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Regional Poetry

poets term john ulster

verse reflecting certain essential aspects of specific geographical areas, generally approximating in size and distinctness of cultural identity to counties. Although there are numerous earlier examples of poets firmly associated with particular districts or landscapes, John Clare and Thomas Hardy among them, the term is primarily applicable to work produced from the late 1950s onward; at this time regional loyalties were emerging as a force in Britain's internal political and administrative affairs in reaction to increasing economic and cultural centralization in the post-war era. Social, linguistic, topographical, historical, and mythical characteristics of various areas are among the factors informing work by a number of distinguished poets with pervasive regional qualities: Basil Bunting and Tom Pickard are associated with Northumberland, Tony Connor, Tony Harrison, Glyn Hughes, and Cliff Ashby with Yorkshire, Norman Nicholson with Cumberland, and Jack Clemo and A. L. Rowse with Cornwall; although John Hewitt wrote from the standpoint of an Ulster regionalist, other Ulster poets are not readily thus designated. Similarly, some poets have been referred to as ‘regional’ who are more properly regarded as Welsh, Scottish, or Irish, respective examples being R. S. Thomas, Norman MacCaig, and John Montague. The last-named published the poem ‘Regionalism’ in 1960, displaying a wittily ironic consciousness of the implications of the term; these include the substitution of ‘regional’ for ‘provincial’ in the Arnoldian sense of remoteness from a ‘centre of … correct judgement, correct taste’. While a self-congratulatory attitude to its own local indigenousness is evident in some verse, regional writing forms an important dimension of poetry in English in recent decades. In his essay ‘Englands of the Mind’ (1980), Seamus Heaney extends the term's validity in noting of Geoffrey Hill, Ted Hughes, and Philip Larkin that ‘all three treat England as a region—or rather treat their region as England’.

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