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On Trevor Joyce.

The Irish poet Trevor Joyce is a distant cousin of his novelist namesake, as I learned when a glazier repairing a window of Joyce's house, broken in a fit of rage by a mainstream poetry critic at the party that concluded an avant-garde poetry festival held in Cork, said that if he'd known of the relationship he'd have done the work for half-price. That's the work reputation can do in Ireland, and, though the tensions that led to that incident of the broken window were not exclusively literary, it does provide a fitting image for the knockabout absurdities of distinctions between "mainstream" and "avant-garde" that readers expect to hear when one reviews a poet like Trevor Joyce. Yes, they take these matters seriously in Ireland, as elsewhere--which is a pity, as such divisions are surely as slippery and unhelpful in the Irish context as they are, to my mind, in North America or the U.K. By rights there ought to be a community of interest between readers of challenging "mainstream" poets like Thomas Kinsella, Paul Muldoon, Medbh McGuckian, and Ciaran Carson, and readers of challenging "avant-garde" poets such as Joyce, Maurice Scully, Catherine Walsh, and Randolph Healy. The obstacles in the way of bridging such audiences are persistent but (I think in my more optimistic moments) not likely to be permanent in the long run, despite resistance from various quarters. (1) But I'm moving too fast, or letting my hopes distract me from the text at hand, the collected poems of an author who has now been writing for almost four decades but can still expect the response "Who's Trevor Joyce?" from even that sliver of the public that follows contemporary poetry.

Trevor Joyce was born in Dublin in 1947. While still in his teens he met the poet Michael Smith, who, five years his senior, became an important friend and mentor. In 1967 they cofounded New Writers' Press in order to do something about what they pugnaciously diagnosed as "the stagnancy of the Irish poetry scene relative to what had happened in the U.S. and Europe," with its emphasis on "a provincial literature, unambitious in its concerns, formally conservative, and rural in its outlook." (2) It was an auspicious time for such a venture: NWP and its associated journal The Lace Curtain formed part of the remarkable wave of little presses and journals that changed English-language poetry in the 1960s and 1970s. NWP published a wide variety of contemporary Irish poets, including Thomas Kinsella, Pearse Hutchinson, Anthony Cronin, Paul Durcan, and Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, and a major program of international authors--Borges, Vallejo, Spicer, Neruda. The sheer diversity and ambition of NWP's activities should not be forgotten, even though it is now most closely identified with its most significant achievement: the rediscovery and republication of the 1930s generation of Irish modernists (Brian Coffey, Thomas MacGreevy, Denis Devlin, et al), of whom only Samuel Beckett was visible on canonical literary maps. NWP's period of greatest activity ended with the 1970s (by which point it had produced over forty titles), though the imprint continues to exist, revived on an occasional basis for special projects such as the 1990 edition of Brian Coffey's Mallarme translations or the present edition of Joyce's collected poems.

Joyce's first phase as a writer climaxed with the full-length collection Pentahedron (NWP 1972). In his early poetry (presented in a generous selection under the tide "Pentahedron & others" in with the first dream), Joyce demonstrates a strikingly complete absorption of nineteenth-century and modernist influences. The poems' city- or townscapes are registered through the sensibilities of a late-modernist skeptical observer, as a series of objects, part-objects, and living creatures at once oppressively plentiful and yet failing to add up to anything like a full and living world. The poems' fragmented observations are bounded on all sides by streets, walls, cobblestones, public monuments, bridges, canals, and churches, an environment neither natural nor sufficiently human. The possibility of finding a speech that does more than painfully register this fragmentary world is remote ("Speech is a broken bird on stunned wings" [63]); and the poems are instead full of inarticulate sounds: cries, shrieks, laughter, the ringing of bells. In "Surd Blab" these cries suggest Eliot's transcendent sound of children laughing, but the poem expresses frustration that they can never articulate a "question" which would give shape to the "problem in the still / adjacent stone / and the rivers blab" (57). The poetry exists in an uneasy stasis: "The river moves and does not move, / And the gulls have a similar movement and a stasis" (54). Trapped in a present that oppresses because it is at once alive and dead--that unsettlingly refuses to be quite dead enough--the poems repeatedly elaborate ornate images of decay.

