Austin Clarke's first book of poetry was published in 1917, his last in 1971. In a writing life spanning much of the twentieth century, Clarke created from his early, Yeatsian immersion in Gaelic myth and literature a poetry of passionate, idiosyncratic modernity, rooted in place and time, universal in its resonance. His is poetry, writes Christopher Ricks, of 'delicate and dancing interlacings' which is also 'simple as join-hands'. Clarke can be challengingly elliptical or as robust and earthy as folk tradition; he dares the terrors of the damaged soul. His later poems Thomas Kinsella described in The Dual Tradition as 'wickedly glittering narratives... poetry as pure entertainment, serious and successful'.
The first Collected Poems of Austin Clarke appeared shortly after his death in 1974. Now, newly edited and corrected, with Clarke's original Notes restored, a bibliography and an illuminating introduction by Christopher Ricks, the poetry takes its place as one of the most compelling bodies of twentieth-century Irish poetry, available for a new generation of readers.