The poems are listed in approximate chronological order of publication, but I have departed from this rule on a few occasions. The poems Liminal and Answering Mindful were published as Fidelities in Poetry Ireland in 1962 Eleison I and II were first published in the Lace Curtain in 1970, but the first time all four appear as the Fidelities ‘set’ was in Chanterelles, so I’ve placed them there.
More complex is the set of poems published in the Selected Poems in 1971 under the heading Observations Poems Experiments 1931-1971. Any attempt at dating would be purely conjectural (there may, of course, be archival material that would clarify); my own best guess would be that the first poem in the group dates from the 1930s. The second, Davy Byrne’s of a Saturday Night, is essentially the same as the 1937 Kallikles. Syllables for Accents is Dated 1961 in a letter of Brian’s. It is a line-by-line refutation of a poem by Denis Devlin called Little Elegy. The rest date from the mid 1950s to 1971. I am informed by the poet’s son John Coffey that Su Tungpo was someone Brian read about while writing Missouri Sequence.
The publishing history of How Far from Daybreak is also fairly complex. 24 From Daybreak appeared in The Lace Curtain 3, Summer 1970 and four further poems from Daybreak, numbered 35, 44, 45 and 46, were included in Versheet 1. Poems 28, 33 and 43 were published in The Lace Curtain 4, in 1971. All eight appear in the Selected Poems text, which consists of twelve unnumbered sections, which indicates that the original plan may have been for a much longer poem. Poem 46 is the same as the final section of the final sequence, with the addition of four excised final lines:
Yes you advance like dawn
Night withdraws where you come
Gladly I tear myself from night
to greet that light yours
On the other hand, later poems, especially Advent and Death of Hektor had significant afterlives post their initial publication dates, especially via the trade editions from Menard Press in 1986 and 1982 respectively. Both poems, along with a considerable body of Brian’s work, appeared in Poems and Versions. The footnotes elucidate.
The bigger issue of chronology is the supposed gap of over two decades in Coffey’s output. I have argued elsewhere that this is not quite the case. Although he published no poetry between 1938 and 1960, it is clear from reading Missouri Sequence that he was working on it while still in St Louis, probably after he resigned his post there in 1952. The period 1938-52 was taken up much with earning a living, starting a family, emigrating and publishing philosophical papers. From 1952 on, poetry became his primary concern again and he returned to the ambition to produce larger-scale work that is evident in the very early student poems. Jim Mays once wrote, in his introduction to the 1974 Irish University Review Special Issue, that Coffey’s exile from Ireland was ‘accidental and non-deliberate’. The same could be said, I think, of his decade-and-a-half long exile from poetry.
While Coffey’s reputation rests on Third Person and the later longer poems, the work published in magazines should not be entirely overlooked. They see him absorbing his influences, French of course, but Eliot and Pound in large measure, but many of them are very fine poems of their kind.
The following is as complete a list of Coffey’s poems and satires as I have been able to construct. Any suggestions for overlooked work would be most welcome. I would like to thank John Coffey and Jim Mays for their help and encouragement; all errors are mine, not theirs.
This hypothetical Collected Coffey would be a substantial book, which would ideally be accompanied by a Collected Translations and Collected Prose, but those are projects for another day. The translations, in particular, are an extension of both Brian’s poetic and critical works and are necessary reading.
- The Eternal Thought
- Wednesday Night
- 11th September, 1930
- …To A Romantic
- …Prologue to “Morven”
- The Love Song from “Morven”
Yuki-Hira (A folded card headed “TO WISH YOU A BLESSING ON CHRISTMAS DAY 1933”)[i]
Three Poems (1933)[ii]
- Dead Season for Denis Devlin[iii]
Poems from Ireland Today and the Criterion (1936-38)
- Image as a Young Lady
- The Navigator
- North Wind
- “Antiochus Got an Ague…”
- Morning Offering
- Plain Speech for Two
Third Person (1938)[vi]
- I Cannot See
- All We Have
- A Drop of Fire
- The Enemy
- Patience No Memory
- Third Person
- One Way
Nine-A Musing (University Review, 1961)[vii]
Missouri Sequence (University Review, 1961)[viii]
Four Poems (University Review, 1964)[ix]
- The Inside Story
