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John Kerrigan writes:
MacNeice’s reputation was kept alive after his death by Ulster poets and critics. The part they played has been recognised in this centenary year by the reissue of Michael Longley’s perceptive, beautifully introduced Selected Poems and by the addition of a fine preface by Derek Mahon to The Strings Are False. It would be good to have back in print Edna Longley’s study of 1988 which did so much to rescue MacNeice from being a prefix to the essentially British, 1930s conglomerate ‘MacSpaunday’. Peter McDonald, a poet and critic brought up in Belfast, is a gold-standard successor to these figures. It is a sign of the seriousness with which he takes MacNeice’s Irishness that he gives, as an appendix, the full text of The Last Ditch, even though most of its poems are already included in the main body of his edition. Yet the Anglo-Irish polarity that structured MacNeice’s reception during the Troubles is starting to seem restrictive. It can only enhance his standing that so many more of his qualities are visible if he is thought about in the context of what the Good Friday Agreement calls ‘the totality of relationships among the peoples of these islands’.