By Andrew J. Auge
A Chastened Communion lines a brand new course throughout the well-traversed box of contemporary Irish poetry by means of revealing how severe engagement with Catholicism shapes the trajectory of the poetic careers of Austin Clarke, Patrick Kavanagh, John Montague, Seamus Heaney, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paul Durcan, and Paula Meehan.
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Extra info for A Chastened Communion: Modern Irish Poetry and Catholicism
46 In the poem’s concluding description, an ecumenical cloudburst in which the heavens and the sewers are conjoined repudiates the premise underlying the priest’s question—that one’s natural sexual impulses should be dammed/damned: Feast-day effulgence, as though I gained For life a plenary indulgence. . Waste water mocked The ballcocks: down-pipes sparrowing, And all around the spires of Dublin Such swallowing in the air, such cowling To keep high offices pure: I heard From shore to shore, the iron gratings Take half our heavens with a roar.
His family, like many Catholics in Ireland at this time, believed confession to be a necessary prerequisite for the reception of the Eucharist at Sunday mass. ”4 The sexual difficulties associated with this relationship were a catalyst for a mental breakdown that confined Clarke to a mental hospital for a thirteen-month period from 1919 to 1920. Eventually, after his release from the asylum and the collapse of his short-lived and apparently unconsummated marriage to Cummins, Clarke began the arduous process of addressing the trauma that lay at the root of these personal catastrophes.
1 The question that the priest asked concerned the act of taking pleasure in touching oneself. In pursuing such a line of inquiry, if not in his overly zealous persistence, Clarke’s confessor was following the recommendations of the standard manuals concerning the administration of confession. The young Clarke’s subsequent experiences of confession confirmed this. His family, like many Catholics in Ireland at this time, believed confession to be a necessary prerequisite for the reception of the Eucharist at Sunday mass.