Clair Wills (review date 4 March 1988)
SOURCE: Wills, Clair. “Responses and Allegiances.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4431 (4 March 1988): 254.
[In the following excerpt, Wills describes how Carson demonstrates the connection between violence and language in The Irish for No.]
The use of physical force and verbal persuasion are at opposite ends of the spectrum of communication, and neither could be said to be alien to Ireland. It is the connection between these two ways of getting your message across which interests Ciaran Carson in his outstanding new collection, The Irish for No; he demonstrates how the violence which arises from the breakdown of communication penetrates the structures of language itself. The book is split into three parts, the first and third of which comprise a series of long poems seemingly aimless and arbitrary in their adherence to the rhythms of colloquial speech and the distorted procedures of oral narrative. In stark contrast, the central series of short Belfast poems present “a formula for the collapsing city” in the “squiggles, dashes and question marks” which lie somewhere between language and silence. So, “Belfast Confetti” represents the disturbance caused by an explosion on the map of the city and on that of the page:
Suddenly as the riot squad moved in, it was raining exclamation marks, Nuts, bolts, nails, car-keys. A fount of broken...
(The entire section is 648 words.)