'Agenda': an Irish celebration

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The Independent Culture

The substantial new triple Irish issue of the literary journal Agenda is an essential read. It represents the tremendous poetic energy in Ireland, and contains challenging essays and reviews by respected critics. This is a handsome book, or anthology, rather than a mere magazine. As Jordi Doce, former guest editor of the Agenda Spanish issue, says: "It is a substantial achievement and I look forward to many evenings of pleasurable reading." John Greening, poet and critic, comments: "It deserves to go around the world, which it no doubt will."

Within this treasury is exciting new work by such well-known poets as John Montague, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon, Derek Mahon, Brendan Kennelly, John F Deane, Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, Carol Rumens and Peter Fallon; rare, previously unpublished poems by Padraic Fallon and James Simmons; and moving poems by new poets, including up-and-coming women poets such as Caitriona O'Reilly, Nessa O'Mahony, Sinead Morrissey, Kerry Hardie, Siobhan Campbell and Kathryn Gray.

The first 150 pages of the journal comprise a special 75th Birthday Supplement for John Montague, adding to the profile of this very considerable poet. There are essays by specialists such as Martin Dodsworth, Peter Robinson, Seamus Heaney, Gerald Dawe, Maurice Harman and Peter Robinson; and interviews by Dennis O'Driscoll, Thomas McCarthy, Matthew Geden and Elizabeth Wassell. A coloured, poster-sized broadsheet, which gives a forum for new, young voices, accompanies the journal.

In a poem in the issue, Brendan Kennelly defines poetry as "whatever lifts the moon off your back", and the wealth of poems here do just that. As Roger Garfitt, poet and critic, says of Agenda under the new editorship of Patricia McCarthy: "It is wonderful to see Agenda restored to its full vigour." For Brendan Kennelly, "It is the adventurousness of the book as a whole, as a statement of the rich complexity of Irish poetry now, that makes it such a spellbinding read."

'The Pear': for John Montague

By Michael Longley

Someone has left three oranges and a pear

On Baudelaire's grave. Orchard of headstones.

The pear dangles in memory as from a branch.

Or is it a symbol, a poetic windfall,

A lucky sign? You put it in your pocket.

We have betrayed each other, we agree.

Like Peter, I suggest, not like Judas - no.

I love it when you link your arm with mine.

You eat half the pear and hand the rest to me.

The dead poet forgives the thieves their hunger.

From 'Agenda: Irish issue'

'Agenda', The Wheelwrights, Fletching Street, Mayfield, East Sussex TN20 6TL (www.agendapoetry.co.uk; mail to: editor@agendapoetry.co.uk)

Subscriptions for four issues: Inland: private £28; concessions (students/OAPs) £22; libraries & institutions £35.

Europe: private £30 (€44); libraries & institutions £38 (€55).

Outside Europe: private £33 ($62); libraries & institutions £40 ($75)