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Where poets’ lives matter

In the Irish media, the death of poet John Montague was a major event. As far as I can tell, the American media have not mentioned it, though there is an American connection.

Ten of Montague’s books were published by the Wake Forest University Press in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The editors were Dillon Johnston (who founded the WFU press in 1975) and Guinn Batten. Johnston and Batten — old friends of mine — had a very strong interest in Irish poetry and Irish literature, and the WFU press for years was a key publisher of Irish poetry. Johnston wrote Irish Poetry After Joyce (University of Notre Dame Press, 1985), which was the first book I ever helped edit. Guinn Batten now teaches at Washington University and is the author of The Orphaned Imagination: Melancholy and Commodity Culture in English Romanticism (Duke University Press, 2012). I met John Montague many years ago at an event at Wake Forest.

As far as I can tell, Irish culture still very much looks up to its poets. Its billionaires (if any), not so much.

From Montague’sThe Great Cloak (1978):

At the end of a manuscript
I was studying, a secret message.
A star, a honeycomb, a seashell,
The stately glory of a peacock’s tail
Spiralled colour across the page
To end with a space between a lean I
And a warm and open-armed You.

An hour later, you were at the door;
I learned the word that the space was for.

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