“ Finding Ireland: A Poet’s Explorations of Irish literature and Culture offers a welcome gathering of perceptive pieces by the poet-critic Richard Tillinghast. An American who has lived on and off in Ireland, Tillinghast brings a refreshingly clear-eyed perspective to his subjects. Whether riffing on the aftermath of the Celtic Tiger, Nobel laureates like Yeats and Heaney, or Irish traditional music and gardens, he writes with grace, aplomb, and unflagging insight. A joy to read.”—George Bornstein,C. A. Patrides Professor of Literature, University of Michigan
Richard Tillinghast, a celebrated American poet and critic, lived for a year in Ireland in the early 1990s and then returned each year until he became a resident in 2005. From an insider/outsider perspective, he writes vividly and evocatively about the land and people of his adopted home, its culture, its literature, and its long, complex history.
Tillinghast orients the reader to Ireland as it is today. Following its entry into the European Union, Ireland changed radically from an impoverished, provincial, former British colony to a country where a farmer takes his wife on skiing holidays in Switzerland and is proud of his wine cellar, to one now home to immigrants from Europe, Africa, and Asia. For many Americans—Irish Americans in particular—Ireland is a mythic and timeless land; from his unique vantage point, Tillinghast debunks a good many stereotypes that prevent our seeing Ireland for what it was, as well as what it has become.
Most of Finding Ireland is devoted to thoughtful readings of the works of Irish writers and playwrights, including W. B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Oscar Wilde, and Brian Friel, as well as lesser-known names that deserve a wider readership. Tillinghast also considers the significant contributions of Anglo-Irish authors—John Millington Synge, Elizabeth Bowen, George Moore, Violet Martin and Edith Somerville, William Trevor, and Derek Mahon—with excursions into Irish architecture, music, and garden design.
In contemporary Ireland, Tillinghast finds a dynamic society that has stepped out of the shadows of its troubled past to embrace an inclusive, outward-looking interpretation of its history. Intimate in tone, entertaining, and always accessible, Finding Ireland captures an expatriate’s enthusiasm for his new country and its evolving identity.
“This is the book to give anyone going to Ireland for the first—or the twentieth—time. Tillinghast tells us where traditional music is best heard, and how to look at Gandon’s Custom House and the Rock of Cashel. He is well informed about Irish history and the realities of twenty-first century Ireland. But he also recognizes that there is, as Yeats reminds us, ‘an Ireland/The poets have imagined, terrible and gay.’ Finding Ireland offers a sensitive introduction to that other Ireland in a series of meditations on Irish writers and the places they evoke for us, abiding presences even in today’s bustling republic of high-rises and industrial parks.”—Robert Tracy, emeritus professor of English and Celtic Studies, University of California, Berkeley
“Tillinghast offers an affectionate, questioning exploration of Ireland’s literary inheritance and a poet’s keen sense of the places which have inspired the country’s writers. He is alert, too, to the continuities and changes that characterize current experience.”—Terence Brown, Trinity College, Dublin
“In Finding Ireland, Richard Tillinghast gives us the essays of a ‘man of letters’ as he surveys a given cultural scene. There is something about them that tacitly reaffirms the idea of an informed traveler, seeking not so much earth-shaking epiphanies, but one who can register nuance and rhythms, one who can see how things are unfolding within the other culture. What holds this all together is Richard Tillinghast’s voice, his imagination, modes of perception, and his long intimacy with literary art in general, and Irish writing in particular, and then add to that the delight we can take in his own curiosity, and how he uses it almost as if on our behalf. That voice is what we trust, and that voice is what we learn from. His book adds immensely to our conversation about Irish culture and society.”—Frederick Marchant, Suffolk University
“In this book of literary tourism, Tillinghast includes essays on Ireland’s major literary figures as well as on contemporary Irish culture. As an American poet and critic who visited and lived in Ireland periodically before becoming a resident in 2005, Tillinghast is uniquely suited to write about the culture, history, and literature of his adopted country. Celebrating its recent economic transformation, he introduces readers to a bustling, economically successful member of the European Union yet doesn’t neglect the country’s dark days as a English colony. . . . What distinguishes this book is Tillinghast’s blend of tourist information and insightful criticism. Whether planning a trip or just fascinated by Ireland’s rich history and literary contributions, readers will enjoy this book. Recommended for public collections.” — Library Journal
