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Herne the Hunter
Categories: 21st Century, Irish
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (80 pages)
(Pub. Feb 2016)
eBook (EPUB) Needs ADE!
(Pub. Feb 2016)
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Force seems to cancel force, but no:
force locks on force, and they both go
pushing into each other, long
past any stage of being strong;
from ‘The Swords’
Herne the Hunter is the sixth collection from one of Ireland’s most accomplished lyric poets. In this new body of work, Peter McDonald deepens his interest in myth and storytelling through the legend of Herne, a phantom huntsman of English folklore. In McDonald’s poetic treatment of the legend, opposing forces are held in tension: body and soul, present and past, possession and desire, death and life. The collection’s two-part structure causes the poems to reflect and distort in a version of what Yeats called ‘a troubled mirror’: a sequence of Petrarchan sonnets is set against a Shakespearean sonnet sequence; stanzaic poems, shorter pieces, and longer compositions also meet their own images across the book, resulting in a complex symmetry of forms. Subjects in these poems stretch from game animals to Japanese swords, and from tree-catalogues to the constellations. The volume draws energy from struggles between irreconcilable imperatives, especially the need for pursuit and the desperation for escape, and the intimacy between the hunter and the hunted. McDonald’s Herne – not quite man, nor spirit, nor beast – opens up a world in which time is felt ‘passing through blood’, in which one might listen to ‘the cries of stones’, where ‘the weather is the news, and like the news / it has no meaning’.
Awards won by Peter McDonald Short-listed, 2017 London Hellenic Prize (The Homeric Hymns)
'McDonald is often impressively adept at using varied metres for cadence, musicality, tension. He resists the over-dramatic, but is a poet of fierce feeling - moved and often moving.'
TLS 'McDonald's work 'is entirely in keeping with Milton's enjoinder that poetry be "simple, sensuous and passionate". His musicality is not just rich but endlessly varied and subtle. [...] It embodies the values of accuracy, conscience, and restraint but with no skimping of intensity or ferocity.'
David Wheatley, Irish Times Praise for Peter McDonald 'Peter McDonald's unsettling imagination occupies a middle distance between domesticity and wilderness - what he calls 'the melancholy distance'. His fine elegies and love poems have in common a cool intonation and an argumentative persistence: the overlap is a telling one. McDonald's disenchanted vision makes the moments of intimacy and tenderness, when they come, all the more affecting. In addition, his profound literary intelligence thrives on metrical and stanzaic challenge, and ranges with relish from gnomic brevity to sustained meditation, narrative and memoir. These poems, which with their gently syncopated lines may seem understated, register the uneasiness and the excitement of 'the buzzing world': they are, in the poet's own words, 'back roads to everywhere'.
Michael Longley 'Hugely impressive... not just rich but endlessly varied and subtle... marvellous.'
David Wheatley, Irish Times 'Peter McDonald's unsettling imagination occupies a middle distance between domesticity and wilderness... [his] disenchanted vision makes the moments of intimacy and tenderness, when they come, all the more affecting.'
Michael Longley, CBE
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