Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 May 2006
In August 1970, Eavan Boland published a series of three articles in the Irish Times entitled ʿThe Northern writersʾ crisis of conscienceʾ. In the concluding article, Boland asks: ʿhow . . . will writers in Northern Ireland articulate the crisis in progress outside and within them, the retrospect on communities it must force, the needs it imposes to reorder increasingly chaotic impressions?ʾ. How will writers cope, she continues, with ʿsuch intractable, yet urgent materialʾ? Criticism may since have become more circumspect in approaching these questions, but their underlying assumptions still prove contentious in reading contemporary Irish poetry. In effect, Boland implicitly assumes here that Northern writers are a distinct group; that they have responsibilities towards the Troubles which are not necessarily shared by their Southern counterparts; that individual anxieties and conflicts manifest the anxieties of the state; that writers are identifiable with, or speak from, a particular religious community; and that poetry will, in MacNeiceʾs phrase, ʿmake sense of the world . . . put shape on itʾ in 1930s generation style.