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Poems and Shorter Writings Paperback – 3 Sep 2001
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This collection brings together all the poems published by James Joyce in his lifetime, most notably "Chamber Music" and "Pomes Penyeach". It also includes a large body of his satiric or humorous occasional verse, much of which is fugitive and little known to the general reader. In addition, the volume provides the text of the surviving prose "Epiphanies, Giacomo Joyce" - the fascinating Trieste notebook that Joyce compiled while finishing "A Portrait of the Artist" and beginning "Ulysses", in which he first explored the world of his autobiographical novel.
About the Author
James Joyce was born in Rathgar, Dublin, in 1882. In 1904 he and Nora Barnacle (whom he married in 1931) left Ireland for Trieste. Abroad, free from the restrictions he felt in Ireland, Joyce felt compelled to write of his native land, producing Dubliners (1914) and A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man (1916). During World War I, he lived in Zurich from 1915 to 1919, and in 1920 moved to Paris, where he spent most of the rest of his life. Towards the end of December 1939 James Joyce and Nora Barnacle left Paris for a small village near Vichy and ultimately settled in Zurich, where he died in January 1941. His major works, pioneering the 'stream of consciousness' style, are the novels Ulysses (1922) and Finnegans Wake (1939).
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Joyce wrote poetry on and off for most of his life, to the mild embarrassment of his modernist friends who couldn't understand how such a revolutionary prose writer could come out with such old-fashioned poems. His early work is very much that of a young writer on a testing ground, trying out the dominant fashions of the age and seeing how well they fitted. Much of his later poetry is comic - I have a friend who's memorised the rollicking satirical broadside "Gas from a Burner", written after Dubliners had been rejected for the umpteenth time - but there are some later lyrics which have appeal for more than just Joyce fans. (The short lyric "Ecce Puer" is his most famous poem, but I also like the sombre "Tilly" which was displayed on Dublin suburban trains for quite some time.) His "Epilogue to Ibsen's Ghosts" is one of the funniest and most acute of his late poems, simultaneously critiquing, celebrating and providing a sequel to the play.
The notes in this edition are very skimpy. Far better annotated is James Mays' Penguin edition of "Poems and 'Exiles'", which included Joyce's only surviving original play; but also omitting for copyright reasons work included here. You really wish that some good fairy could put a stop to the Joyce squabbles and provide us with a reasonably complete, more-or-less well-edited, properly annotated, uniform edition of the works, but it ain't gonna happen. In the meantime, the Penguin Joyce, this and the Critical Writings are all the amateur completist are likely to need. Oh, and the Selected Letters, if you're interested in contractual difficulties and the texture of Nora's underwear.