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Wake Forest
University Press

Wake Forest University Press

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A Montague Retrospective

…to Bless the Silence showcases Montague’s incredible and important poetic oeuvre—fourteen volumes written over more than fifty years—and even includes poems previously published only in Ireland and the UK. The selection was made by Montague himself along with his wife, Elizabeth Wassell. Montague is also the author of short stories and essays, and has edited major anthologies. We are grateful that Montague’s legacy lives on in these important lite…

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New Selection of John Montague’s Poetry To Be Published this Fall

…ry reflects this.” Michael Longley, a fellow poet, reflected on the impact Montague had on him from the start: “I took with me to university John Montague’s first slim volume, Forms of Exile. Over the decades I have eagerly awaited each new collection. Montague is a master of song. He has written great poems. He has written immortal poems. It is impossible to imagine the world of poetry (and my own inner life) without him.” A Spell to Bless the Si…

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Poem of the Week: “To Cease” by John Montague

…son we find ourselves in—that of early winter, though it’s still only fall—Montague has a reservoir of poems that reflect the beauty in pain and in uncertainty. His poem “To Cease” does just that. Montague expands the meaning of the word “cease” by pondering what it would mean to cease being human—that is to say, stop living the only life we know how. By doing this, Montague draws the reader’s eye and mind to the world that exists beyond and besid…

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John Montague receives honorary doctorate from University College Dublin

John Montague receives honorary doctorate from University College Dublin

…. Brian Donnelly, of the UCD School of English, Drama & Film, spoke of how Montague’s poetry reflects the passion and determination of the Irish. “… It has been his vocation to give voice to that culture whose long colonial history exploded both literally and metaphorically in 1969. John Montague’s gift and mission have been to record memories and to articulate feelings and aspirations of a common humanity, not only in his verse but in his vivid m…

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Poem of the Week: “Horizons” by John Montague

…ecember. Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in County Tyrone, Ireland, Montague’s work is known for themes of adolescence, love, family, and personal connection with Irish history. WFU Press has been a proud publisher of his books for nearly 40 years. This week’s poem comes from Montague’s Drunken Sailor, published in 2005. Horizons Dimness of a coast, a necklace of islands strewn offshore; through the mist I glimpse Hy Brasil, the Eternal Wes…

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John Montague

John Montague

…eur, France’s highest civil award. He is the author of numerous poetry collections, short stories, and essays, and has edited major anthologies. Wake Forest is the publisher of his last ten volumes, and a new selection of his poetry, A Spell to Bless the Silence (2018). Montague died on December 10, 2016, at the age of 87. Praise for John Montague “The best Irish poet of his generation.” – Derek Mahon “[H]e is a world-class poet, one of that extra…

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Collected Poems | John Montague

Collected Poems | John Montague

…n the individual love poems of Part 2, and in the new sequences of Part 3, Montague’s rare lyric gift serves a strong narrative impulse, and brings his strong love of place and keen ear and eye to Northern Ireland, Cork, Dublin, Paris, and North and Central America. Finally, he has written love poetry as poignant as any in our time. Praise For Collected Poems “John Montague has been so long an established fact of the poetry of the English-speaking…

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Poem of the Week: John Montague’s “At Last”

Poem of the Week: John Montague’s “At Last”

We are drawn to John Montague’s poem “At Last” for its tale of reunion and the sense of readjustment to what once was familiar, which the speaker suggests through the images of Ireland and the relationship between the father and son. It’s a nice, quiet homecoming story. At Last A small sad man with a hat he came through the Customs at Cobh carrying a roped suitcase and something in me began to contract but also to expand. We stood, his grown sons…

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Poem of the Week: “The Sick Bird” by John Montague

…tion to family, rituals and the cyclical nature of life. This poem by John Montague appears in a group titled “Prayers for My Daughters” and focuses on generational knowledge. Though small, the moments that connect us to our past are valuable. Like the bird in the final stanza about to take flight, these moments of knowledge or experience are passed down parent to child, carry us forward, and connect us with future generations. The Sick Bird I Cyc…

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Poem of the Week: “Silences” by John Montague