Joyce has articulated his dissatisfaction with his earlier work, and with aspects of the poetics of mainstream Irish poetry, in a recent talk, "The Point of Innovation in Poetry." After quoting lines from Derek Mahon's "A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford," from Eavan Boland's "Outside History," and from one of his own poems in Pentahedron, he goes on to comment:

These quotations I have read represent, I would argue, the poetry of expression, caught at the moment the awareness dawns that what has been hitherto expressed is, in the scale of things, privileged and Trivial--the moment that it begins to express its own sense of futility. It marks the self-consciousness of the expressive voice as it breaks down under the pressure of too much information, too much awareness of what is happening elsewhere. (3)

It was to take several decades for Joyce to fully work out an alternative to the "poetry of expression." As we'll see, Joyce's efforts in the 1990s have been aimed at devising poetic forms more capable of incorporating the pressures of "information" and "awareness," more capable of admitting a variety of voices and experiences into the text.

The seeds of these later developments are already evident in a project that was preoccupying Joyce at the same time as he was writing the poems collected in Pentahedron. In The Poems of Sweeny, Peregrine: A Working of the Corrupt Irish Text (published in 1976, though its composition began in 1966) Joyce develops a route out of the dilemmas of Pentahedron via a modernist poetics of translation. In many ways it is Joyce's most accomplished book of this period. Its source, the medieval Irish Buile Suibhne, tells of the transformation of King Sweeny at the battle of Magh Rath into a gealt--a being half madman, half bird--as a result of the outrages he has committed against the cleric Ronan. The prose narrative of the original, which recounts his homeless wanderings and his eventual death at the hands of a swineherd, is interspersed with a series of lyrics famed for containing some of the finest nature poetry in Irish literature. It's no surprise that this enigmatic and haunting tale has fired the imaginations of many major Irish writers of the past century, notably Flann O'Brien (At Swim-Two-Birds, 1939) and Seamus Heaney, whose Sweeney Astray (1983), which postdates Joyce's version, is the best-known modern translation.

It is important to stress that Joyce's Sweeny is a creative, exploratory "working" rather than a translation; Pound is one obvious model, and Joyce's own note reveals his admiration for the instance of the nineteenth-century Irish poet James Clarence Mangan. The most striking textual intervention perpetrated by Joyce's version is the reordering of the original mixed-genre text into the bipartite structure of a compact prose narrative followed by a collection of twenty-two of Sweeny's songs (lyrics in the voices of other characters are omitted). The rearrangement creates a complex interplay between text and voice, action and song. On one side of the book's divide is the strange and grotesque account of Sweeny's blasphemy, transformation, wanderings, and death; on the other, a series of intense expressivist lyrics in the voice of the ravaged protagonist. Sweeny's songs speak bitterly of his plight: "Light folds and bends in the chill ice / of pools, and I am cold" (32). But they also reveal his increasingly st rong preference for this hard life and the natural beauties it offers over the comforts of civilization and religion.

It is tempting to take Sweeny--alienated, outcast--banally enough as the figure of a modern antihero, or as a stand-in for the poet. What tugs against this reading in Joyce's version is his emphasis on the mediations that make any "voice" something layered and diffracted. Like Pound in Canto I, Joyce is at pains to make it clear that we're reading a compound text in which the question of who is speaking cannot be clearly answered: what we're reading is filtered through a centuries-long process of composition, transmission, copying, corruption, tinkering, translation, and reworking. (No wonder that Joyce adds a teasing coda to the prose section: "May we, then, conclude just this: that, after all, we have not here those words which Sweeny, between flight and fall, spoke to the Man of the Wood?" [16]) For all the darkness and strangeness of Sweeny's material, the book has a verve that comes from the way in which Joyce, freed from the constrictions of the expressive lyric voice, instead works on the surface of t he language, bringing to bear an intense musicality and Poundian condensare:
Verge of a dark wood,
vertical chalked motif,
slender, silver, coiling, lovely

