December 27th, 2015

politics

Links I found interesting for 27-12-2015

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The Whole and Rain-Domed Universe, by Colette Bryce

Earlier this year I attended the presentation of the 24th Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize in the Irish Embassy in London. The prize itself was won by Charles Townshend for his The Republic: the fight for Irish independence 1918-1923, but the judges also gave a special award for this collection to Colette Bryce, born in Derry but now based in Scotland, to honour the memory of fellow Derry poet Seamus Heaney.

It's a tremendously good collection. Bryce summons up and conveys what it was like to grow up in Derry in the 1970s and 1980s, focussing on the family home but looking also at what was happening outside, exploring the contradictions between warmth and claustrophobia, her relations with her mother, violence both domestic and political, and finding new ways to be oneself in a stranded society.

The central poem, from which the collection takes its name, is simply called "Derry", and I make no apology for reproducing it here. Some will notice that it leans on Louis MacNeice's "Carrickfergus", but it goes its own way and delivers a hefty punch at the end for those of us who like her have chosen the path of exile. (NB that there are some difference between this and the version first published in the Irish Times in 2009.) It is surely going to be a classic in children's textbooks to come.

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Circe's Cup, by Clare Carroll

Running through my list of books read this year, I realised I'd missed this one which I read in January. It's a collection of essays on culture and politics in early modern Ireland - more looking at the period immediately after my own focus of interest, but relevant none the less in challenging the reader to new thinking about colonial rhetoric and the political intention behind writing. There's a chapter on Spenser, of course, and another on Machiavelli; there are also several pieces on relations between Ireland and Spain, the rival imperial power. I'll come back to it some day when I have a chance.