Poem of the Week: “Silences” by John Montague

This poem is from John Montague’s latest volume, due out in mid-April. It’s dedicated to his wife. Enjoy! Silences for Elizabeth 1 Poetry is a weapon, and should be used, though not in the crudity of violence. It is a prayer before an unknown altar, a spell to bless the silence. 2 There is a music beyond all this, beyond all forms of grievance, where anger lays its muzzle down and into the lap of silence. 3 Or some butterfly script, fathomed only…

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Poem of the Week: “Border Lake” by John Montague

John Montague’s “Border Lake” describes a spot of tranquility in the middle of a harsh, Northern winter: a hidden lake. The lake provides refuge for two swans who pick their way through the ice, just as people and places in our lives help us rest. Border Lake The farther North you travel, the colder it gets. Take that border county of which no one speaks. Look at the straggly length of its capital town: the bleakness after a fair, cattle beaten h…

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Poem of the Week: “Starspill” by John Montague

Poem of the Week: “Starspill” by John Montague

…led into the abyss are light-years upon light-years out of our reach. John Montague’s poem “Starspill” captures the mystery of the glimmering cosmos drifting above our earth. Starspill That secret laughter which, on bad days, keeps us buoyant, awaiting the hidden glitter of accident. White waves breaking beneath Mount Eagle; a guardian, mist-veiled? No lift in the sky, no glow behind it: a fierce rain spitting as we reach Brandon for a lost day’s…

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John Montague, 1929–2016

…It is with great sadness that Wake Forest University Press has learned of John Montague’s death. We have been honored to be his publisher these many years. We will miss his poetry, his humor, and his humanity. Photo by Niall Hartnett…

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Poem of the Week: “Samhain” by John Montague

Poem of the Week: “Samhain” by John Montague

…eet on our way in loneliness Blind Carolan Blind Raftery Blind Tadgh –John Montague, from “Ó Riada’s Farewell” in A Slow Dance (1975) Historically, Samhain was a Gaelic festival that marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It was celebrated from sunset on October 31 to sunset on November 1. According to tradition, Samhain was a liminal time in which spirits could travel between the worlds of the living and the dead. Feast…

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“The Wild Dog Rose” – A Collaboration of Arts Nearly Fifty Years in the Making

“The Wild Dog Rose” – A Collaboration of Arts Nearly Fifty Years in the Making

…for Irish recording label Claddagh Records and co-produced a recording of Montague’s poems. Since they met, Moloney and Montague have talked about creating an album together- the moving poetry of Montague accompanied by Moloney’s Irish melodies. Forty-five years since they met, the pair finally recorded and released this album, which they called The Wild Dog Rose. Maloney describes the origins of his friendship with Montague on the sleeve notes o…

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A Spell to Bless the Silence: Selected Poems

A Spell to Bless the Silence: Selected Poems

…lence is a wonderful tribute to one of the great voices of our times. John Montague’s voice prevails. He is a poet who continually captured the moment of the thorn when it entered the skin. He taught us, then, how to salve and heal.” – Colum McCann “Here is a generous selection that shows all the depth and range of John Montague’s poetry: the richness of language, the intense, living awareness that makes his work such a pleasure to discover or to…

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Reading Between the Pixels: What Cover Art Really Means

Reading Between the Pixels: What Cover Art Really Means

…h that Montague, who has a stutter himself, focuses on in so much of the book. In the poem titled “Speech Lesson,” for example, the narrator asks “When will I learn again to speak?” The poem explores the limitations and frustrations of trying to communicate through a tainted, broken language. Montague references the fall of man within the book in the poem “Adam’s Apple.” In the poem, Montague describes Adam’s consumption of the fruit from the Tree…

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Smashing the Piano

Smashing the Piano

…a painful past into a permanent and healing present. Smashing the Piano is Montague at the top of his game.” – Kevin Murphy, Irish Literary Supplement “Montague’s lyrical descriptive powers have never been stronger, and line after line stays in the reader’s head. Smashing the Piano could be called an Indian summer, if that phrase did not imply a preceding autumn; Montague has never been better or more verbally alert.” – Bernard O’Donoghue, The Iri…

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Realizing a Destiny in Full: On the Death of a Friend