Aspen is swift; its leaves
sing like a distant war;
green blade smashes green blade.
Then, for a time,
 silence. (30)

What followed the impressive performance of Sweeny was, sadly, two decades of near-complete writer's block. Joyce's return was announced by stone floods (1995), which collects a burst of writing from the early 1990s (along with three poems from the 1980s). If the eye in Pentahedron seemed to find walls, stone, and boundaries wherever it turned, stone floods is concerned with the dissolution of boundaries and the permeability of stony barriers. The volume's paradoxical title is worked out carefully. Sometimes, as in "The Turlough," this is via literal detail, dwelling on the role of ice and water in geological processes. A turlough, Joyce explains in a note, is an area of karstic limestone in which "stone" literally "floods": "Rain falling on this land drains away through swallow-holes or sinks, but precipitation anywhere within the watershed may cause the water-table to rise again above the valley floor, whereupon streams issue through the crevices by which they had previously drained away" (236). The image is taken up in the poem as a means of meditating on time, destruction, and memory, and it sets off a series of increasingly wide-ranging images of the reversal of time and cause-and-effect: "Bullet returns fire from flesh / to gun / the dried stain weeps I bone knits again" (95). This chain of reversals lands ultimately on a consideration of the universe's possible eventual contraction.

The book's most insistent and elegant encapsulation of its paradoxical title is in its leitmotif references to sand, a stony substance that flows and collapses (in an hourglass, for example), and which can be made into glass, that ambiguous solid/liquid that flows imperceptibly slowly. The silicon of sand is also the medium of another kind of flow--of information and data--in the form of the microchip. In places the image recalls the devouring sands of Shelley's "Ozymandias"; as this oblique allusion suggests, it serves as part of the book's larger, indirect commentary on power and economics, on the hubristic will to stasis and control. If the fixed can dissolve, the fluid may also become petrified: in "Golden Master," for instance, King Midas's attempt to drink wine produces "a still cataract / poised between jug and lip / gilding his parched tongue" (126), while in "Cold Course" a Chinese Emperor's tomb contains an entire miniature world made from stone, its rivers filled with quicksilver.

Though not in the usual sense a "sequence" the poems in stone floods are densely interrelated and arranged carefully as a book. This is one of a number of signs that the book is engaged in a contrary but fruitful dialogue with the legacy of Yeats. Yeats's emblematic presentation of clashing oppositions, in which poem balances poem, stanza balances stanza, is countered by Joyce's stealthy crossweave of puns and interconnections, at once elegant and yet subversively destabilizing. (4) This can reach Empsonian heights of ambiguity, the poems saying something and then reversing or diverting it in a single utterance. One especially fine example of this can be seen in two lines of "Cold Course" which concern the practice at the ancient Chinese court of ingesting mercury and gold in hopes of achieving immortality: "The sovereign they bolted down still circulates / through this enchanted fastness of white sudden stone" (106). Here the "stone floods"--the tomb's quicksilver rivers--become in addition the circulating flows of money and power, expertly joined in the pun on "sovereign"; further puns lurking in "bolted down," "still," and "fastness" register the paradox of static motion. The book's stylistic verve and variety--the tone ranges from the conversational and casual to the heightened and surrealist; the prosody ranges from delicate syllabics influenced by Asian literatures to Buntingesque density--are engaging and often entertaining, but more importantly they demonstrate Joyce's post-Heideggerian desire to "listen to language, and...understand what it tells us." (5)

