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Toccata and Fugue
RRP: GBP£ 9.95
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ISBN: 978 1 857544 67 1
Categories: 21st Century, Catholic, Irish
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: July 2000
216 x 135 x 13 mm
Publisher: Carcanet Press
You have been too long absent;
we have been drifting on a violent ocean
while our children dig our hearts out
with their indifferent, probing fingernails...
from 'The Storm'
In Toccata and Fugue John F. Deane selects from the full range of his work a representative core. He emerges as a substantial and original poet, for whom the old verities retain some of their truth and the accelerating fin-de-siècle is not an unmitigated good.
He explores the ways in which an individual copes in imagination and in life with pain (over the loss of a young wife) in the context of an inherited and not always answering religious faith. In a world of material progress, of wars and their consequences, of spiritual loss and inhumanity, how does religious faith survive, and can it grow and intensify? Does it legitimise or chain down the poem?
Deane starts from the almost heretical premise that the creation was an aberration, God interrupting His eternal peace to set humanity loose in a self-destroying cycle. John Montague characterises Deane's 'affronted gentleness': the poems 'radiate the desire of the spirit to believe, despite the harshness of our world'. It is not surprising that one of his tutelary spirits is Vincent Van Gogh.
'Fugue', a long poem, breaks new formal and thematic ground in Irish poetry. Toccata and Fugue as a whole is thoughtful, provocative poetry, alert with lyricism and a passionate love of the world. Denise Levertov wrote:
'When John Deane fuses the music of thought and feeling with the music of language itself, there rises in me that internal Yes! that we unconsciously hunger to experience as we approach a poem or any work of art. The perceptions offered to us are new, someone else's, not merely an articulation of the familiar; yet we somehow recognize exactitude.'
Praise for Toccata and Fugue
'The power of Toccata and Fugue lies in its beautiful rendering of unbeautiful things. Deane takes as his subjects what might ordinarily make one turn away: road kill, snared vermin, kittens in a sack weighed with stones for drowning, a seal washed ashore to die, lambs taken for slaughter, worms hooked for fishing and snails tortured by a child. Yet there is nothing pathological about it. Compassion not cruelty motivates the speakers in his poems whose unwavering gaze attests to their engagement with these subjects.'
Georgia Scott, Poetry Salzburg Review Autumn 2002
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