07 November 2010

Ciaran Carson

Understandably, poets writing in a second language often concern themselves with language itself.  This paragraph from a review by Paul Franz of Ciaran Carson, who writes in English, which is his second language, points to a real advantage that such poets have over those writing in their mother tongue.  The second language naturally adds ironic distance:

"Language and origins are Carson's abiding concerns, and one of the advantages of this Collected Poems is its delineation of his work's consistent thematic arc, thus providing a backdrop for his several abrupt and dramatic changes of style. For Carson, of course, these problems are not abstract, but emerge out of his particular experience growing up and living in Belfast, where he still makes his home. Born in 1948, Carson was raised in an environment unique even by the standards of his limited Catholic enclave: thanks to their parents' efforts, he and his siblings spent their first few years speaking only Irish. The ironic distance this implies from his second language, English, the language of the street and of officialdom, partially explains the elaborate playfulness of some of his recent styles. And yet, even before language became his work's central theme, one may detect the aftereffects of the gap it opened between his childhood and adult worlds. Inevitably, this gap also takes on historical and political dimensions."

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