CFP: ‘Irish Poetry Beyond Regionalism and Nationalism’

Symposium: Monday 27th March, 2023 Museum of Literature Ireland, Dublin

Dr Gail McConnell (Queen’s University Belfast) & Dr Karl O’Hanlon (Maynooth University)

This symposium sets out to explore mid-century Irish poetry’s rich web of affiliations, reconceptualising the period from Partition to the Troubles by bringing to light forgotten cross-border collaborations, transnational connections, feminist, queer, ecocritical, socialist, and working-class perspectives. Feminist scholarship has been at the vanguard in challenging dominant critical narratives of mid-century Irish poetry, in which regionalism and nationalism operate as exclusive poles within a fractured and traumatized cultural scene. Since Terence Brown’s seminal study Northern Voices: Poets from Ulster (1975), there has also been steady scholarly attention to poetry from the north written prior to the Troubles. However, regionalism has often been cast as the ideological engine of poetry from the north, particularly mid-century—a narrative of partitioned and dichotomous tendencies within poetry on the island, bound up with the onset of the Second World War: a nationalist, isolationist (and simultaneously “open”) south, and a bombarded regionalist, internationalist north.

The young pacifist poet Roy McFadden took issue with his elder peer John Hewitt’s commitment to regionalism: ‘Our roots travel widely and ignore boundaries and cultural and geographical units’. From north-south collaborations, including McFadden and Dublin poet Valentin Iremonger’s appearance alongside avant-garde translations of Turkish in Feyyaz Fergar and Sadi Cherkeshi’s magazine Dint (1944), and the ‘reciprocal’ work of Robert Greacen’s New Northman and Eithne Strong’s Runa Press in Dublin, to feminist poetics (India-born Dubliner Blanaid Salkeld and County Down-based Freda Laughton), international literary exchanges (the 1953 P.E.N. Congress held jointly in Belfast and Dublin), and the role played by visitors and migrants, it is possible to recover a sense of Irish poetry not beholden to disabling binaries, but dynamic and collaborative; at the same time, this may reveal new cultural flashpoints, tensions, and occluded sources of contradiction.

We hope this symposium will initiate a vibrant dialogue regarding culture, identity, and politics within Irish poetry. It will take place in the Museum of Literature, Ireland located at St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. We especially welcome abstracts from early-career and BAME/BIPOC poets and scholars. We have limited funds available to support travel and accommodation for early-career scholars, generously provided by the North South Research Programme.

Please send us an abstract of 250 words and a 50 word biography to poetrybran at gmail dot com by 15th December.

Possible topics might include (but aren’t limited to):

  • North-South poetic collaborations • Archipelagic poetry
  • Dissentience and form • Feminist poetics/rediscovered Irish women poets
  • Migration and minority poetics in Ireland • Ecopoetics/ecocritical approaches
  • Queering Irish poetry/sexualities
  • Transnationalism in Irish poetry
  • Planetary modernism and cosmopolitanism
  • Decolonial approaches
  • Ideological commitments within Irish poetry beyond unionism/nationalism: e.g. socialism, internationalism, cosmopolitanism, anti-imperialism, working-class poetics, ecology
  • Poetry in translation, dialect/vernacular poetics

This symposium is part of the North South Research Programme, funded by the Irish Government’s Shared Island Initiative and administered by the Higher Education Authority.