David Wheatley

David Wheatley’s first novel, Stretto, will be published later this year.

On Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

David Wheatley, 27 January 2022

Eiléan​ Ní Chuilleanáin’s poem ‘Translation’ describes a work scene in a convent laundry. Over the bustle of cleaning and ironing, one voice rises insistently, ‘sharp as an infant’s cry’. Its speaker has been incarcerated for offences against Catholic Ireland and in this brief monologue continues to expiate her shame:

Washed clean of idiom...

populate me animate sensitively the spirit of dwelling behind the big blue harbour storage tanks

I would have children in animal masks appearing round lampposts and knowing the names of the boats coming in

I desire fishermen come home to sand-floored cottages distant factory boats moored level with the breakwater wall

my life has been a series of sailors’ knots tightened and...

Agh, Agh, Yah, Boo: Ian Hamilton Finlay

David Wheatley, 4 December 2014

Writing​ to his friend Stephen Bann, then a graduate student, in 1964, Ian Hamilton Finlay outlined his plans to treat readers of his brash new journal, Poor. Old. Tired. Horse, to a free lollipop, sellotaped to the magazine’s cover. Like many of his plans from this period it came to nothing. In any case, sugar and spice weren’t really Finlay’s thing. When he started...

Two Poems

David Wheatley, 8 May 2008

The Antarctic Poetry School

Historically, the absence of even one writer

has been the least of the Antarctic School’s worries.

Is its hallmark cool tone sustainable in today’s climate?

I suspect not, though the Old Antarctic

for ‘burning zeal’ is ‘thin ice, beware’ and ‘splash, ha ha’.

Most traditional verse forms are too complex to have been...

Poem: ‘‘A Pint of Milk’’

David Wheatley, 19 May 2005

leaving behind     only yourself and     the door unlocked venture down     the avenue for the messages     becoming the street as you go          and keeping an eye out for

a hole in your shoe     the dog’s first...

For a country with one of the oldest book-making traditions in Europe, Ireland was a late arrival on the magazine scene: Tom Clyde’s first example is Swift’s Examiner, started in 1710, ‘written purely for English consumption, and reprinted in Dublin, unchanged, only as an afterthought’. A rash of Tatler imitators gave way to more nationally minded miscellanies by the...

The Devilish God: T.S. Eliot

David Wheatley, 1 November 2001

Few presences were more imposing in postwar poetry than that of T.S. Eliot, but from his eminence as the Pope of Russell Square, Eliot has now shrunk to something more like a holy ghost. Pound’s right-wing unpleasantness, because so deranged, seems somehow more forgivable, to the huddled ranks of Poundians at least. Critics unimpressed by the psychodrama of Eliot’s Christianity,...

Among the more unusual relics of the fishing industry in Hull’s maritime museum is a holed fragment of the trawler Mino, sunk off the Dogger Bank in October 1904. At the time, the Russian fleet was making its way from the Baltic to the Pacific the long – the incredibly long – way round, where they hoped to engage the waiting Japanese. Mistaking a group of Hull trawlers for...

In the Gasworks

David Wheatley, 18 May 2000

Marcel Aymé’s novel Le Passemuraille, about a man who can walk through walls, would have interested Thomas Caulfield Irwin (1823-92). Irwin is cited in Paul Muldoon’s To Ireland, I for a neighbourly dispute he was having with one John O’Donovan. ‘He says I am his enemy,’ Irwin wrote, ‘and watch him through the thickness of the wall which divides our houses. One of us must leave. I have a houseful of books; he has an umbrella and a revolver.’ Seasoned readers of Muldoon know all about trying to see through inscrutable partitions: for most of his career he has resisted the temptation to come out from behind his poems and explain himself in prose. Before To Ireland, I, Muldoon’s critical pronouncements had always been a scarce commodity, not least in The Faber Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry with its notorious editorial no-show.‘


The Pope Speaks

1 November 2001

Lordly though Denis Donoghue may sometimes be, the phrase ‘Papa locutus est’ should have appeared outside, not inside, quotation marks in the passage I cited from his book Words Alone (LRB, 1 November).

On 15 February 1902, James Joyce, aged 20, read a paper on James Clarence Mangan to the Literary and Historical Society of what is now University College, Dublin. It was a brash performance....

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