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Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry: Hardy to Mahon

ISBN: 978-0-631-21509-7
312 pages
January 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry: Hardy to Mahon (0631215093) cover image


Featuring contributions from some of the major critics of contemporary poetry, Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry offers an accessible, imaginative, and highly stimulating body of critical work on the evolution of British and Irish poetry in the twentieth-century
  • Covers all the poets most commonly studied at university level courses
  • Features criticisms of British and Irish poetry as seen from a wide variety of perspectives, movements, and historical contexts
  • Explores current debates about contemporary poetry, relating them to the volume's larger themes
  • Edited by a widely respected poetry critic and award-winning poet
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Table of Contents



1 Modern Poetry: Transition and Trauma (Thomas Hardy, Edward Thomas and Wilfred Owen).

Thomas Hardy
Extract from British Poetry in the Age of Modernism (Peter Howarth).

Edward Thomas
Extract from The Poetry of Edward Thomas (Andrew Motion).

Wilfred Owen
Extract from Poetry of Mourning (Jahan Ramazani).

2 Forms of Modernism: Things Fall Apart (W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence).

W. B. Yeats
Extract from Our Secret Discipline (Helen Vendler).

T. S. Eliot
Extract from He Do the Police in Different Voices (Calvin Bedient).

D. H. Lawrence
Extract from 'Hibiscus and Salvia Flowers' (Tom Paulin).

3 Poetry of the Thirties: Between Two Fires (W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice and Stephen Spender).

W. H. Auden
Extract from 'The 1930s Poetry of W. H. Auden' (Michael O'Neill).

Louis MacNeice
Extract from Louis MacNeice (Peter McDonald).

Stephen Spender
Extracts from The Ironic Harvest (Geoffrey Thurley).

4 Poetry of the Forties: Realism and Rhetoric (Keith Douglas and Dylan Thomas).

Keith Douglas
Extract from 'I in Another Place' (Geoffrey Hill).

Dylan Thomas
Extract from The Romantic Survival (John Bayley).

5 Post-War Poetry: Feature less Morning, Featureless Night (Philip Larkin and the Movement).

Philip Larkin
Extract from Out of Reach (Andrew Swarbrick).

The Movement
Extract from The Movement (Blake Morrison).

6 Beyond the Movement: No Bloodless Myth (Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and Geoffrey Hill).

Ted Hughes
Extract from 'Ted Hughes: The Double Voice' (Margaret Dickie).

Sylvia Plath
Extract from Sylvia Plath and the Theatre of Mourning (Christina Britzolakis).

Geoffrey Hill
Extract from 'History to the Defeated' (Alan Robinson).

7 Situated Sequences and Marginal Voices (Basil Bunting, Hugh MacDiarmid, Thomas Kinsella, Stevie Smith and Tony Harrison).

Hugh MacDiarmid, Thomas Kinsella, and Basil Bunting
Extracts from The Modern Poetic Sequence (M. L. Rosenthal and Sally M. Gall).

Stevie Smith
Extract from A History of Twentieth-Century British Women's Poetry (Jane Dowson and Alice Entwistle).

Tony Harrison
Extract from The Poetry of Tony Harrison (Luke Spencer).

8 Northern Irish Poetry: The Poles of Our Condition (Seamus Heaney and Derek Mahon).

Seamus Heaney
Extracts from The Poetry of Seamus Heaney (Neil Corcoran).

Derek Mahon
Extract from Poetry in the Wars (Edna Longley).


Recommended Reading.


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Author Information

Michael O’Neill is Professor of English at Durham University. He has published  books, chapters, and articles on many aspects of Romantic, Victorian, and twentieth- and twenty-first century poetry. Recent books include, as editor, The Cambridge History of English Poetry (2010) He received a Cholmondeley Award for Poets for his own poetry in 1990 and his second collection of poems, Wheel was published in 2008. 

Madeleine Callaghan is a lecturer in English at Sheffield University and has published articles on Shelley and Byron.  Her research interests focus on poetry from the Romantic period to the present. She is currently preparing a book on Wordsworth, Byron and Yeats for publication.

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“The editors have admirably carried out their self-imposed tasks ... The somewhat complicated arrangement is amply justified if one considers the work as a classroom tool, aimed primarily at giving a student audience food for thought, Helen Goethals.”  (Cercles, 2012)



"Michael O'Neill has assembled some truly memorable contributions to the criticism of twentieth-century poetry, all of them illuminating, some of them hard to come by in recent years, acquiring here the freshness of a renewed encounter after long absence. Some belong to the same period as the poems and shed light on a shared context."
Edward Larrissy, Queen's University Belfast

"This authoritative yet accessible book carries the reader deep into the rewards of modern poetry. O'Neill and Callaghan combine their own subtly informed accounts of the work of leading poets with judiciously chosen extracts from classic critical studies. Broad in scope, deep in insight, clear in historical exposition, and always attentive to the verbal make-up of particular poems and imaginative worlds, /Twentieth-Century British Poetry/ is at once an introduction and a revisitable archive, full of sustaining guidance."
John Kerrigan, University of Cambridge

"Both formally attuned and contextually alert, the author-editors have here selected passages from the best recent critics and interwoven them with their own informed and illuminating commentary, revealing both the innovation of modern poetry and its implication within a diverse range of literary traditions. Altogether, the book provides an invaluable companion to one of the great ages of poetry in English."
Seamus Perry, Balliol College, Oxford

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