Edna Longley’s latest collection of critical essays marks a move back from Irish culture and politics to poetry itself as the critic’s central concern. She considers how poets are read and received at different times and in different contexts, by academics as well as by a wider readership, and from Irish, English and American viewpoints. But her interest in the reception of poetry is still very much inﬂuenced by debates about literature and politics in a Northern Ireland context, and in the book’s ﬁnal essay she relates poetry to the “peace process”.
In two of these essays, The Poetics of Celt and Saxon and Pastoral Theologies, she has some fun with mutual stereotypes (the Hughes or Heaney ﬁgure), and with English misreadings of Irish poetry and its cultural and intellectual environment, and Irish poets’ frequent complicity in this situation. In other essays she discusses Edward Thomas and eco-centrism, the criticism of Louis MacNeice and Tom Paulin, and the poetry of Larkin and Auden. Poetry and Posterity follows Edna Longley’s recently reissued Poetry in the Wars, her classic work on Ireland, poetry and war, and her much celebrated book, The Living Stream: Literature & Revisionism in Ireland.