Seamus Deane | Critical Review by Douglas Dunn

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Seamus Deane.
This section contains 436 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Douglas Dunn

Critical Review by Douglas Dunn

SOURCE: "The Specked Hill, The Plover's Shore," in Encounter, Vol. XLI, No. 6, December, 1973, pp. 70-76.

In the following excerpt, Dunn identifies the consequences of violence as the principal theme of Gradual Wars, noting the effect of the collection's artificial tone on its themes.

Seamus Deane avoids superficial negations [in Gradual Wars], either in favour of the kind of specifics Simmons finds "boring"—

      The unemployment in our bones
      Erupting on our hands in stones

or, more rewardingly, in favour of complex ironies and ambiguities. He frequently toys with lush and sophisticated styles, as if pointing out their uselessness at the same time as implying he would prefer to write more like Wallace Stevens than himself, faced as he is with the subject of Derry, where he comes from. Literacy and intelligence are embarrassments in killing times, and in "The Thirtieth Lie" he out shovels the slogans and intellectual props which he had "spat out, for years, like pap," reducing himself to an identity.

Deane writes of being "snared" by the past. He steps off a train at Derry and,

      Once more I turn to greet
      Ground that flees from my feet.

The place rejects him; he is not alienated by will. This imaginative idea, however, is as vague as Montague's mystified History, or Longley's "something." Elsewhere he writes of "the ghost that comes by the wall," a spectre of the past that marauds for vengeance. This is surprising in Deane's case, because the main drift in his poems is towards a hard-headed ambivalence about real issues. He is not afraid of feeling, but he wants to be accurate; at the same time, he is not afraid of intellect, but doesn't want it to get in the way: head guides heart. The excellence of his writing can be seen in these lines:

     Now unless I feel
     Attrition as our strategy,
     I cannot edge nearer you.
     Violence denatures
     What once was fidelity.
     Nor need this be wrong.
     Look! The razors
     Of the perception are now
     So honed they cut
     The lying throat of song.

Important as it is that a man should continue to write well while the society he comes from erupts, Deane's poems are particularly interesting in that they are about what violence does to people. His most powerful theme is the intrusion of violence on love, while there are frequent suggestions that violence is itself created by a lack of love, by loneliness, as well as public repression. Much of his writing is still more literary than it need be, which could also be said of Longley. Literary artifice does seem in this context like a haven from realism—although on such difficult subjects realism is often the haunt of mediocrity.

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This section contains 436 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Douglas Dunn
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