Just back from a trip to Ireland and I'm dipping and redipping into the works of Ireland's finest: Yeats, Joyce, Beckett, to name just a few.
Thinking of Ireland's literary history, it strikes me how difficult it would be to be a young Irish poet, to have to contend with such a weighty past of wonderful, powerful poets such as Yeats, such as Heaney. A young Irish poet would really have to absorb the works of Yeats and Heaney and somehow position themselves in relation to them--not an easy task, I think.
Do young Canadian poets have the same problem? There are few Canadian poets whose legacy makes the same demands as Yeats' and Heaney's legacies. Yes, certainly Irving Layton had been nominated for the Nobel Prize, but it's easy to imagine a whole host of younger poets writing today who pay his work very little mind. They don't really need to contend with him.
Don't get me wrong: This isn't CanLit bashing (a terrible thing to do in the wake of Canada Day). We do have writers who need serious consideration. Younger Canadian poets who fancy themselves nature poets do have to seriously think about the poetry of Don McKay, for instance--and that wouldn't be an easy task either.
What I mean is this: it seems to me that the field is open, the possibilities are there, the past doesn't make the same heavy demands.