The seventh instalment in the Poet’s Chair series, it is Eilean Ni Chuilleanain’s tenure as Ireland’s Professor of Poetry that provides the pretext for this book, a collection of three essays exploring the forces that affect the work of every practising poet.
The first essay pays tribute to a valued friend and colleague of Ni Chuilleanain’s, the late Pearse Hutchinson, as well as to the languages he used and the impact they had even on readers that did not fully understand them. The second looks at the response of the reader of poetry and at the often disparaging treatment of the poet in fiction, from P. G. Wodehouse to Flann O’Brien. In the third lecture, Ni Chuilleanain returns to her lifelong academic interest in the poetry of seventeenth-century England and calls on the work of poets as diverse as Bishop Henry King, Walt Whitman and Thomas Kinsella to explore poetry’s relation to the ceremonies surrounding death in how it may both comment on and substitute for ritual.
Elegantly designed and masterfully written, Instead of a Shrine offers a unique opportunity to return to – or, indeed, begin engaging with – the dynamic world of poetry.