Clearing the Tangled Wood: Poetry as a Way of Seeing the World


Lawless, James


award-winning Irish poet and teacher; MA, University College, Dublin Foreword by Professor Declan Kiberd, University College,Dublin

This monograph is a study of poetry as an alternative way of seeing the world and of obtaining insights into realities that enable the reader to see the vast otherness that usually eludes. The process of creativity is discussed. The influences of other disciplines on the heightening of consciousness are described as well as methodologies of observation that have been employed in the last 100 years are elucidated. Attention is paid to the specific contribution of modern Irish poetry especially in the role of the poet in society. Works of three non English poets (Salinas, Lorca and Pasternak) are appraised in some detail and the role of these three poets in their societies discussed with a view to the vindication of poetic insight and illumination against societal forces that would destroy the poet and his poetry. The final section of the work deals with poetry as an art form uniquely able to interpret a fragmented and arid post modern world.
Irish Research Series, No.56

“This is the work of an insatiable reader, a gifted scholar, a natural philosopher and a writer passionately convinced of the spiritual value of poetry.”

“Clearing The Tangled Wood is an appropriate title because James Lawless insists on a clarity and candour in an artistic area where criticism is often needlessly complicated and sometimes confusing. Lawless explores poetry for what it is - a special world with a vitality, identity and mystery all its own. Clearing The Tangled Wood is a thrilling sequence of revelations, a beautifully written work of love, pleasure and insight.”
Brendan Kennelly.

“A linguistic ballet, learned and lively, on behalf of poetry.”
John Montague

“A book of great scholarship but also of great hope. To all practitioners of poetry it gives an important epistemological grounding to our work. It is like a safety net to a trapeze artist - we can swing higher and leap farther, knowing that this work lies beneath us. This book has given me back my belief in poetry as not only a useful discipline but an essential manner of being in the world. What more can I say?”
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill

“Impressive in its references among other works of criticism, and of opinions and general concepts.”
Thomas Kinsella

“Clearing the Tangled Wood is a wonderfully compelling and elegantly written book which does, indeed, clarify and shine light on the evolution of poetry in a clear and rigorous way, seeking out and analysing the contributions of numerous poets in an insightful and affectionate way.
It is a valuable, well written and enjoyable work through which a reverence and love for poetry, words and form is at all times discernible.”
Michael D Higgins, T. D.

“This is a sophisticated and engaging study of why poetry matters to us now. We are, in part, non-rational beings, argues Lawless, confined in a society that is dominated by the linear discourses of science and technology. Poetry speaks to us in a language close to the way we really operate, and we ignore it at our peril. From Pasternak to Patrick Kavanagh, he opens a treasure chest of metaphor and anecdote, illustrating the liberating effect of the poet’s “interpretive act”. The best of poetry has no agenda, and offers an avenue of resistance to society’s push to conform. Reading poetry, Lawless admirably concludes, is a holistic act of self-preservation in a disjointed world.”
Katie Donovan,The Irish Times

Modern Poetry, Irish Poetry 19-20th c, Spanish Poetry 20th C, Lorca, Salinas, Russian Literature- Pasternak, Aesthetics, Interpretative and Creative studies
Release Date: 
Cloth: 978-1-933146-60-7 / 193314660-5
Trim Size: 
6 x 9

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