This will never do. Get the bird Of gold enamelling out of the den.


Ever since Auden stepped off the boat in New York back in 1939, Ireland and Britain have regularly lost many of their best poetic minds to our sweet land of university professorships and well-endowed sinecures. Think of Donald Davie, Thom Gunn, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon. Our gain. But Donaghy reverts to the earlier Modernist pattern of the American who finds success abroad. In fact, “Mike” seems to have fitted into the London life of his time as readily as Henry James or T.S. Eliot did in theirs. It’s sometimes even a bit unclear whether he should be regarded as an American, an English, or even an Irish writer. Over the years, though, he won all of Britain’s major poetry prizes, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial and the Whitbread for Shibboleth (1988), and the Forward for Conjure (2000; this last accompanied by a £10,000 sweetener). None were published here. Our loss. Michael Donaghy was born in 1954 in the South Bronx to Irish emigrant parents—his mother was a maid at the Statler Hilton hotel, his father worked in its boiler room. Donaghy’s neighborhood was New York tough, and he grew up in a world of drugs and violence. Some of his poems refer back to this time, though he was scrupulous not to play up his working-class roots or to put on “the poor mouth.”

more from Michael Dirda at Poetry here.