Realizing a Destiny in Full: On the Death of a Friend

…Heaney’s death sent shockwaves to the world of Irish poetry, and it is obvious, through this memorial as well as many others, that the community is still reeling. “Still, in the way of these things, we were not prepared for the blow when it arrived,” Montague wrote, reflecting on the suddenness of the tragedy. There is nothing so difficult as the task of memorializing a friend. But Montague, as his language mixes with his heartbreak to create some…

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Mount Eagle

Mount Eagle

…and around the human natural is its base, its home: the unhuman universe. Montague feels this reality as more powerful, more enduring, and perhaps more important than human nature itself. . . .[Montague’s poems] are open-ended. His whole endeavor as a poet is open-ended because it is a process of exploration.” — Sean Lucy, Irish Literary Supplement “His optimism is never forced, always aware of the ‘gloomy procession of casualties’; but, like the…

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Drunken Sailor

Drunken Sailor

…t. In this volume the poet grapples with mortality, his own and others’, creating images that haunt the imagination. Note: The clothbound edition has a signature embossed cover and a plain vellum jacket. Praise for Drunken Sailor “Less strict than British verse, more formal than American, Montague poems take a great variety of forms—imagistic description, dramatic monologues, elegies, litanies, quest romance all appear in the Drunken Sailor. . . ….

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A final song for Samhain

A final song for Samhain

…ained sorceress marshlight of defeat *** chill of winter a slowly failing fire faltering desire Darkness of Darkness we meet on our way in loneliness Blind Carolan Blind Raferty Blind Tadgh —John Montague, from A Slow Dance (1975) Read more #SamhainSongs on our Twitter page to join us in the celebration. “Sing a song for the mistress of the bones…” (Montague)…

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The Great Cloak

The Great Cloak

…tionship. Praise of The Great Cloak “The Great Cloak brings fresh proof of Montague’s great faculty for composition . . . A thoroughly plotted sequence, in fact, it invites the same kind of interest and demands the same sort of critical response usually reserved for novels.” – Adrian Frazier, Eire-Ireland “Montague also is unlike all other poets of his generation in being a master of love poetry: he perceives the pain, the delight, the sweetness a…

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The Rough Field (6th edition)

The Rough Field (6th edition)

…nderstand Northern Ireland’s troubled history. Praise for The Rough Field “Montague’s The Rough Field is a remarkable primer for those who would truly understand the division of Ireland today.” – James Coleman, The Compass “John Montague’s The Rough Field is a kind of ‘state of the nation’ poem, built up of visions and glimpses of locality, legend, and history, and as such it is astonishingly successful; moving, too, and as soundly crafted as the…

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Poem of the Week: “… a spell to bless the silence.”

Poem of the Week: “… a spell to bless the silence.”

John Montague’s most recent volume, Speech Lessons, is full of lyrical poems about childhood, memory, and family. Our selection for today stands out from this subject matter as a poem about poetry itself. Silences for Elizabeth 1 Poetry is a weapon, and should be used, though not in the crudity of violence. It is a prayer before an unknown altar, a spell to bless the silence. 2 There is a music beyond all this, beyond all forms of grievance, wher…

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Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day

…image of an old couple that are still very much in love. In contrast, John Montague reminds us that being single can sometimes be a good thing in his poem “The Wanderer.” When you are alone, you have more time to focus on yourself and appreciate the small things in life that go into your own happiness. Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill “Nude” pertains to the more physical side of love. She vividly describes the male body while simultaneously turning an old Iris…

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“It felt like a breaking of some taboo I’d placed myself under”: Caitríona O’Reilly on writing Geis

…minence of poets such as the brilliant generation of Northern Irish poets: Montague, Mahon, Longley, Muldoon, and of course Heaney, and I think Muldoon in particular has been very influential. He was himself reacting against previous generations, of course, with his highly ironized style, suspicious of lyric earnestness or of anything that takes itself too seriously. But there are also brilliant women poets like Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Vona Gro…

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Endings and Beginnings

Endings and Beginnings

…one year at University College Dublin. He follows in the footsteps of John Montague, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Paul Durcan, and Michael Longley as former Professors of Poetry. Many of his lectures over the past three years are kept on the Ireland Chair of Poetry website. But, like the leaves of autumn changing on the trees, Clifton is transitioning. The Holding Centre, a book of poetry that Clifton wrote while in his position as Professor of Poetry, wi…

