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Review of The Instruments of Art15 August 2006
Judy Gahagan, AMBIT magazinePrevious review of 'The Instruments of Art'... Next review of 'The Instruments of Art'... To the 'The Instruments of Art' page...
'You will know the old uncomplicated words', writes John Deane in 'Report form a far Place'. Yes, and you will find tourself at the heart of poetry - I would add. Is this poetry harking back to past poetic tradition or signalling a poetry we're waiting for? the august diction, reverent tone, the essence of poetic voice, read to us from outside. The extraordinary cohesion of the poems derives from the poets continuous self-interrogation of a Christian faith. coming from the rural west of Ireland the poems brim with the natural world; images too from the dramas of ritual and monastary, monuments, sculptures, paintings, human stories and memories. In every element he finds proof (and sometimes doubt - though not here):
Noon. Spring-time. Again that hushed and cherry-blossom
first communion purity, the smaller birds
insistent in their mating songs, and the word grace
hovering like a blue-day mist everywhere.
His confrontation with the world is a passionate confrontation. in the contemporary world this is an uncommon stance - beyond questions of fashion or of innovation. every utterance is a poetic moment:
...An arctic chill
had touched the gardens alike an unseen angel
the brances of the showed filigrees of frost
and every insignificant sound
crackled across the air with instant messages;
when i turned the birds had dissapeared
but i was smitten by the wonder of the rowan,
this visitation of the marvellous
upon the ordinary, the world about me
singing for a moment a soft hosanna.
The fluency and felicitous imagery take you beyond questions of technique. However I found certain themes intrinsic to the structure of the collection so personal and subtle I didn't really follow them - his distinction between The Instruments of Art and the Artist for example.
John Deane, founder of Poetry Ireland, winner of many prestigious awards elsewhere in Europe and in ireland, translated into many languages, seems curiously low-profile on the English literary scene. Might that have something to do with the explicit poeticism, the centrality of faith in his discourse? Are these too alien to our contemporary concerns?
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