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A Chastened Communion: Modern Irish Poetry and Catholicism by Andrew J. Auge

By Andrew J. Auge

A Chastened Communion lines a brand new direction in the course of the well-traversed box of recent Irish poetry by means of revealing how serious engagement with Catholicism shapes the trajectory of the poetic careers of Austin Clarke, Patrick Kavanagh, John Montague, Seamus Heaney, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paul Durcan, and Paula Meehan.

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Augustine, and accepts that his role as poet is necessarily heretical—“Poetry burns at a different stake” (CPC, 200). What follows is the act of self-absolution that releases him from his debasement and restores him to the fullness of life. By projecting this scene back into the Protestant church (the Black Church of his memoir’s title) that bordered his childhood home, Clarke stresses the break with Catholic tradition inherent in this unmediated absolution that the penitent bestows upon himself: Still, still I remember awful downpour Cabbing Mountjoy Street, spun loneliness Veiling almost the Protestant church, Austin C la r k e’s Poetics | 39 Two backyards from my very home, I dared to shelter at locked door.

Both poems expose the terrifying power of those ostensibly authoritative judgments imposed upon the self, but neither can muster the spiritual and imaginative resources necessary to counter those judgments. Inaugurated by a Jovian thunderbolt, “Summer Lightning” concludes its first and final stanzas with a damning appraisal of the asylum’s inmates as men in whom “God’s likeness died” (CPC, 190). The inability to check such a judgment is marked most powerfully in the diptych of delusional inmates that constitutes the third and medial stanza of “Summer Lightning”: James Dunn leaped down the dormitory, Thought has no stopping-place, His bright bed was a corner shop, Opening, closing, late.

8 During the sixth and seventh centuries, an alternative mode of repentance arose in the monastic orders. There the expectation that the monk reveal his sins on a regular basis to the abbot or an elder inaugurated a roughhewn version of auricular confession. This practice was first formalized via penitential manuals that provided exhaustive lists of sins and corresponding penances, the first and most significant of which were produced by Irish monastics. In the penitentials of Irish saints such as Finnian (c.

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