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Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

…ted not only as a major poet in the generation after Thomas Kinsella, John Montague, and Richard Murphy, but also as the foremost female poet now writing in Ireland and Great Britain. In 1992, she was awarded the prestigious O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award by The Irish American Cultural Institute. Her most recent volume, The Boys of Bluehill (2015), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. Her previous volumes include Acts and Monumen…

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Speech Lessons

Speech Lessons

One of the most beloved voices in all of Ireland, John Montague is a master. Speech Lessons depicts the many ways in which a voice may be silenced, as well as released. Autobiographical poems reveal both his personal history and his country’s, with humor, nostalgia, disappointment and affection, and more than a “titter of wit.” Shortlisted for the DLR Poetry Now Award Praise for Speech Lessons “[H]e is a world-class poet, one of that extraordinar…

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Selected Poems | Francis Ponge

Selected Poems | Francis Ponge

…home and abroad. He is now recognized as one of the finest French poets of his time and, according to the novelist Julien Gracq, “one of the surest to survive.” Bilingual; translated by Margaret Guiton, John Montague, and C. K. Williams Reviews “The deftness and creativity manifested in the translation do justice to one of the major works of contemporary French literature.” – Jean-Jacques Thomas…

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The WFU Press Holiday Sale & Gift-Giving Guide

…themselves in a world, we have a few suggestions. The Rough Field by John Montague, published in 1972, has been praised as the most significant attempt in poetry to understand Northern Ireland’s troubled history. We also recommend Ciaran Carson’s translation of Brian Merriman’s 18th-century poem The Midnight Court. This extended poem engages with the social, economic, and political situation of late 18th-century Catholic Ireland under British col…

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Collected Poems | Denis Devlin

Collected Poems | Denis Devlin

…e: This is a clothbound edition with no jacket. Reviews “We are only starting to understand the lost generation of Irish poetry, and this splendid volume is a great help.” – John Montague, The Irish Times “Devlin is a fine poet whose work has kept all of its fresh sensuousness.” – Gerald Dawe, Poetry Review  …

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The Shack: Irish Poets in the Foothills and Mountains of the Blue Ridge

The Shack: Irish Poets in the Foothills and Mountains of the Blue Ridge

…ms and prose by Paul Muldoon, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, David Wheatley, John Montague and Elizabeth Wassell, Vona Groarke, Ciaran Carson, Medbh McGuckian, Conor O’Callaghan, Michael Longley, and Derek Mahon. With lush watercolors by Kenneth Frazelle and an eighteenth-century painting of Old Salem by Christian Daniel Welfare. Footage of Conor O’Callaghan reading one of his poems from the book at the launch on March 13, 2015: Purchase a handmade broad…

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Collected Poems 1952–2000 | Richard Murphy

Collected Poems 1952–2000 | Richard Murphy

Richard Murphy emerged in the 1950s with John Montague and Thomas Kinsella as one of the three major poets in the new Irish poetic renaissance. His second volume Sailing to an Island, which was a Poetry Book Society Choice, was followed by The Battle of Aughrim, widely acclaimed as one of the most powerful historical narratives of the twentieth century. Although the next volumes range from his signature setting of the grey stone and surging sea o…

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A Slow Dance

A Slow Dance

…e each poem and sequence in A Slow Dance is complete in itself, each gathers momentum when considered as part of a unified whole. Reinforcing or balancing each other, their cumulative effect enables us to share Montague’s celebration of life, to take part in the slow dance, danced in the loneliness of individuality, yet pulsating courageously with the rhythms of the earth.” – Honor O’Connor, Eire-Ireland…

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Pharaoh’s Daughter

Pharaoh’s Daughter

…Heaney, Michael Longley, Medbh McGuckian, Tom MacIntyre, Derek Mahon, John Montague, Paul Muldoon, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, and George O’Brien Reviews “[T]he branching-out, or shape-shifting, from Gaelic myth or folk-song to some less romantic or quirkier emblem of the present, is a constant resource of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s poetry; and it’s one of the ways she has rescued the Irish language from its association with Gaelic League pieties or the pe…

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