- Recourse to Fiction
- The Monument
Mindful of You (University Review, 1965)[x]
Monster (Advent Books 1966)[xi]
The Time The Place (Advent Press, 1969 Advent Poem 4)[xii]
from Selected Poems (New Writers Press, 1971)
- How Far from Daybreak[xiii]
- Observations Poems Experiments 1931-1971:
Brigid Ann (Advent Press, 1972)[xvii]
Advent (Irish University Review Coffey Special Issue, 1974)[xviii]
Leo (Irish University Review Coffey Special Issue 1974)
In Sight of All (Lace Curtain 5, 1974)
Glendalough (Lace Curtain 5, 1974)[xix]
All Out (Lace Curtain 5, 1974)
With My Love (Lace Curtain 5, 1974)
Connexus (Lace Curtain 5, 1974)
Abcedarian (Advent Press, 1974)[xx]
‘Poem’ [“He dreams her when sun rising…”] (Niagara Magazine, 1975)
The Big Laugh (Sugar Loaf, 1976)
From The Time The Place and other poems (Advent, 1976 – Advent III)[xxi]
- Call the Darkness Home
- No Fault
- The Gaugeless State
- A Word with a Homing Book
- “It Was Fun It Was”
Poem (‘To sleep sometimes I dream’) (Granta Irish Issue December 1976)[xxii]
For What For Whom Unwanted (The Niagara Magazine, 1977)
Topos (The Lace Curtain 6, 1978)[xxiii]
Xenia (Irish University Review, 1978)
Moicel Et Soim (Cyphers, 1978)[xxiv]
Death of Hektor (1979)[xxv]
From Topos and Other Poems (Mammon Press, 1981)[xxvi]
- Two Old Poets
- Toolin Replies
- Dream West
- Window in the Sky
- Short Circuit
From Chanterelles (The Melmoth Press, 1985)[xxvii]
- Poem (‘I am where I have been’)
- Poem (‘What might be said’)
- Answering Mindful
- Eleison I
- Eleison II
- The Prayers (An Extract)
Bella (Dedalus Irish Poets: An Anthology, 1992)
formCard no. 2 (Harry Gilonis, 1993)[xxix]
A four-line poem on a postcard as a response to the publisher’s poem on formCard no. 1:
form and existence
[i] With thanks to Jim Mays for the additional text on the card. Reprinted in the anthology Choice, ed. Desmond Egan and Michael Hartnett (The Goldsmith Press, 19730 and collected in POEMS and VERSIONS 1929-1990 (Dedalus Press, 1992) henceforth P&V.
[ii] Reprinted in P&V.
[iii] Reprinted in The Lace Curtain 4, 1971.
[iv] Reprinted in SP.
[v] Almost the same as ‘Davy Byrne’s of a Saturday Night’ in SP.
[vi] Included in P&V. White was included in Versesheet 1 (henceforth V1), and it, Gentle, Third Person and One Way in Selected Poems, henceforth SP. I have made an entirely arbitrary decision re the capitalisation of the poem titles; in the original they are all in block caps.
[vii] Incorrectly (at least as far as publication is concerned) dated 1960 in SP and P&V. Section V, under the title What Is All Grace, was included in V1. The coda, A musing was collected in SP and P&V. Perhaps the most interesting of the uncollected longer poems.
[viii] Collected in SP and P&V. Incorrectly dated 1962 in both.
[ix] The Monument collected in SP and P&V.
[x] Collected in Topos, SP and P&V.
[xi] Hard to know how this might actually be reproduced.
[xii] Included in the 1976 booklet of the same name and in Chanterelles (henceforth Chant).
[xiii] The publishing prehistory is discussed in the headnote. Reprinted in P&V.
[xiv] Followed in both SP and PV by a short piece separated from the poem by a row of asterisks but not listed on the title page in either instance; it is called ‘The Everlasting Rest’ in the first instance, and ‘The Everlasing Best’ (clearly a typo) in the second. I take it to be a coda.
[xv] Dated 1961 in a letter of Brian’s to Tom MacGreevy. It is a line-by-line refutation of a poem by Denis Devlin, ‘Little Elegy’ (the technical term for such a thing is a Widerruf – see Harry Gilonis’ piece in Other Edens, p. 166, esp. n. 6).
[xvi] Dated February 1968 in the online checklist of holdings of Coffey’s papers in Delaware.
[xvii] Included in P&V.
[xviii] First book edition was the 1986 Menard Press printing. Also collected in P&V.
[xx] Reprinted in Chant and P&V.
[xxi] Reprinted in Chant and P&V.
[xxii] Collected in Chant.
[xxiii] Collected in Topos and reprinted in Etruscan Reader VII.
[xxiv] Collected in P&V.
[xxv] Circle Press limited (and expensive) edition with illustrations by S.W. Hayter. First trade edition Menard Press, 1982. Reprinted in P&V.
[xxvi] All the new poems reprinted in Chant and P&V.
[xxvii] Subtitled Dated February 1968 in the online checklist of holdings of Coffey’s papers in Delaware. The date range is very inaccurate. The complete contents reprinted in P&V.
[xxviii] For publishing prehistory of this set of poems, see headnote.
[xxix] This sems like a good point at which to thank Harry Gilonis for his corrections and additions to this contents list, and for his general support for Brian’s work since forever.