By Andrew J. Auge
A Chastened Communion strains a brand new course throughout the well-traversed box of recent Irish poetry by way of revealing how severe engagement with Catholicism shapes the trajectory of the poetic careers of Austin Clarke, Patrick Kavanagh, John Montague, Seamus Heaney, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paul Durcan, and Paula Meehan.
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Extra resources for A Chastened Communion: Modern Irish Poetry and Catholicism
The value of that process will be clearer after we have surveyed the transfigurations that the poets in this book wring from their agonistic encounters with their inherited faith. Then perhaps we might be inclined to add a note of regret to the general celebratory chorus heralding the passing of Irish Catholicism. 1 Austin Clarke’s (Anti-)Confessional Poetics N o modern Irish writer was more traumatized by Catholicism than the poet Austin Clarke (1896–1974). The specific cause of this psychic wounding emerges in his poetry only after decades of evasive disclosures and silence.
It extends beyond the commonplace practice of the faith to its more sensational cultural manifestations—pilgrimages to holy wells, Croagh Patrick, and Lough Derg; the Eucharistic Congress of 1932; the outburst of Marian apparitions in the mid-1980s; the scandalous revelations concerning Magdalen asylums and clerical abuse in the 1990s; the enormously popular tour of Theresian relics in 2001. ” Where that doesn’t happen, as with Ní Chuilleanáin and Durcan, Catholic subject matter is dispersed throughout their oeuvres.
In these poems, confession in its modern formulation appears to be less an event of absolution than an occasion of sin in itself. For instance, in the opening of the volume’s title poem, the casuistical habit of mind that reduces “confession to despair” is identified with the persecution of Christ during his passion. I know the injured pride of sleep, The strippers at the mocking post, The insult in the house of Caesar And every moment that can hold In brief the miserable act Of centuries. Thought can but share Belief—and the tormented soul, Changing confession to despair, Must wear a borrowed robe.
A Chastened Communion: Modern Irish Poetry and Catholicism by Andrew J. Auge