Peter O’ Neill


Peter O' Neill 2






Presentation of And Agamemnon Dead, An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry



In many ways Seamus Heaney had a catastrophic effect on Irish poetry and literature over the last thirty years, and by saying this I am not trying to do him a disservice. Far from it. There were so many sides to this enormously accomplished and incredibly talented poet: the socially engaged and political and historical commentator ( North ), the Heideggerean linguist for whom the poem was an event with the potency of being able to deliver the full possibility of Be-ING through visionary disclosure ( Seeing Things), the translator and interpreter of Dante ( Field Work & Station Island), the heir of Virgil ( Human Chain) and the wonderful lyrical pastoralist ( Death of a Naturalist). Unfortunately, in Ireland, you only see the influence of the latter coming through in the majority of poetry being published by a lot of the more commercially minded publishers in Ireland now. Ireland is still a fiercely conservative and traditional place, and the pastoral side of Heaney is one which a lot of Irish people can identify with, it being highly evocative of the ways and traditions of a now bygone past. Such nostalgia sells, and the majority of people lap it up piecemeal. All of which does Seamus Heaney a great wrong, reducing him, as it does, to an image of the poet at a great remove from the real artist and man.


Indeed, growing up in Ireland during the eighties, when I was to first take an interest in poetry and literature, I saw a complete disconnect from the world I saw around me everyday, and the world as portrayed in the established literary reviews and books at the time. Even back then, a kind of meta-narrative upholding Christian, and nationalist values, embodied in the simple values of the bucolic life, seemed to imbue everything that was printed in the country. For a young man growing up at the time reading Nietzsche, Rimbaud and Samuel Beckett, living in Ireland was an incredibly frustrating and parochial place, and even though a lot has changed over the last thirty plus years it still is!


Why? Why is this the case?


When I read articles which address censorship throughout the world; be they about China, the middle east, Russia, or Great Britain and the United States, I read them with much interest and while I do one thing becomes very clear to me, and that is that each state has its own characteristic and singular way of dealing with uncomfortable truths which upset the national narrative. The Republic of Ireland is no exception.


The greatest possible example of this is how the mainstream media, which is state owned, has been portraying the recent protests against the grotesque way the current government have abused the public’s trust by the horrendous way in which they are attempting to introduce water charges into the country.


One of the most insidious ways of trying to disregard a voice or an opinion which is contrary to our own is simply to ignore it, pretend that it doesn’t even exist. Us Irish are masters at this. We have been practising such strategies for centuries. Did not the term Boycott originate here?


Esse est percepi. Such is Berkely’s famous dictum, which troubled Beckett so much. The idea that being is being perceived to be underlines the whole modus operandi of how governments and indeed society works, in the most part, here. So if Be-ING is being perceived to be, non-being is simply when one is not even on the register of perception. The state owned media understand this very well, by either down playing the significance of certain events, or by simply not even acknowledging their existence.


One could say the same for all major institutions who are completely reliant on state funding, arts council funded ventures, for example. Literary periodicals, and institutions being no exception. It is why I have always been attracted to eastern European writers. The way in which they played, often extremely elegantly, within the confines of censorship, be it under Stalin, or indeed after. Marina Tsvetayeva, Wislawa Szymborska, Vasko Popa, Aleksander Ristovic, Miroslav Holub and Marin Sorescu, in this tradition does the voice of Heaney belong. The state is dead, like Agamemnon. Literature is merely the sound of human voices.


The voices contained within And Agamemnon Dead, An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry, published by the independent French publisher mgv2>publishing run by the bilingual poet/editor Walter Ruhlmann, are all individual voices not conforming to any state sponsored, or semi-endorsed, agenda. Some of whom; Michael McAloran ( Bone Orchard), Amos Greig ( A New Ulster), Christine Murray ( Poethead), Arthur Broomfield ( Outburst), Colm Kearns ( The Runt), Peadar O’ Donoghue ( Poetry Bus)  and Paul Casey ( O Bheal) are all responsible for either editing or managing their own literary magazines, or outlets. The thing which they all have in common, and it is the same thing which unites them all here in this anthology, is a deep

frustration at the lack of outlets for any dissenting voices.













Peter O' Neill


Peter O’ Neill is the author of six collections of poetry, the latest two being Divertimento, The Muse is a Dominatrix ( mgv2>publishing, France, 2016 ) and Sker ( Lapwing, Northern Ireland, 2016 ). He was born in Cork in 1967, though lived in France for almost a decade an experience which was to have a profound effect on his writing. His Dublin Trilogy ( 2000 – 2015) comprising of The Dark Pool, Dublin Gothic and The Enemy, Transversions from Charles Baudelaire has been gathering great praise in reviews. Most recently, the poet Michael S. Begnal wrote in Trumpet , Poetry Ireland, of The Dark Pool ( mgv2>publishing, France, 2015 ), calling it a “unique achievement.”




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