Landscape, Language and Christian Compassion: The Narrative Dimension in the Poetry of Derry O’Sullivan

Máirín Nic Eoin

Abstract

This essay addresses the importance of narrative in the work of poet Derry O’Sullivan, by analysing a range of poems from the collections Cá bhfuil do Iúdás? (1987), Cá bhfuil Tiarna Talún L’Univers? (1994), “An Bhfuil Cead Agam Dul Amach, Más é do Thoil é?” (2009), Dúnann Dia a Dhoras Dé Domhnaigh (2014) and Siúlóir Tine is Dánta Eile (2019). The essay acknowledges the distinction made by Seán Ó Ríordáin when he insisted that a poem is ‘a being not a telling’, but argues nevertheless for a recognition of the narrative component in modern lyric poetry, and for its importance in the work of Derry O’Sullivan. By examining poems that focus on physical details or landscape elements, the essay discusses how the concrete environment in which the ‘events’ of a particular poem are situated serves as a platform for the poet’s vibrant imagination. Though often drawing on autobiographical material, the poetry does not set out to be mimetic or self-descriptive. On the contrary, it often tends towards the surreal, as everyday experience becomes transformed into a melodramatic episode or a feeling of strangeness. The strong visual element in the poems is discussed, as is the poet’s use of Christian imagery and concepts. The essay concludes with a reminder that O’Sullivan is one of a number of Irish-language poets on the margins of the canon who are worthy of more critical attention than they have received to date.

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© Comhar Teoranta, 2020.
ISSN: 2009-8626