Signs of the still recent war: Medbh McGuckian and conflict

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In a review of Medbh McGuckian's poetry, Christopher Benfey maintained that ‘[t]o scan her poems for allusions to sectarian violence would be as fruitless and naïve as to sift Emily Dickinson's poems for references to the Civil War’. McGuckian's work is not often read for its commentary on or critique of violence in Northern Ireland. Indeed, in an interview with John Brown, the poet revealed that ‘I never thought of myself as a “Troubles” poet; it was not part of my oeuvre and I couldn't do it simply as an exercise, so I didn't take it on’. This article tests the validity of her self-assessment by examining poems which borrow from sources focused on conflict, particularly the two world wars. The intertexts allow the poet to explore moments of crisis (due to violence, imprisonment and enforced deprivation) without having to deal explicitly with the more immediate conflict in Northern Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-133
Number of pages19
JournalIrish Studies Review
Issue number2
Early online date10 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Medbh McGuckian
  • intertextuality
  • poetry
  • Northern Ireland
  • conflict


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