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Responses to the Holocaust in Modern Irish Poetry

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Author(s): Benjamin Keatinge

Journal: Estudios Irlandeses : Journal of Irish Studies
ISSN 1699-311X

Issue: 6;
Start page: 21;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: Holocaust | Ireland | Poetry | Commemoration | Memory | Testimony | History | Language

ABSTRACT
The essay examines twentieth and twenty-first century responses by Irish poets to the Holocaust. It argues that, despite the illiberal tendencies of the Irish state towards Jewish immigration during and after the 1939-1945 war, recent commemorative activities in Ireland have included the Holocaust and are part of a wider commemorative ‘opening up’ in Ireland towards twentieth-century historical events. Important contemporary Irish poets have written Holocaust poems of notable merit including: Seamus Heaney, Harry Clifton, Derek Mahon, Pearse Hutchinson, Paul Durcan, Paul Muldoon, Thomas Kinsella and Tom Paulin, all of whom are discussed here. These poets are noted as second-generation Holocaust poets, more at home in the lyric form and less troubled by communicative dilemmas than their precursors such as Paul Celan and Samuel Beckett whose resemblance is briefly discussed. The essay concludes by arguing that Giorgio Agamben’s arguments about testimony after Auschwitz are strikingly pertinent to some of the poems under discussion. It also suggests that the historical essays of Hubert Butler may have acted as an unseen influence on some of these writers.

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