Robert Frost and Northern Irish Poetry

Robert Frost and Northern Irish Poetry

Robert Frost and Northern Irish Poetry

Robert Frost and Northern Irish Poetry


In this incisive and highly readable study, Rachel Buxton offers a much-needed assessment of Frost's significance for Northern Irish poetry of the past half-century. Drawing upon a diverse range of previously unpublished archival sources, including juvenilia, correspondence, and drafts ofpoems, Robert Frost and Northern Irish Poetry takes as its particular focus the triangular dynamic of Frost, Seamus Heaney, and Paul Muldoon. Buxton explores the differing strengths which each Irish poet finds in Frost's work: while Heaney is drawn primarily to the Frost persona and to the "sound ofsense", it is the studied slyness and wryness of the American's poetry, the complicating undertow, which Muldoon values. This appraisal of Frost in a non-American context not only enables a fuller appreciation of Heaney's and Muldoon's poetry but also provides valuable insight into the nature oftrans-national and trans-generational poetic influence. Engaging with the politics of Irish-American literary connections, while providing a subtle analysis of the intertextual relationships between these three key twentieth-century poets, Robert Frost and Northern Irish Poetry is a pioneering work.


Jay Parini

Rachel Buxton's study, focused on the influence of Robert Frost on two poets, Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon, is a fresh and remarkably inventive contribution to modern poetry studies. Its appearance is especially welcome at a time when criticism is often so theoretical that it fails to inspire interest except within a tiny circle of the like-minded. This is one of the few critical books I have read in many years that had me eagerly taking notes, wanting to reread its pages. It has prompted me to rethink not only the poetry of Frost but its impact in the wider world.

That Heaney and Muldoon, two of the most accomplished and influential poets to emerge from Northern Ireland in recent decades, should have read Frost so closely is in itself worth considering in detail. Reading Frost through their eyes, one sees again how extremely useful his poetry has been, by way of example. Frost chose to delimit the scope of his vision, self-consciously pushing aside a good deal, narrowing his view to a small, isolated region of New England, a piece of the map the poet himself described as being 'north of Boston'. Working in the tradition of pastoral verse, he fashioned a sophisticated poetry that had, and continues to have, universal appeal. Heightening the common language of farmhands and hill wives, he transmogrified the sound of ordinary speech into something utterly extraordinary.

As Buxton suggests, Frost's model caught the early attention of Heaney and Muldoon, who by reading his work could see how to turn to poetic account the rural world of Northern Ireland. Each had his own way of appropriating Frost, of shaping his techniques to their advantage. With remarkable ease and grace, Buxton locates the points of juncture between these poets and Frost, following their cues—in their poetry and ancillary work. She also reads beyond the poetry of Frost to the larger world of language in which it nested: his canny, suggestive essays and letters, and the fetching off-hand remarks made in interviews, all of which inspired Heaney and Muldoon in significant ways.

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