through the possibilities of other places (see the excellent poem to Jack Kerouac). However, it's in the slender throwaway lines to be found in the work of Andy White, with their impressive lightness of touch, that the book best embodies its declared faith in the virtues of "the smaller thing". CB

Excerpt from book:

The Museum of Censorship
by Matt Kirkham

For black and white figures, before and after
they were airbrushed from their black and white photos,
we are keeping this gallery of spaces.

We are keeping this for the dust
from a statue of the Buddha, or maybe
for a woman’s face. To be a curator
you must be inspired by the beauty
of pieces that emphasise what is lost.

Though emphasise is wrong. For phalluses
chipped from Hindu or Egyptian statues—
look elsewhere for the statues themselves—
we are keeping this gallery of spaces.

We are in a cathedral after the civil war,
counting our places, in the absence of saints.

20% off at SALT's UK Bookstore!
was £9.99
Now £7.99

Buy in the USA now from the Book Depository
$15.95 RRP

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