Bernard O’Donoghue
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Catholic-Christian identity and modern Irish poetry
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Modern Irish poetry in English has been dominated by two major figures: both Nobel Prize winners, recognised as the leading practitioners of their time. The first, W. B. Yeats, was a southern Irish Protestant; the second, Seamus Heaney, is a Northern Irish Catholic. So the first notable reflection is that each of them belonged to the ideological (or cultural or religious) minority within their political state. The meaning then of 'Irish identity', or even of the compound 'Catholic-Christian', is far from identical for the two of them. There are many contemporary Irish poets in whom the terminology and/or spirit of the Catholic/Christian is central, in both the Irish and English languages. In the early part of the twentieth century some Christian thinking evolved in a way that addressed the same problems as the secular philosophies of the earlier century, which had been thought to have superseded Christianity.

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