By Andrew J. Auge
A Chastened Communion strains a brand new direction in the course of the well-traversed box of contemporary Irish poetry by means of revealing how serious engagement with Catholicism shapes the trajectory of the poetic careers of Austin Clarke, Patrick Kavanagh, John Montague, Seamus Heaney, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paul Durcan, and Paula Meehan.
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Extra resources for A Chastened Communion: Modern Irish Poetry and Catholicism
After he had 19 20 | A C h a st en ed Commu n ion disclosed his “little tale of fibs, disobedience and loss of temper,” the priest asked him a “strange question” that he found incomprehensible. . ”1 The question that the priest asked concerned the act of taking pleasure in touching oneself. In pursuing such a line of inquiry, if not in his overly zealous persistence, Clarke’s confessor was following the recommendations of the standard manuals concerning the administration of confession. The young Clarke’s subsequent experiences of confession confirmed this.
CPC, 191) Here, as in Joyce’s “The Sisters,” the failure to absolve oneself is implicitly linked to paralysis, which in this case takes the form of a Sisyphean cycle of recriminating thought and compulsive action. That Clarke continued to experience a measure of psychic paralysis long after his confinement is evinced by the fact that the act of absolution left unfinished in “Repentance” and “Summer Lightning” only occurred after a seventeen-year hiatus from poetry. During that period, he occupied himself by writing Austin C la r k e’s Poetics | 37 prose fiction and drama that once again displaced his trauma back into the Celtic past.
Indeed, the overall trajectory of Austin Clarke’s poetic career is distinguished by his development of a paradoxical (anti-)confessional poetics in which a therapeutic imperative to confess unfolds in tandem with the exposure of the ecclesiastical deformation of that act. This deconstruction of the Catholic ritual of auricular confession eventuates in a healing gesture that moves far beyond the effort of other confessional poets to annul their worst depredations by transforming them into art. The ultimate outcome of Clarke’s poetry, like that of the ritual it usurps, is absolution, an act of liberation rather than commutation.
A Chastened Communion: Modern Irish Poetry and Catholicism by Andrew J. Auge