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No Country for Old Men

Fresh Perspectives on Irish Literature


Edited By Paddy Lyons and Alison O'Malley-Younger

Once a country of emigration and diaspora, in the 1990s Ireland began to attract immigration from other parts of the world: a new citizenry. By the first decade of the twenty-first century, the ratio between GDP and population placed Ireland among the wealthiest nations in the world. The Peace Agreements of the mid-1990s and the advent of power-sharing in Northern Ireland have enabled Ireland’s story to change still further. No longer locked into troubles from the past, the Celtic Tiger can now leap in new directions.
These shifts in culture have given Irish literature the opportunity to look afresh at its own past and, thereby, new perspectives have also opened for Irish Studies. The contributors to this volume explore these new openings; the essays examine writings from both now and the past in the new frames afforded by new times.


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Matt McGuire Northern Irish Poetry in the Twenty-First Century 87


Northern Irish Poetry in the Twenty-First Century Matt McGuire Applying the phrase ‘No Country for Old Men’ to Northern Irish poetry is a highly suggestive critical enterprise. It presents a number of contexts in which to reconsider one of the most widely theorised corners of the Irish literary terrain. This essay focuses on the generational rather than gender implications of the phrase. This being said, female voices figure prominently in the discussion that follows. Their inclusion is indicative of the fundamental importance of women’s writing to the poetic DNA of the contemporary North. If we were to round up the usual suspects of Northern Irish poetry we might well find ourselves faced with a group of white haired old men. Born in the late 1930s and the early 1940s, Seamus Heaney is now sixty-nine, Michael Longley sixty-eight and Derek Mahon sixty-seven. ‘No Country for Old Men’ would imply that these are somehow figures of a bygone era – gold watches have been issued, bus passes collected. Fortunately for us, poetry is not your average workplace. Despite their vintage, all three men have continued to produce exciting new work well into the next millennium. Winning the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2006, District and Circle showed little sign that Seamus Heaney’s star was in any way fading. In a literary climate where novelty and youth increasingly enthral, such seasoned ‘pros’ offer an important point of stability, a cold eye cast over the promises of our brave new world. ‘No Country …’ also implies...

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