I am Maria Johnston, a Dublin-based poetry critic and lecturer. Since earning my PhD from Trinity College Dublin in 2007, I have taught poetry and literature at Trinity College Dublin, Mater Dei Institute of Education (DCU) and at Christ Church, Oxford, contributing along the way to many conferences and seminars.
Through my teaching and through my writing (which, for me, is also a form of teaching) I have worked hard and with passion to establish myself as an honest, informed and inspiring critical presence in contemporary poetry, firmly believing that attentive, considered criticism is always, to quote Geoffrey Hill, a ‘form of love’. But the task of working as a poetry critic of integrity in Ireland is not always easy. As the late and much-missed Dennis O’Driscoll observed: ‘Honest, informed critics will not often have cause to be the bearers of good news about Irish poetry (all the hype about our national genius for the art notwithstanding), and anyone who dares to challenge the cosily-agreed hierarchy will be resented.’ As my writings here will make clear, it is poems only that interest me and not the ‘poetry business’.
Now that I am the mother of a very lively baby boy the time in which to read and think about poetry has narrowed substantially and so I will use this site’s Writing to the Moment section as a space in which to air my thoughts on poems and poetry in short snatches while he sleeps.
‘At present only some forms of advanced science – particle physics for example – allow a young mind to experience the paradox, ambiguity, irrational thought, associative “leaping” any good poem teaches us to think and feel in. It opens those synapses in the brain. It always has. Once open, such minds can think differently in any field’.
— Jorie Graham