Economies of Poetic Production: The Poetry of Thomas Kinsella

  • Heather H. Yeung
Part of the Geocriticism and Spatial Literary Studies book series (GSLS)


Thomas Kinsella opens his Peppercanister volume Readings in Poetry (2006) defiantly, quoting apparently at random from William Morris’s poem “The Defence of Guenevere” (1858). Kinsella uses selections from Morris’s poem to diagnose a “verbal excess,” which “dissipates in slackness” (TKRP: 10) as characteristic of the poem as a whole. Through this criticism, Kinsella implicitly questions what he calls Morris’ “established reputation, [ his] place in literary history” (9), also calling into question the value of the whole system (a mixture of literary reputation, production, and history). Kinsella goes on to level similar criticisms at Henry Thoreau’s poetic output, some poems from which he chooses to follow the selections from “The Defence of Guenevere.” Thoreau’s poems are adjudged “vapid, virtually automatic utterances from a commonplace sensibility, characterised by an intellectual, sensual, imaginative, and technical disorder, they disintegrate under the slightest of rational demands” (13). It is no accident that Kinsella has chosen two poets as well-known for their thought as for their poetic output, thus placing their own poetic articulations of their thought systems tacitly against his own. Poetic and philosophical competition is an undercurrent to much of Kinsella’s thought, in a similar way as we have seen staged Ian Hamilton Finlay’s poetico-philosophical interaction with Enlightenment thinking.


Peripheral Vision Technical Supplement Autopoietic System Affective Engagement Established Reputation 
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© Heather H. Yeung 2015

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  • Heather H. Yeung

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