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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The End of Irish Poetry

posted by on December 6 at 13:07 PM

The question is this: Is Irish poetry possible after Bono? Can it ever recover from his unrestrained, unbounded, ungoverned, extravagant, exuberant exploitation of it? Joycean scholars are happy to locate the Irish dialect as the source of the impressive achievements of Irish poetry in the 20th century. The poetry is from the people; it is their revenge on their conquerors (as Tricky put it in another cultural and historical context: “We will master your language.”)

The gifted writers of that colonized island built, word by word, phrase by musical phrase, a mighty bank of poetry. It was a national treasure. But in the late 20th century, Bono, the lead singer of U2, took that rich poetry to the realm of rock and there—on record, radio, music videos—wasted, squandered, spent every last word of it. In “New Year’s Day,” “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” and especially “A Sort Of Homecoming”—“And you know it’s time to go/Through the sleet and driving snow/Across the fields of morning/Lights in the distance/And you hunger for the time/Heel to time/Desire time/And your earth moves beneath/your own dream landscape”—song after song, poetry is not so much recited than exploded, dynamited into droning fragments of rock. At the end of U2’s peak, Joshua Tree, there was nothing left.

Not a death, as Auden would have it, but an insatiable pop hunger emptied Ireland of its poetry: “See the sun and burning rain/She will die and live again”; “I want to run/I want to hide/I want to tear up these walls that hold me inside”; “One man comes in the name of love/One man comes and goes”; “How long, how long shall we sing this song?”; “This desperation, dislocation, separation, condemnation, revelation, in temptation, isolation, desolation let it go.”

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A little late to the party there, aren't you, Professor?

Coming soon from Dr. Mudede: "I Do Believe A Few Of These Young Musical Troupes Are Employing Pilfered African Rhythms"

Posted by robotslave | December 6, 2006 2:41 PM

U2 sucks and doesn´t touch Irish poetry - they´re a bus it (we?) never saw go by. Irish poetry in English over there seems to be giving way to Irish poetry in Irish. Meanwhile, forget U2 - nothing can escape the transformative influence of hiphop. Shit, now I´m sounding like Charles.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | December 6, 2006 3:28 PM

Take a deep breath, Charles. Yeah, we know Bono is a thieving opportunist. No one cares about that, though. The volumes of Auden and Yates are still safe on our shelves.

Posted by snarkly | December 6, 2006 5:19 PM

Charles, you do realize that Seamus Heaney is Irish and still writing? Not to mention Nuala Ni Dhomnaill, Gabriel Rosenstock, and Liam O Muirthile. No matter where you stand on Bono's writing ability, you can hardly say that Irish poetry isn't in excellent form.

Posted by Megan | December 6, 2006 7:00 PM

I'm sorry, Heraclitus, I don't really get the point. Could you explain the riddle?

Posted by Mokawi | December 6, 2006 7:19 PM

Megan in #4.
I love that your name is Megan.

Posted by The Real LeBron James | December 7, 2006 8:26 AM

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