David Wheatley


A key text in twentieth-century poetic debate in Ireland is Samuel Beckett's 'Recent Irish Poetry', published in 1934. Beckett was then twenty-eight years old and in the midst of what his poem 'Gnome' calls the 'years of wandering' before his decision to settle in Paris in 1937. Entirely out of sympathy with Free State Ireland, he used the essay to offer a damning analysis of the complacency and simple-mindedness of the great majority of its poets. Depending on their reaction to 'the new thing that has happened, namely the breakdown of the object' in contemporary culture, Irish poets divide for Beckett into two groups, 'antiquarians and others'. The former greatly outnumber the latter, and are subjected to acid derision. While T.S. Eliot called for the extinction of personality, Beckett demonstrates how Irish poetry was lacking even enough personality to extinguish:



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