After stone floods Joyce's pace of composition picked up speed and confidence: indeed, on the evidence of with the first dream, Joyce wrote almost as much in the years 1996-2000 as in the entire first thirty years of his career. The poetry also becomes increasingly sui generis, though drawing inspiration from a variety of contemporary experimental poetries (Joyce has for instance acknowledged his indebtedness to John Cage, Tom Raworth, and the Irish poet Randolph Healy). Like stone floods, Syzygy (1998) shows a strong interest in both scientific and mythic cosmogony, and in change both apocalyptic and gradual. Joyce is fascinated by creation myths, in part because they suggest that the universe might have been made differently, or that it could be unmade. stone floods often treats these concerns via sly comedy: in "The Turlough" the astrophysicist's vision of the universe collapsing in on itself prompts Joyce's droll suggestion that the gods might simply be bored with the present stage-act and decide to give it the hook; while "Tohu-bohu" conceals a parody creation-myth in a seemingly offhand prose anecdote about a friend (the angels become racing pigeons). Syzygy, by contrast, is austere and relentless in its elaboration of the theme, approaching it with formidable concentration: only nine pages long, it is as distilled as a latterday Beckett text. Part One, "The Drift," is a series of twelve brief lyrics that opens in medias res--in midsentence, in fact--with an astonishing evocation of the roar of time inside all of creation, from "the whisper / echoing within the diamond" to "the disintegrating actions / of clocks" and "the infinities / of numbers shattering" (136). What links these lyrics is their preoccupation with the interrelationship of creation and destruction; their examination of efforts both human and extrahuman to create, order, pattern, measure, confine, abstract, and restrict, and how these efforts are undone or undo themselves; and their eye for what escapes any imposed order: leakages, blood, d irt, ghosts.

Syzygy repeatedly evokes vast spaces--the sea, desert, sky, the cosmos--but Joyce is equally interested in how force travels in confined areas. One key image here is the throat, a confined space which is the conduit for consumption (there is a recurrent fascination in the book with the acts of predation and consumption). At the same time it serves in the reverse direction as a passage for the voice, and indeed Syzygy is a book full of sounds: songs, shrieks, words, noise. The ancient ideas of universal harmony and the music of the spheres seem to inform the poem obliquely, though it can only hint at them in the enigmatic inverted form of a Cagean/Zen koan: "no silence no noise" (141). Any universal harmony, though, is always in danger of being erased by that opening cosmic roar.

In the second lyric of "The Drift" Joyce seems to draw on the Buddhist idea of cyclical rebirth, via the image of salmon returning upriver to spawn. In the twelfth lyric, the theme of cyclical return is touched on again, this time within a Christian framework; the poem, positioned at the end of "The Drift" and at the midpoint of Syzygy as a whole, is worth examining closely to give a sense of Joyce's methodology and style:
we suffer an old vertigo
that strikes with the first dream
of irresistible winds
across these settlements
thats how the unhinged
thrones and dominations fell
attending as joints lost their grip
throughout the deadlocked centuries
as new wood broke
disordered from old stock
voices were joining
in a round of bones (141)

In the background of this short poem is the core Christian paradox in which the Fall is also fortunate, a felix culpa. Joyce's opening lines balance contrary responses to the forces of destruction: the harsh winds that obliterate human settlements and overturn political structures ("thrones and dominations") are at once nightmarish and "dream[ed] of" (desired), "irresistible" because overwhelming or enticing. The cycle of the poem begins to turn with a pun, however: the "thrones and dominations" are also fallen angels, a reference which may be clarified by Joyce's comment on another poem: "Origen's cosmology is relevant, with the expelled angels cascading as successive realms of emanation, in a succession of increasingly imperfect worlds, until they finally reach the pits and are withdrawn again to the godhead's perfection."(6) The next two lines--"attending as joints lost their grip / throughout the deadlocked centuries"--require some lateral thinking for their full unpacking. A corpse is initially "deadlock ed" with rigor mortis, but gradually becomes flaccid. To speak of "attending as joints lost their grip" is therefore a way of speaking of attendance at a wake. One way to read the lines, then, is as an homage to the Viconian cycles of history that structure Finnegans Wake.

At this point the poem, which has so far been scrupulously evenhanded in its ambiguities, tilts slightly towards a celebratory view of rebirth and renewal: "new wood" breaks forth from the ruin of old orders, and there is a vision of the cyclical harmony of a musical "round," Syzygy's closest approach to the idea of cosmic harmony. Even here, though, the harmony remains tentative, since it is also a "round of bones." Perhaps this is a reference to the medieval Dance of Death, with its vision of universal mortality? The poem's fragile balance just manages here to keep that bleaker reading in check.

