Thomas Kinsella Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

In addition to his own poetry, Thomas Kinsella (kihn-SEH-luh) has published a large body of verse translated from the Irish. This work is most notably embodied in The Táin (1969), his celebrated version of the eighth century Irish epic Táin bó Cuailnge, and in An Duanaire, 1600-1900: Poems of the Dispossessed (1981; with Sean O Tuama). (“An duanaire,” literally translated, means “the poemery.”) An appreciation of the significance that Kinsella attaches to the Irish-language tradition of Irish poetry and the magnitude of his commitment to it is crucial to an overall sense of his achievement. His introduction to The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse (1986), which he edited, provides convenient access to Kinsella’s thinking on the subject of the Irish-language poetic tradition. The attitude expressed in that introduction recapitulates earlier statements contained in the poet’s small but influential body of cultural criticism.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Thomas Kinsella is one of the most important Irish poets to emerge since the end of World War II. By means of a restlessly experimental formal and aesthetic sense, broadly conceived themes, and relentless self-scrutiny and self-exposure, his work has raised him above his contemporaries in the Republic of Ireland and placed him in the forefront of his generation of poets writing in English.

In the context of contemporary Irish poetry, his work has an unwonted syntactical density, complexity of imagery, and dramatic intensity. Since modern Irish poetry in English is noted more for lyric grace than for tough-minded plumbing of existential depths, Kinsella’s poetry gains in importance because of its originality. Its essential inimitableness, in turn, commands respect by virtue of the tenacity of vision it embodies.

In recognition of his uniqueness and commitment, Kinsella has received widespread critical acclaim and has won the Guinness Poetry Award in 1958 for Another September and the Irish Arts Council Triennial Book Award in 1961 for Poems and Translations. He is a four-time winner of the Denis Devlin Memorial Award, in 1964-1966, 1967-1969, 1988, and 1994. He has also held two Guggenheim Fellowships. In 1983, along with Sean O Tuama, he received the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. In 2007, he was awarded the rarely given Freedom of the City of Dublin. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Turin and the National University of Ireland.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Abbate Badin, Donatella. Thomas Kinsella. New York: Twayne, 1996. An introductory biography and critical interpretation of selected works by Kinsella. Includes bibliographical references and index.

Fitzsimmons, Andrew. The Sea of Disappointment: Thomas Kinsella’s Pursuit of the Real. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2008. Produced to honor Kinsella’s eightieth birthday, this book analyzes Kinsella’s work and career, especially his thematic and structural developments.

Harmon, Maurice. The Poetry of Thomas Kinsella. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1974. The author provides an overview of many of Kinsella’s achievements, as well as helpful background information. Kinsella’s preoccupation with the Irish language is also dealt with, and close readings of the major poems are offered. In addition, the poet’s prosodical originality is analyzed. A valuable introductory guide.

_______. Thomas Kinsella: Designing for the Exact Needs. Dublin: Irish Academic, 2008. This volume offers a comprehensive examination of Kinsella’s works, looking at them chronologically and grouping them based on similar styles and attitudes. The themes of his poems are also discussed along with his focus on politics and life in Dublin.

Jackson, Thomas H. The Whole Matter: The...

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