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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

A Snail in my Prime

Paul Durcan

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To purchase A Snail in my Prime

Title: A Snail in my Prime
Author: Paul Durcan
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1967-93
Length: 271 pages
Availability: A Snail in my Prime - US
A Snail in my Prime - UK
A Snail in my Prime - Canada
  • New and Selected Poems, 1967-1993

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Our Assessment:

A- : an excellent, large sampling of Durcan's fine verse

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       A Snail in my Prime includes selections from ten previous collections of Durcan's poems, as well as several previously uncollected poems. The large selection serves as a fine introduction to a prolific poet who, outside his native Ireland, apparently requires an introduction. An immensely popular literary figure in Ireland he has had less of an impact beyond its borders.
       The title of the collection -- which is also the title of the final poem -- is derived from a thought by Francis Bacon (the painter): "I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail, leaving a trail of the human presence and memory trace of past events as the snail leaves its slime." It is an idea that Durcan shares, and his poetry is clearly marked by this human presence and memory trace.
       Durcan's interests and concerns are an immensely varied lot. Ireland crops up all over -- fair enough -- but he ventures far beyond strictly local (or provincial) poetry. There is enough here to please most anyone. Politics, art, memory, love (and its loss) -- all are subjects for his verse, almost all the poems transcending their ostensible subjects.
       Rarely does Durcan descend into murky and obscure poetic depths. The poetry -- save for some Irish strewn in -- remains approachable, even welcoming. (The Penguin edition usefully provides a small glossary to aid American readers.)
       His turn of phrase is consistently clever and appealing: "There -- but for the clutch of luck -- go I" he writes in The Death by Heroin of Sid Vicious. The ideas for many of the poems are inspired, as suggested by titles such as: Poem not beginning with a Line by Pindar or My Belovèd comparing herself to a Pint of Stout or The Pièta's Over or O Westport in the Light of Asia Minor, and Durcan does not disappoint.
       Whether writing about Wife who smashed Television gets Jail, describing The only Man never to meet Samuel Beckett, or This Week the Court is sleeping in Loughrea -- or on any of the other topics he tackles-- Durcan entertains and gives pause.
       This collection is highly recommended.

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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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© 1999-2010 the complete review

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