While the many shades of meaning the OED supplies for the word "syzygy" must have delighted Joyce, the one most pertinent to a consideration of the book is the most general: "A pair of connected or correlative things." Like Sweeny, Syzygy has an idiosyncratic bipartite structure. Joyce's inspiration, according to his informative note, was the medieval composer Guillaume de Machaut's remarkable setting of the text "Ma fin est dans ma commencement" ("My end is in my beginning") in a crab canon--a composition in which "one or more parts proceed normally, while the imitating voice or voices give out the melody backwards" (239). Part Two of Syzygy, "The Net," redistributes the words of "The Drift" in a new order, according to the back-and-forth motion of four canonic "voices." The reshuffling creates an almost overwhelmingly dense array of words, which unsettlingly eludes categorization either in terms of "sense" or "nonsense"; but this reordering also reveals several key phrases formerly dispersed throughout "Th e Net," most centrally an inversion of Machaut's text that now encapsulates the theme of Joyce's poem: "there is nothing either finished or not yet begun" (143).

Syzygy is evidently a touchstone for Joyce, a landmark text whose conceptual advances--the elaborately worked-out constructivism and "The Net"'s radical breaking up of the lyric voice--he has since both developed further and also responded to, as if even he was unsettled and intrigued by them. The section of "Shorter Poems (1995-2000)" in with the first dream includes several key clusters of poems that further extend Syzygy's multiperspective constructivism through their elaboration of intricate structures which make room for multiple readings or reorderings of the same words. Poems such as "behaviour self!" and "Data Shadows" are constructed "lattice-wise," and are printed in two alternative reading-orders; an even more extreme development is "Joinery," which prises open a poem of Michael Smith's with two levels of poetic glosses, to form a composite Joyce/Smith text that makes sense when read in any number of ways.

The elegant, disturbing prose poems of Hopeful Monsters (1998) represent a different strand of Joyce's recent work; they are a virtuosic compression of two centuries' worth of the literature of the macabre, touching on a classic motif of horror fiction-the outrage of the flesh by technology-in a way that links Frankenstein and Poe with the unsettling mergers of flesh and machine in Surrealist art, or the automata of Raymond Roussel. One image that reappears in all of the poems in the sequence is the corpse that is not quite dead. In "Damaged, we bleed time," for instance, efforts are being made to revive a drowned woman even as her body is being autopsied and measured. Among the many strange scientific experiments and wonders in "Scene preserved with light crazing" is an attempt to induce a mysterious secretion" from the preserved bodies of a fetus and a pair of Siamese twins. In "Phases of the eye agitated through wings," a bird embryo is at once being dissected and yet continuing to grow; the poem builds t o one of the most powerful and disturbing passages in Joyce's oeuvre: the image of an eyeless, bleeding bullfinch "spitted" and "trussed" with "bright, sharp wires" inside an instrument for measuring "the motions of the heavens" (148).

As will I hope be clear by now, Joyce's texts have an unnerving ability to move in contradictory directions at once. with the first dream ends with the forty-six-page Trem Neul (1999). Like Sweeny and Syzygy, it is a bipartite text, but on this occasion the halves touch only very obliquely. On the left of each double-columned page is a block of prose; on the right, a double-spaced, indented poem. The poetry and prose share no material in common, though occasionally an image or word will suggest a thematic link. Even more strangely, the prose is far more "poetic" than the poems, which are spare, fragmentary narratives and question-and-answer dialogues that read as if they were drawn from a language primer or a slightly awkward translation.

