The Stranger’s House

“I beheld my first celebrity. Not that I knew him to be celebrated, but I could see for myself his appearance was remarkable. I had been taught that it was rude to stare, but on this occasion, though I was with my mother, I could not help staring, and even feeling I was intended to do so. He was, my mother told me, a Mr. Oscar Wilde.”—”The Exile of Oscar Wilde, Dublin’s Charming Ghost

Excerpt from The Stranger’s House: Writing Northern Ireland [Amazon, Bookshop] by Alexander Poots.

Poots the Strangers House

“A penetrating study and celebration of Northern Irish literature–telling the region’s story through the extraordinary novels and poetry produced by decades of conflict.

Northern Ireland is one hundred years old. Northern Ireland does not exist. Both of these statements are true. It just depends on who you ask. How do you write about a place like this? THE STRANGERS’ HOUSE asks this question of the region’s greatest writers, living and dead. What have they made of Northern Ireland – and what has Northern Ireland made of them?

Northern Ireland is roughly the same size as the State of Connecticut, yet has produced an extraordinary number of celebrated poets and novelists. Louis MacNeice, too clever to be happy, formed by his childhood on the shores of Belfast Lough. C. S. Lewis, who discovered Narnia in the rolling drumlins and black rock of County Down. Anna Burns, chronicler of North Belfast and winner of the Booker Prize. And Seamus Heaney, the man of wry precision, the poet with the gift of surprise.

As well as household names, Poots also examines writers who may be less familiar to an American readership. These include the dark and bawdy novels of Ian Cochrane, a celebrated raconteur obsessed with Columbo, and Forrest Reid, a man who saw Arcadia in the Irish countryside, and who was, perhaps, the North’s first queer author. Reading the work of these writers together produces a testament to over one hundred years of literary endeavor and human struggle. THE STRANGERS’ HOUSE is the story of how men and women have written about a home divided, and used their work to move, in the words of Seamus Heaney, ‘like a double agent among the big concepts.’

Authors and works discussed…
C. S. Lewis – Surprised by Joy
Seamus Heaney – North
Anna Burns – Milkman
Louis MacNeice – Autumn Journal
Forrest Reid – Brian Westby
Derek Mahon – A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford
Michael Longley – Kindertotenlieder
Medbh McGuckian – Drawing Ballerinas
Patrick Kavanagh – The Green Fool
Ian Cochrane – F for Ferg”