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    Emigrant writer inhabits “Ireland of the mind”, says poet

    By Noreen Bowden | August 26, 2008

    Irish-born, British-based poet David Wheatley has been featured in The Age, an Australian publication, speaking about his poetic life. The occasion was his winning of The Vincent Buckley Prize, which commemorates the late professor of English at the University of Melbourne; the prize allows alternate Irish and Australian winners to spend time in the other country.

    David Wheatley, who currently lives and teaches in Hull, says that he has recently in his poetry been drawn to themes of movement and migration.

    “Irish poetry may seem a lot more globalised today than in the 1970s, but emigration and diaspora have always been at the centre of Irish identity anyway. Vincent Buckley is a good example. To someone of my generation, his book Memory Ireland is, at first glance, a strange and even shocking kind of document.

    He visits Ireland during the IRA hunger strikes of the 1980s, and can’t understand why Irish poets aren’t writing poems in praise of the hunger strikers. I remember this striking me as incredibly out of touch with political reality.”

    But having lived out of Ireland myself for almost a decade I can now appreciate better how the emigrant writer inhabits an Ireland of the mind, for better or worse, and it can be too easy and smug not to take that into account.”

    But although the emigrant writer inhabits an Ireland of the mind, he refuses to be limited in his consideration of the world around him:

    A lot of Irish writers, particularly the ones who live in the US, leave home only to have a kind of born-again discovery of their Irishness,” he says. “I’d like to think I’m more interested in discovering the places I go to in their own right, and hereby authorise anyone in Australia who finds me in a state of born-again Irishness to put me on the first banana boat home.”

    Read the entire article on The Age website.

    Read more about the Vincent Buckley Prize.

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