It is certainly true that writers take a stance at some variance from organized religion. This has not always been true. But since the romantic movement - and I'm referring now exclusively to poetry - the emphasis has been on the individual imagination defined against, rather than in terms of, any orthodoxy.
The nineteenth century, especially the second half of it, was a time of restatement in Ireland. After the famine, after the failed rebellions of the Forties and Sixties, the cultural and political desires for self-determination began to shape each other in a series of riffs on independence and identity.
I began to write in an enclosed, self-confident literary culture. The poet's life stood in a burnished light in the Ireland of that time. Poets were still poor, had little sponsored work, and could not depend on a sympathetic reaction to their poetry. But the idea of the poet was honored.
I had started writing as a poet in a closed, post-Revival, claustrophobic world, where the shadows of the national upheaval and the intense effort - the intense self-conscious effort - to make a literary movement were still evident. Now we lived a life as writers that was more cosmopolitan, more open, that had more travel and exchange.
I had studied Irish history. I had read speeches from the dock. I had tried to fuse the vivid past of my nation with the lost spaces of my childhood. I had learned the battles, the ballads, the defeats. It never occurred to me that eventually the power and insistence of a national tradition would offer me only a new way of not belonging.
I would come to understand there is no poem separable from its source. I began to see that poems are not just an individual florescence. They are also a vast root system growing down into ideas and understandings. Almost unbidden, they tap into the history and evolution of art and language.
I know now that I began writing in a country where the word 'woman' and the word 'poet' were almost magnetically opposed. One word was used to invoke collective nurture, the other to sketch out self-reflective individualism. Both states were necessary - that much the culture conceded - but they were oil and water and could not be mixed.