Reading the Ground
The Poetry of Thomas Kinsella
Thomas Kinsella began writing in the 1950s when Irish poets were struggling to emerge from what he identified as the "double shadow of Yeats and English verse." Throughout his career Kinsella sought to establish his identity as an Irish poet writing in English and to determine his place within the dual Irish tradition, Gaelic and English.
In this comprehensive study of Kinsella's poetry, Brian John explores the poet's development within both the Irish and the English contexts and defines the nature of his poetic achievement. He also offers a new reading of Kinsella's evolving relationship to one of his literary forebears, W. B. Yeats. What becomes clear is the formidable accomplishment of a poet, now writing at the height of his powers, whose substantial body of work warrants comparison with the grand masters of twentieth-century English literature.
Brian John is professor of English at McMaster University in Canada. Born and raised in Wales, John is past president of the Canadian Association for Irish Studies and the author of Supreme Fictions: Studies in the Work of William Blake, Thomas Carlyle, W.B. Yeats, and D.H. Lawrence, and The World as Event: The Poetry of Charles Tomlinson.
"John provides an informed, graceful anatomy of Kinsella's poetry from his debut in the late 1950s to the present. His exposition of Kinsella's canon supplants Maurice Harmon's The Poetry of Thomas Kinsella, not only because of the breadth of the study but also because John relishes detail, whether bibliographical and topical, or lexical and metaphorical. This reverence for the specific also distinguishes John's commentary from Thomas Jackson's The Whole Matter. John is sanely reportorial. Facts and details of Kinsella's Dublin milieu-some political, some biographical, some cultural-receive loving attention. . . . All collections."-Choice
"This is the most sustained, careful, and sympathetic reading of Kinsella's poetry. Brian John has the necessary patience and scruple that Kinsella demands; he also has the gift of bringing to us the rich reward that Kinsella finally yields."-Seamus Deane
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