Maurice Scully has been working outside the Irish lyric tradition for nearly 30 years now. His latest full-length book of new work since Things That Happen (1981, 2006) is Humming,1 a body of poems which immerse themselves in the daring process of notating the mind at work, at play, and registering the idle moments of consciousness and of being in the world. He is a good example of a contemporary avant garde poet at work. The avant garde has variously been used as a catch all term for artistic work that is both innovative and experimental. In poetry it can be seen as poetic utterance which opposes mainstream poetic norms, for example, the saturation of the short first person lyric seen in todays poetry journals or for example a rhyming 14 line sonnet. Jorie Graham in her introduction to The Best American Poetry 1990 writes that the poetry she has selected breaks the fluid progress of the poem, that destabilize the readers relationship to the illusion of the poem as text spoken by a single speaker in deep thought, aroused contemplation or recollection.2 This is one of the things avantgarde poetry does. The avant garde poem, in William Carlos Williams words, is a field of action, then, a contested space, and Maurice Scully in Ireland explores this space with his own avant garde poetics.
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