Postal Poetics in Contemporary Northern Irish Poetry Restricted; Files Only

Clary, Benjamin (Spring 2019)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/q524jp88v?locale=en
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Abstract

This dissertation interrogates contemporary poetry from Northern Ireland produced primarily between the Good Friday Peace Agreement (1998) and Brexit (2016): a period marked by the apparent loosening of national borders and their return. If political poetry written during the Troubles reflects on sectarian violence, what shape does political poetry take in this new period? I argue that we can read a quest for alternative forms of community in contemporary Northern Irish poetry and, in particular, this quest becomes explicit in the form and trope of the letter, what I term a “postal poetics.” Building on the work of Jacques Derrida, Maurice Blanchot, and others, I contend that a postal poetics suggests a critically utopic sense of community through its emphases on poetic address, its navigation of the private/public divide, and its foregrounding of the intersection between the poetic and communicative functions of language. I explore the appearance of this postal poetics, in particular, in the work of Seamus Heaney, Ciaran Carson, and Leontia Flynn. I close by turning to the appearance of postal poetics beyond Northern Ireland in the work of the Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali and the Latinx poets Ada Limón and Natalie Diaz. Postal Poetics not only maps the changing contours of poetry from Northern Ireland, it highlights the importance of critical engagement with a robust body of contemporary postal poems.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Postal Poetics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

1. Dispatches from the Margins: Seamus Heaney’s Postal Poems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

2. Following in the Footsteps of the Postman: Ciaran Carson’s Year of the French . . . . . . . . 65

3. Leontia Flynn’s “Letter to Friends”: Political Community in The New North . . . . . . . . . . . 115

Coda: Postal Poetry Beyond Northern Ireland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162

Bibliography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179

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