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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

THE POEMS OF VALENTIN IREMONGER

The small Run Press, from Ireland (Cork) is producing a series of intriguing reading - the Selecteds and Collected of overlooked poets from the past half-century or so. The first I have seen is The Poems of Valentin Iremonger, his real name.  Iremonger, a career diplomat who late in life suffered brain damage, is a minor Irish poet who nonetheless writes some crisp, low-key verse, often about girls, the weather, life, with a sometimes satirical bent.

When he was noticed, critically, it was for his use of the non-poetic register.  At his best he had a way with the image ("summer detonate in our heads") but some of the poems feel occasional, slight, and dusty now - he's a poet for an age, not for all time, it often appears.  A few of his poems are marvellous for their spare, clean, modern lyricism that has all of Yeats' Celtic swashbuckling burned away, such as the great 'Cross Guns Bridge' with the opening stanza:

Once too often for my taste I shall cross
That bridge two miles north of Dublin where
On one side an orphanage, other, a gas-station,
Stand like twin guardian demons on this undoubting road.

By 1972, he had returned with a new book, after ten years poetic dry-up, and the sketchy poems of his later years are not all that good, sadly, though often poignant and interesting for their local and personal detail.

I'd recommend this handsome small hardcover pocketbook for anyone who loves Irish poetry.  It has enough good solid poems and stuff of worth, including a very good introduction, to be of use to anyone at all, really, who would ever want to be au fait with this poet.  One very large caveat though, is that the font size is very small - too small for my eyes, and I suspect many others, and this seems a design flaw, for anyone opening the book in a shop could be easily put off by the perversity of making the words tiny, when most poetry readers are these days of an age advanced enough to require reading glasses.

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