Irish poet Delanty to read from new book

February 4, 2015

Greg Delanty, a Saint Michael’s College professor of English who also is a widely published, internationally celebrated Irish poet, will give a reading from his new book, titled Book Seventeen, at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 19, in St. Edmund’s Hall Room 315 (Farrell Room) on campus.

The book has a release date from its American publisher, Louisiana State University Press, of February 16, the same week as this reading. Books will be for sale at the event at half-price of $10.

The original edition of largely the same collection of poems — or at least assembled under the same inspiration — was called The Greek Anthology Book XVII, published in Europe in 2012 by Carcanet in its Oxford Poets series. However, Delanty says that for the American edition, “I took out 30 or 40 poems, and some were redrafted and edited and moved around, so it’s a different book really.” Delanty says by sheer nifty coincidence given the title, “it also is the 17th book with my name on the cover.”

In both its European and American versions, the poet explained, his newest work “adds a modern fictional book to the original sixteen books of the original Greek Anthology” of history and literature — an actual anthology collected by the early Middle Ages and made up of sixteen books of short poems attributed to many different authors ranging from the seventh century B.C. to the 10th century A.D.

Delanty’s original poems from his latest book are “epigrams” in the style of the Greek originals — that is, “short, pithy poems” on nearly any topic imaginable relating to the human experience, though Delanty’s book treats mostly experiences of modern times. As in the original Greek Anthology, he says, “the poems are amatory, religious, dedicatory, humorous, sepulchral, hortatory, declamatory and satirical.”

“All the poems were written out of myself, my preoccupations over 10 years or so,” he said. “Later where possible I put playful versions of the names of other poets, family, friends and acquaintances —  for fun, for a laugh really — as the fictional ‘authors’ of certain poems in the anthology. My poems are for all those who are close to me and for whom poetry is important.”

He said readers “will recognize among these imaginary authors variants of well-known poets of our day such as Heanius (Delanty’s late dear friend Seamus Heaney), or “Gregory of Corkus” (himself – Delanty is a native of Cork, Ireland).

Reviews of the European edition have widely praised the collection. It was listed among “Books of the Year” in the Times Literary Supplement by A.E. Stallings, who wrote that the work “purports to be a lost book translated from the Greek; it’s the modern world, though, that’s being glossed. In these archly archaic ventriloquisms, Delanty’s wry wit comes through.” Eamonn Wall in the Irish Literary Supplement wrote, “A complete original, there is nothing like The Greek Anthology, Book XVII in contemporary poetry and it finds Greg Delanty reaching for and achieving new heights as a poet.” Christopher Ricks in The Guardian calls Delanty “A true Poet,” and F.D. Reeve in Poetry wrote, “Everywhere he unleashes unbounded energy and upbeat cheer.” Wrote Seamus Heaney in The Atlantic before his death, “The true note gets played as if it were ‘a moment’s thought.'”

Other Delanty books include nine earlier poetry collections, two special poetry editions, three translations, and he was co-editor of three anthologies. He is listed in the Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry, which summarizes some of his personal history – born in Cork, attended University College Cork, edited the literary magazine there, studied with John Montague and became associated with a circle of young writers, and in 1983, won the distinguished Patrick Kavanagh Poetry award for an Irish poet who has not previously published a book. “Since 1987 Delanty has been associated with Saint Michael’s College, Vermont, initially as a teacher and currently as artist-in-residence. It is here that his poems began to explore the themes of exile and family which would dominate his later work,” the Oxford Companion states.

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