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Irish Poetry of the 1930s$
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Alan Gillis

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199277094

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199277094.001.0001

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Denis Devlin, Brian Coffey, and Samuel Beckett: Across the Tempest of Emblems

Denis Devlin, Brian Coffey, and Samuel Beckett: Across the Tempest of Emblems

(p.96) CHAPTER 5 Denis Devlin, Brian Coffey, and Samuel Beckett: Across the Tempest of Emblems
Irish Poetry of the 1930s

Alan Gillis (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter intercedes in contemporary arguments surrounding poetic modernism by ignoring the usual terms of debate, which are often generalized and abstract, and look directly at the form and style of these poets’ experimental works. The core stylistic manoeuvres and thematic obsessions of Denis Devlin’s poetry in Intercessions are explored, and the specific bent of his religious concerns are interpreted as highly conservative. Brian Coffey’s Third Person is then addressed with similar attention to detail. The elliptical, semantic slippages, and negations of his verse are seen to be couched towards an immanent sense of transcendence. Similar to Devlin, Coffey’s theological preoccupations create a highly conservative form of poetic radicalism. Contrasting sharply with these two, the chapter argues, is the authentic nihilism and gratuitous aggression of Samuel Beckett’s poetry. Focusing on Echo’s Bones, the chapter examines the paradox of Beckett’s militant refusal to confer any positive value to aesthetics, in the light of his infatuation with aestheticism. It traces his poetics in the context of his readings of Proust and Joyce, and concludes that his verse of this time is authentically radical in constituting a fundamental and problematic assault on any value system whatsoever. The verse of all three is read as offering sharply differentiated interpretations of Irish history and culture.

Keywords:   Denis Delvin, Brian Coffey, modernism, experimental poetry, symbolism, Marcel Proust, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce

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