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the Complete Review
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Greetings to our Friends in Brazil

Paul Durcan

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To purchase Greetings to our Friends in Brazil

Title: Greetings to our Friends in Brazil
Author: Paul Durcan
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1999
Length: 257 pages
Availability: Greetings to our Friends in Brazil - UK
Greetings to our Friends in Brazil - Canada

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Our Assessment:

A- : a hefty varied collection, most of the poems very fine indeed

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 15/1/2000 Robert Potts
The NY Times Book Rev. B+ 7/11/1999 David Kirby
Times Ed. Supp. . 14/5/1999 Sian Hughes
TLS . 10/9/1999 Richard Tyrrell

  From the Reviews:
  • "Paul Durcan's quirky poems offer both a sparky enjoyment of the quotidian alongside a lively surrealism that highlights the absurdity of life, love and politics." - Robert Potts, The Guardian

  • "Mainly, though, this is a book of sly pleasures." - David Kirby, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Prolific Irish poet Paul Durcan continues to keep up his fervent writing pace with yet another large collection. What impresses is not the prodigious output (which, in all likelihood, is generally viewed more with suspicion than any sort of admiration) but the consistent quality. A truly popular literary figure he has surprisingly not had great success outside his native Ireland. This collection should go some way in helping to rectify that.
       One hundred poems the reader is promised on the cover. Divided into eleven sections, each neatly separated from the others by Alice Maher's stunning drawing, Coma Berenices (which also graces the cover), there is no great continuity to the broad collection.
       A few subjects reappear: there is a strong Brazilian flavouring (the collection's epigraph is by Elizabeth Bishop), there are a series of poems about and for Patrick Kavanagh, and several about and for former Irish president Mary Robinson. There are a large number of what can be considered political poems, including many dealing with the Irish situation but also others dealing with farther-flung international outrages. And there are a fair number of literary poems, a surprising number of which take place in various Waterstone's bookshops.
       Durcan's poetry is by and large fairly approachable. Many of the poems describe small scenes, neatly condensed, episodes from his life -- but also invented episodes as he steps into other people's shoes (including, memorably, one where he describes Paul Durcan reciting his verse and another where he assumes the voice of Princess Di).
       Most of the poems are, on some level, political. Whether in the Brazilian poems or in the more overtly political Somalia, October 1992 or in the particularly striking 56 Ken Saro-Wiwa Park Durcan manages to convey his outrage without taking on a tone that is tiresomely strident -- or overly simplistic. Only rarely does he allow a true impatience to show -- generally when the subject is Ireland.
       Sports, arts, literature and politics all feature prominently in the poems, occasionally, often touchingly, love does too -- well dosed, we thought. The balance of the collection -- often reaching abroad, and touching on all aspects of life -- makes for a varied and entertaining read. The very contemporary concerns of many of the poems might, eventually, date them but for now they resonate mighty well.
        The collection is very Irish, and many of the characters are names that may not be familiar to a foreign audience: President Robinson and Patrick Kavanagh may be familiar figures, Francis Stuart less so. Nevertheless, the stories Durcan has to tell does not make familiarity with the personages essential (though it does help).
       Such a large collection, written over a relatively short span, should shine a glaring light on an authors weaknesses, but there are few to be found here. One convention repeated a few times too often for our liking was his use of a repeated set of lines to begin and end a poem. Effective when done on one or two occasions, it is a literary device that quickly grows old. Other than that, however, the poetry is very fresh.

       We recommend this collection highly.

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Reviews: Paul Durcan: Other books by Paul Durcan under Review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Poetry under review

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About the Author:

       Irish poet Paul Durcan was born in 1944. He has won the Patrick Kavanagh Award (1974) and the Whitbread Poetry Prize (1990).

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