The Figure in the Cave and Other Essays

By: John Montague

Publication Date: November 1989


The Figure in the Cave and Other Essays by John Montague

The Figure in the Cave selects the prose of one of Ireland’s foremost contemporary poets – part autobiography, part criticism, part self-commentary – a gathering, from the mid-century to the present day, that marks a lifetime’s critical engagement with literature in both Europe and America.

In the title essay Montague looks over his career as a writer; in others he describes a coming-of-age in Ulster, explores his own poetics, and appraises Goldsmith, Carleton, George Moore, Joyce and Beckett, MacNeice, Clarke, Kavanagh, Hewitt and MacDiarmid. Pieces on American literature include a vignette of Saul Bellow, a review of Lowell and an intimate sketch of Berryman. To conclude, the author examines the impact of international modern poetry on Irish writing.

Humorous, forceful, impressionistic, enriched with personal and political observation, this dialogue between early and later selves traces the development of the boy from Garvaghey to the figure in the cave, and reveals the workings of a fine poet’s mind.

‘That Montague is a significant poet does not need proving. These essays show that he is almost equally formidable as an autobiographer and critic.’
Robert Greacen, Irish Independent


JOHN MONTAGUE was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1929 and raised in Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland. He studied in Dublin, Yale, Iowa and Berkeley, and in the late 1960s taught in Berkeley and in Paris, from 1974 to 1988 at University College Cork, and from 1989 at SUNY Albany in the USA. He has published two works of fiction, Death of a Chieftain (1964) and The Lost Notebook (1988), as well as some ten collections of poetry, from Forms of Exile (1958) to Mount Eagle (1988) and New Selected Poems (1989). In 1974 he edited The Faber Book of Irish Verse and his anthology Bitter Harvest appeared in America in 1989.

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 140 × 220 mm
Publication Date

November 1989


Paperback, 240pp