New Irish Poetry Anthology of Essays receives accusations of sexism

A new book, The Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets, published by Cambridge University Press, has received social media backlash and accusations of sexism before being published.

The publisher describes the forthcoming book, set for release in November, as “a fascinating introduction to Irish poetry from the seventeenth century to the present. It examines a wide range of poets, including household names, such as Jonathan Swift, Thomas Moore, W. B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Patrick Kavanagh, Eavan Boland, and Paul Muldoon.” The book contains thirty chapters “written by critics, leading scholars and poets, who bring an authoritative and accessible understanding to their subjects,” with the Companion representing “the very best of Irish poetry and highlights understanding that reveals, in clear and accessible prose, the achievement of Irish poetry in a global context.”

The anthology, edited by Gerard Dawe, sees contributions from a wide range of academics and poets, but only four women: Florence Impens, Lucy Collins, Maria Johnston and Fran Brearton, alongside Sean Lysaght, James Ward, Aodan MacPoilin, Michael Griffin, Jeffrey Vail, John McAuliffe, Nicholas Grene, David Wheatley, Tom Walker, Chris Morash, Guy Woodward, Louis de Paor, Benjamin Keatinge, Andrew Fitzsimons, Maurice Riordan, Richard Pine, Terence Brown, Peter Sirr, Matt Campbell, Hugh Haughton, Justin Quinn, Alan Gillis, Nicholas Allen, Peter McDonald and John Dillon.

With only 13.3% of the contributors female, there has been concern from some quarters about the gender balance of the book, as well as the male-centric scope of the essays. In comparison, 2015’s The Cambridge Companion to British Poetry, edited by Edward Larrissy, had seven female contributors towards its sixteen essays. Last year’s New Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot, edited by Jason Harding, tallied five out of thirteen, whereas The Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945–2010), edited by Deirdre Osborne, tallied eight out of fifteen.

Cambridge Academic Books have released a video interview with editor Gerard Dawe (see below), discuss why he decided to write and edit the book, exploring how poets have processed big historical moments in Irish history, as well as answering “the age-old question of why Ireland has produced so many outstanding poets”.

The Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets is set to be published on 30th November, 2017 ISBN: 978-1108414197, price £26.99


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