Written in honour of Michael Allen, this collection celebrates his influence on both writers and critics during his teaching career at Queen's University Belfast. Taking as their starting point literary and cultural interweavings and relationships between Ireland and America, the contributors examine ideas of exile and return, loss and compensation, and presence and absence. Poems from Ciaran Carson, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Medbh McGuckian and Paul Muldoon explore the territory and there is a reminiscence from Bernard MacLaverty and fiction from William Wiser. There are essays from, among others, Elmer Andrews, Richard Kirkland, Edna Longley and Peter Macdonald, offering critical accounts of contemporary Irish poetry as well as appraisals of American writers such as Emily Dickinson. Themes include censorship in the Irish Free State, Ulster Protestantism and culture, Romantic legacies in poetry, cultural cosmopolitanism in Ireland and America, and reflections on the practice of literary criticism itself.
The volume can perhaps best be seen as a series of conversations - not least between creative writers and critics - returning to certain preoccupations, but never in the same way twice.