One might take the koan-like phrase, "what you've lost, you can never be rid of" (222), as Trem Neul's emblematic slogan: it is a text in which the processes of loss and recovery, remembering and forgetting, building and destruction, are woven so tightly together that they fuse. Joyce calls it--mischievously but accurately (like Hopeful Monsters, the text is a work of collage)--"an extended auto-biographical essay in prose and verse from which everything personal has been excluded, and whose spaces are instead crowded with the memories and apprehensions of others." (7) Above all it is about the mind-body interface and its inherent instabilities: "time," in this text, is not clock time but measured in the growth and dissolution of the body, in the distortions, forgettings, and remakings to which memory and thought are subject. But the poem is not elegaic, since it also insists that "corruption is fertility?" Or as one key passage puts it:

When the biology of your body breaks down, the skin has to be cut so as to give access to the inside. Later it has to be sewn back like memory, when it may house all knowledge. Memory is our comfort and our attire. Fashioned with our hands it is the accomplishment of our dreams and lapses; always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one; a shifting harmony of sub-patterns. (202)

If there's a primary thread in Trem Neul, it is the one involving the single named figure in the poem, a fiddler named Ned Goggin who in 1838 is caught in a snowstorm and seeks shelter in the narrator's house. Once he has warmed himself by the fire he begins to play: Tune followed tune, till at last Ned struck up The Tuning of the Colours, which delighted us, for the air is a beautiful minor one, and he played it well. I was then only 11 years old, and, of course, could not write music; but he played it over and over till the shapes I built grew soft and concealed everything that I now discover in imagination. (214)

(The unexpected ending of this sentence gives a good illustration of the strange lateral shiftings of this text.) As an adult the narrator cannot remember the tune, but the lost melody at long last returns to him in a dream, in a climax strangely but fittingly collaged with material concerning the activity in the central nervous system of a person stirring from sleep:

In the middle of one winter night, the great snow with Ned Goggin and his music passed before me--trem neul, as the song-writers would say--"through my dream"; and as the waking body roused, with sub-patterns of this great harmony of activity stretching down into the unlit tracks of the stalk-piece of the scheme, I woke up actually whistling the tune. Strings of flashing and travelling sparks engaged the lengths of it. Greatly delighted, I started up--alight, a pencil, and a bit of paper, and there was the first bar securely captured: the bird was, as it were, caught and held by the tail, the gauger caught and thrashed, and the body was up, rising to meet its waking day. (226)

And yet it's part of the mystery and strength of Trem Neul that it then moves unexpectedly away from this climax. The left-hand prose narrative is permitted to trail off in ironical diminuendo, the text gradually coming to focus on a set of instructions--all the more disturbing for its comic earnestness--for preserving the corpses of birds by stuffing them with salt and spices. (8) The right-hand side is far from comical: "Blood is no cure / for thirst," it announces (229), and in the final pages a man is tortured and killed. The disparity on the final page is extreme. The left-hand prose is emphatic and distancing in its closure: "The orchestra falls silent, the performance done" (233). The last words of the right-hand verse are a question that hangs in the air: "Are the things / we do not see / better than the things / we see"?

Trem Neul is so powerful a conclusion to with the first dream that it is hard to retrace one's steps back to the book's start. It seems to me that if Joyce's writer's block had proven permanent, he would (despite the remarkable Poems of Sweeny, Peregrine) be remembered as much for his work as a publisher and editor as for his poetry. Joyce's early attempts to work within the conventions of lyric utterance in retrospect seem premonitory of his block: it is as if the lonely voice of these poems speaks precisely in order to struggle against its own disappearance. The later poetry becomes instead increasingly a place where multiple voices intersect, and it's a paradox that this often rigorously, formidably structured body of work feels mobile, open, and lucid, whereas the earlier, conventionally structured poetry often felt perverse or opaque. The disabling blankness of writer's block somehow gave way to a different kind of blankness: Joyce's attachment to cosmogony might be read as a need to ground artistic cre ation in a tabula rasa. His striking unwillingness to repeat himself formally is from this perspective central to his work, and is of a piece with his penchant for elaborating formal structures that include crucial gaps and divisions. Despite the ever-developing array of interconnections and thematic links in his work, every text also has the qualities of a fresh start.

