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Categories: 21st Century, Irish
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Sep 2004)
Peter McDonald invokes and explores the pastoral imagination, in love-poems and poems about grief, poems concerning remote history and the more recent past, and poems which find new shapes for our difficult, sometimes contradictory, relations to place and environment. Some longer pieces bring together these concerns: 'The Victory Weekend' sets the London VE-Day anniversary celebrations in 1995 against an adolescence in Belfast, while 'Eclogue' (an updating of Virgil) brings to post-Peace Process Belfast a debate between the exile and the stay-at-home.
McDonald's lyric variety and control (from sharp rhyming couplets to seventeenth-century heroic stanzas, from sonnets and unrhymed forms to Spenserian stanzas) make for memorable, sometimes haunted and unsettling, poetry.
Pastorals is Peter McDonald's first book for eight years, and confirms him as being among Ireland's most accomplished lyric poets.
Awards won by Peter McDonald Short-listed, 2017 London Hellenic Prize (The Homeric Hymns)
'Peter McDonald's unsettling imagination occupies a middle distance between domesticity and wilderness - what he calls 'the melancholy distance'. His fine elegies and love poems have in common a cool intonation and an argumentative persistence: the overlap is a telling one. McDonald's disenchanted vision makes the moments of intimacy and tenderness, when they come, all the more affecting. In addition, his profound literary intelligence thrives on metrical and stanzaic challenge, and ranges with relish from gnomic brevity to sustained meditation, narrative and memoir. These poems, which with their gently syncopated lines may seem understated, register the uneasiness and the excitement of 'the buzzing world': they are, in the poet's own words, 'back roads to everywhere'.
Michael Longley Praise for Peter McDonald 'McDonald is often impressively adept at using varied metres for cadence, musicality, tension. He resists the over-dramatic, but is a poet of fierce feeling - moved and often moving.'
TLS 'Hugely impressive... not just rich but endlessly varied and subtle... marvellous.'
David Wheatley, Irish Times 'Peter McDonald's unsettling imagination occupies a middle distance between domesticity and wilderness... [his] disenchanted vision makes the moments of intimacy and tenderness, when they come, all the more affecting.'
Michael Longley, CBE 'McDonald's work 'is entirely in keeping with Milton's enjoinder that poetry be "simple, sensuous and passionate". His musicality is not just rich but endlessly varied and subtle. [...] It embodies the values of accuracy, conscience, and restraint but with no skimping of intensity or ferocity.'
David Wheatley, Irish Times
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