“. . . This book is not about Richard Tillinghast finding himself, but about his helping us to find Ireland. . . . A good part of this book is devoted to Synge, Wilde, Orpen, Bowen, Somerville and Ross, George Moore, and especially W.B. Yeats. Those sections arise from essay-reviews of recent biographies that Tillinghast [has] published. [They] are roaming, appreciative, learned but unacademic chapters, with a rich, unsectarian sense of the vanished colonial structures that once sustained the lives of such authors. . . . Best of all . . . are Tillinghast’s chapters on contemporary poets. He has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the top reviewers of poetry in the U.S. Finding Ireland deserves a readership both here and [in America]. It enacts the belief that literature is a form of pleasure, woven out of history and society, and weaving its way into the personal lives of readers anywhere.” — The Irish Times
“Richard Tillinghast is an American poet, critic and resident of County Tipperary; as such his ‘intent is to serve the non-Irish reader as a foreign correspondent, reporting back from Galway, Dublin, and other parts of this island.’ This position of the ‘American blow-in’ enables him to provide convincing reappraisals of writers such as Somerville and Ross, and ‘that unique and asymmetrical man’ George Moore. . . . Tillinghast is instructive on where to find the best ‘trad music’ venues in Clare and Galway counties . . . [and he] has a poet’s sensitivity to landscape and history . . . [and] is knowledgeable on architecture. . . . Tillinghast is especially insightful on well-established names such as Derek Mahon and that ‘quintessentially circumspect poet,’ Dennis O’Driscoll.” — Times Literary Supplement
“Mr. Tillinghast conducts a series of critical investigations into Irish poetry, prose, playwriting and architecture through a miscellany of short pieces. Throughout he combines a convert’s zeal for Ireland’s finest cultural artifacts with an outsider’s fresh perspective—most strikingly arguing that Protestant literature is the critical locus in which to find Ireland itself. . . . Tillinghast is a wonderful writer with great depths of knowledge and powers of analysis. . .” — The Wall Street Journal
“In Finding Ireland: A Poet’s Exploration of Irish Literature and Culture, Richard Tillinghast explores how he came to be an Irish resident and how Irish culture has affected him as well as the nation’s famous literary canon. . . . Finding Ireland is at its best when Tillinghast celebrates the likes of Yeats, as well as contemporary writers such as William Trevor and Brian Friel.” — Irish America Magazine
“This collection of essays on Ireland by the American poet and critic Richard Tillinghast offers some antidote to many Irish illusions. Finding Ireland contains Tillinghast’s personal exploration of Irish literature, and many astute essays of literary criticism. Overall, it’s an excellent and refreshing work from the eyes of an outsider looking in.” — The Weekly Standard
“_Finding Ireland: A Poet’s Explorations of Irish Literature and Culture_ is a book that combines poetry and memoir as Tillinghast describes his adoption of Ireland as his new home after living in the United States for most of his life. A must for anyone who wants to learn about the home of St. Patrick.” — Midwest Book Review
“Tillinghast has plenty to say about such writers as Yeats, Heaney, Oscar Wilde, the Anglo-Irish Synge and Bowen, and the new pets thriving in an uneasy modern world, and saves some of his best for Irish traditional music. He also offers well-informed insights into the future of Irish poetry and the culture that the natives keep for themselves.” — Reference and Research Book News
“. . . Richard Tillinghast is an American poet and critic who found Ireland in the 1990s and has been Finding Ireland ever since. . . . On the simplest and most traveler-useful level, the book has chapters with passages about good places to eat, to drink, to hear music, places that should be seen for their beauty or historic importance.” — American Book Review
“Richard Tillinghast’s Finding Ireland is a gathering of memoirs, travelogues, reviews, ‘letters from Ireland,’ and familiar essays, in which the American poet explores Irish culture mainly through the works of modern Irish writers. . . . In tones ranging from the professorial to the celebrative to the elegiac, he writes with authority on subjects as diverse as the poetry of Derek Mahon, the fiction of William Trevor, the plays of Brian Friel, the felicities of Irish traditional music, and the surviving pleasures of rural Irish life, where ‘there is still a place by the fire and a cup of tea for the visitor in the farmhouse kitchen.’” — Sewanee Review
“This volume of essays is the result of decades of close observation and careful reading and is first-rate. Tillinghast lays out how the Anglo-Irish, many of them passionate patriots for Ireland, plunged into ruin when the Famine fell since there were no longer any crops or tenants or rents to collect and then into further disaster when the Irish Uprisings, followed by the Civil War threw the country into chaos.” — Tuscaloosa News
Winner of the Gold for the 2008 Book of the Year Award for Travel Essays, ForeWord Magazine