I wish to end with one more example of what I take to be Joyce's writing at its finest, a key section of Trem Neul. This beautiful and complex passage begins with the speaker's combing the beach for fragments of amber, and (after what is perhaps an oblique glance at Sweeny, the "unhinged king") ends on a lyrical evocation of the "gaps" and "omissions" that are the spaces Joyce's poetry grows from and returns obsessively to:

I picked up on the beach many specimens of various hues, from pale lemon or straw-colour to a rich hyacinth-red all of which we fed the fire, and saw it burn with a bright flame, whereby often we discerned insects within. And all the while the snow fell thickly, drift on drift, while, infinitely cold, the unhinged king held sway over each slightest subject within memory. Still however much he attended to the literal shapes of knowledge, the settling drifts obscured structures left open to the elements, creating obvious gaps in the ordonnance, and though with information mapped to these finite, structured environments, omissions are glaring, yet even here, we are always in the intimate presence, its breath brushing the skin. (212)

My first encounter with Trevor Joyce's work came in 1996, when he appeared in New Hampshire at Romana Huk's ambitious international poetry conference "Assembling Alternatives' I have followed it over the years in his magazine contributions, in his relatively few standalone books and chapbooks, at readings-and now in this substantial and handsomely presented volume of collected poems. From the initial stages of straightforward curiosity about the work it's been a slow, almost subliminal process of absorption and reflection: I find myself almost surprised, after having lived with this book for several months, at how difficult I now find it to think of the landscape of contemporary poetry without this body of work. It is a book that deserves to find a wide and diverse readership.

(1.) A friend, for instance, once dared to name these avant-gardists and earlier poets like Beckett's friends Brian Coffey and Thomas MacGreevy to the face of the critic Edna Longley: "These people are confused" was the confident reply.

(2.) Trevor Joyce, "New Writers' Press: The History of a Project." In Modernism and Ireland: The Poetry of the 1930s, ed. Patricia Coughlan and Alex Davis (Cork: Cork University Press, 1995), 276. This essay includes an invaluable annotated checklist of NWP publications.

(3.) "The point of Innovation in Poetry," first published in For the Birds (Sutton, U.K.: Mainstream/Dublin: hardPressed, 1998); quoted from reprint in Six Poets: Views and Interviews (Willowdale, ON, Canada: The Gig, 2001), 46.

(4.) There are other, more direct references to Yeats. The most notable is the comic deflation of the Byzantium poems in "Verses with a Refrain from a Solicitor's Letter," which includes a gargantuan Byzantine Christ and, in the last stanza, a very oblique parody of the last line of "Sailing to Byzantium."

(5.) "The Point of Innovation in Poetry," 49.

(6.) This is Joyce's comment on "Tohu-boju," quoted in my gloss on the poem in Keith Tuma's Anthology of Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry (New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001), 745.

(7.) The quotation is from the book's back cover. Trem Neul's collage is subtly done: a comparison with Joyce's sources (many of which are listed in his note) reveals the careful rewriting and splicing that has gone into the text. The text also contains a small proportion of original material, but even this is sometimes itself quotation: most astonishingly, fragments of the poetic canon "The Net" are worked into Trem Neul almost seamlessly.

(8.) This section of the narrative glances back at Trem Neul's evocative epigraph from Yeats: "All that is personal soon rots; it must be packed in ice or salt."

A review of Trevor Joyce's with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold: a body of work 66/00. New Writers' Press (61 Clarence Mangan Road, South Circular Road, Dublin 8, Ireland) and Shearsman (58 Velwell Road, Exeter EX4 4LD, U.K.;, 2001. [pounds sterling]9.95/16.45 euros. Available for $15 in the U.S. from SPD.243 pp. ISBN 0-907562-29-9.

Nate Dorward lives in Toronto, where he runs The Gigmagazine and a poetry imprint of the same title (information at He researched and wrote the annotations Keith Tuma's Anthology of Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry (Oxford, 2001), and is currently co-writing with Keith a chapter of a forthcoming Cambridge UP history of twentieth-century British literature. He is also editing a collection of essays on Tom Raworth, forthcoming from The Gig in April 2003.
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Author:Dorward, Nate
Publication:Chicago Review
Article Type:Critical Essay
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Dec 22, 2002
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