Rhythm and Development in Michael Longley’s Earlier Poetry

  • Michael Allen


That interest in multiple and contrary versions of the self which was to be Longley’s forte somehow thrives on the confident stretch and stride of the iambic in his early poetry: ‘in this notion / I stand uncorrected by the sun even’ (‘Circe’, NCC 30, P 32); ‘His weatherproof enormous head at home’ (‘Dr Johnson on the Hebrides’, NCC, 50, P 55).1 But, about mid-way through the period which produced the poems of his first book, No Continuing City (1969), there was arguably a need for some kind of rhythmic shift.


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  1. 6.
    Robert Lowell, ‘An Interview with Frederick Seidel’, Paris Review, XXV (Winter–Spring 1961) 57–95;Google Scholar
  2. Robert Lowell, Collected Prose, ed. Robert Giroux (London: Faber and Faber, 1987) pp. 244, 242.Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    Sylvia Plath, Collected Poems, ed. Ted Hughes (London: Faber and Faber, 1981) p. 157.Google Scholar
  4. 25.
    Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, XXIV, in A Choice of Whitman’s Verse, ed. Donald Hall. (London: Faber and Faber, 1968) p. 46. The ‘Letters’ were composed between 20 September 1971 and 5 April 1972. Other relevant dates are: ‘Three Posthumous Pieces’, 5 October 1971; ‘The Island’, 2 November 1971; ‘Badger’, 15 November 1971; ‘Options’, 26 January 1972; ‘Alibis’, 15–26 April 1972. The link between the ‘Letters’ and ‘Alibis’ may be a postcard from James Simmons dated 14 April 1972, objecting (in rough octosyllabics) to the ‘Letters’, a copy of which Longley had just sent him.Google Scholar
  5. 26.
    See Michael Allen, ‘Options: The Poetry of Michael Longley’, Eire-Ireland, X, no. 4 (1975) 129–36.Google Scholar
  6. 28.
    Douglas Dunn, review of Michael Longley, Selected Poems, 2963–1980 (Winston-Salem, NC: Wake Forest University Press, 1981), in The Times Literary Supplement, 31 July 1981, p. 886.Google Scholar
  7. 32.
    See Michael Longley, Tu’penny Stung’, Poetry Review, 74, no. 4 (Jan 1985); Frank Ormsby (ed.), Northern Windows: An Anthology of Ulster Autobiography (Belfast and Wolfeboro, NH: Blackstaff Press, 1987) pp. 195–206. See also Vici Topping, ‘Disguised as Myself: Portraits of the Artist in Michael Longley’s Poetry’ (unpublished dissertation, Queen’s University of Belfast, 1986).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Allen

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