Other Literary Forms
Austin Clarke was most prolific as a poet; all his dramatic writings are also in verse form. Between 1917, when his first major poem, the narrative epic The Vengeance of Fionn, was issued by Maunsel in Dublin and London, and 1974, when his Collected Poems appeared just before his death, Clarke published numerous books of nondramatic verse as well as many individual poems. Selected Poems, edited and introduced by Thomas Kinsella, was published posthumously in 1976.
In addition to his dramatic verse, Clarke wrote in a variety of poetic genres—narrative epic poems, satires and epigrams, religious poems, confessional and meditative works, and erotic and love poetry. He also translated poems from the Gaelic. The subjects of his poetry—though diverse in some ways—are all related to aspects of Irish life and Irish culture, past and present.
Clarke wrote three novels, The Bright Temptation (1932), The Singing Men at Cashel (1936), and The Sun Dances at Easter (1952). Although these works are in the form of prose romance, full of adventure and fantasy, they also express Clarke’s preoccupation with the problems of the development of the individual within the limits imposed by society, specifically Irish society. All three novels were banned at publication by the Irish Free State government. The Bright Temptation was reissued in 1973, but copies of Clarke’s other two novels have virtually disappeared.
Besides poetry and novels, Clarke produced three book-length memoirs: First Visit to England and Other Memories (1945), Twice ’Round the Black Church: Early Memories of Ireland and England (1962), and A Penny in the Clouds: More Memories of Ireland and England (1968). These books offer important insight into Clarke’s development as a major writer in twentieth century Ireland.
Finally, Clarke was a prolific journalist, a frequent contributor of essays, reviews, and criticism to several major publications: The Daily News and Leader (London; which later became The News Chronicle), The Spectator, and The Irish Times. Between 1940 and 1973, he contributed more than a thousand articles on both narrowly literary as well as wide-ranging nonliterary topics to The Irish Times. Clarke also wrote longer prose pieces for The Dublin Magazine and The Bell.