By Andrew J. Auge
A Chastened Communion lines a brand new course during the well-traversed box of contemporary Irish poetry by way 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 info for A Chastened Communion: Modern Irish Poetry and Catholicism
This is evinced by the fact that, as Vivian Mercier notes, the signature word of this book is “thought,” which is used fourteen times in the eleven poems that constitute the short volume. 38 Clarke foregrounds this connection in the opening lines of “Mortal Pride,” the book’s second poem: When thought of all our thought has crossed The mind in pain, God only knows What we must suffer to be lost, What soul is called our own. (CPC, 182) The angst-ridden process of self-reflection described here is precisely what Tridentine confession demanded from penitents, who were expected to register even the subtlest “insinuations of the flesh” and submit them to the judgment of the confessor.
Eliot’s distinction between the self-consciousness of Metaphysical devotional poetry and a more authentic religious literature that would be “unconsciously . . ”40 Eliot’s exemplar of the latter is Dante, whose Catholic faith, in contrast to Joyce, remained indisputable. Yet for Joyce, as for Dante, the Catholicism that permeated his culture entered his work less by invitation than by osmosis. While Devlin is often identified as Catholic poet, such a label could not be comfortably attached to any of the poets surveyed in this book.
There the expectation that the monk reveal his sins on a regular basis to the abbot or an elder inaugurated a roughhewn version of auricular confession. This practice was first formalized via penitential manuals that provided exhaustive lists of sins and corresponding penances, the first and most significant of which were produced by Irish monastics. In the penitentials of Irish saints such as Finnian (c. 590) and Columbanus (c. 10 Even more significantly, the confessions mandated by these penitentials were not the one-time generic declaration of sinfulness that those entering the earlier order of penitents had made.
A Chastened Communion: Modern Irish Poetry and Catholicism by Andrew J. Auge