This chapter considers the period in which the careers of MacNeice and W.B. Yeats overlapped. It highlights how Yeats was a contemporary as well as a precursor for MacNeice during the 1930s, a shift in perspective that reveals the dynamic nature of the two poets’ interaction. Yeats’s critical responses placed the younger poet outside of an Irish poetic—part of a dialectical move in Yeats’s activities of the period, as under pressure in the political present and with an eye to different publics and posterities, he set at odds aspects of his own poetic legacy. MacNeice, meanwhile, is shown as being deeply engaged with Yeats’s poetry from the earliest stages of his career. He both questioned and used aspects of Yeats’s achievement in the context of his own developing poetic, and his wider ambivalence about Ireland and its literary mores.
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