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The White Silhouette

James Harpur

The White Silhouette
Categories: 21st Century, Irish
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Jun 2018)
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(Pub. Jun 2018)
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  • Description
  • Author
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • This title can now be purchased from Two Rivers Press by clicking here.

    At the heart of James Harpur’s The White Silhouette is a meditative poem inspired by the Book of Kells – a poem that follows threads into themes such as the nature of the divine, the efficacy of sacred art, and the way of silence. The title poem – described in the TLS as a ‘compelling spiritual memoir’ – is a haunting journey of ‘missed encounters’ in the landscapes of Wiltshire, Tipperary, and Patmos. Elsewhere, Harpur writes about pilgrimage, the Perseids, mystical experiences, and icons and iconoclasm – from Rublev’s golden images to decapitated angels in Galway. He complements his explorations of the sacred with more directly personal poems, including elegies and elegiac translations from Homer and Horace.

    Harpur’s poetry is distinguished by its lyric grace and mythohistorical resonance. The musical texture of his lines conveys the warmth, clarity and intimacy of a voice exploring the mysteries of natural, human, and metaphysical worlds. The White Silhouette is the richest summation of his spiritual journey to date.
    James Harpur has had five poetry collections published by Anvil Press and is poetry editor of the Temenos Academy Review and a member of Aosdána, the Irish academy of the arts. His Angels and Harvesters (2012) was a PBS Recommendation and shortlisted for the 2013 Irish Times Poetry Now Award; and ... read more
    Awards won by James Harpur Winner, 1995 National Poetry Competition Commended, 2001 Tablet Book of the Year (Oracle Bones) Short-listed, 2013 Irish Times Poetry Now Award (Angels and Harvesters) Winner, 2009 Michael Hartnett Annual Poetry Award (The Dark Age) Commended, 2012 Poetry Book Society (PBS): Choice - Summer (Angels and Harvesters)
    'Subtle, vibrant and wild, its presence pervades the poetry of James Harpur [...] Harpur is a sure-footed guide through difficult terrain, enriching our experience of each poem through a luminous dedication to his craft [...] The poems shimmer in a liminal haze between different worlds, different possibilities [...] James Harpur's work restores a childlike wonder in the world. Neither naive, nor diffuse, the poems articulate an artistic and perennial philosophy, which is infinitely meticulous, trenchant and lucid [...] James Harpur is the poet we need in our unpoetic times [...] We may seem to be merely part of a tragedy of ugliness, trapped in a frozen world, but James Harpur shows us that poetry retains its atavistic power to confound, astonish and enchant, beginning a healing thaw in the sacred space of the heart. He leaves each reader with an imperishable gift: the voice of silence.'

    Andrew Grey, Temenos

    'continues his visionary exploration of several themes... with precision, freedom, and authority.'

    Martin Caseley, Agenda: Ekphrastic Issue

    'This finely wrought, persuasive collection charts the difficulty of spiritual quest in a modern world, and reminds us how necessary it is.' 

    Hilary Davies, The Tablet  

        'James Harpur's poetry is moving, in the sense that moves, stirs something deep inside you, not just emotions or feelings, but more like a process of guided enlightenment.'

    Francesca Diano, Interalia Magazine
    'James Harpur's new collection, The White Silhouette, is a resonant, moving pilgrimage of great beauty, including a fabulous flash of Harpur's signature wry humour in his outstanding poem, Portora Royal.'

    Martina Evans, The Irish Times Books of 2018 list

     'Throughout the collection, Harpur's craft is both beautiful and subtle...The book's total effect is both complex and meditative.'

    Greg Brown, World Literature Today

      'Hapur has a flair for creating a compound of the everyday and the numinous; while the tone may be reserved and quiet, his imagination is dynamic; he comprehends the mystic without being mystical and demonstrates this through avoidance of the kind of solemnity that this kind of subject matter might draw to itself in other hands.'

    Gerard Smyth, Dublin Review of Books
        'I have rarely encountered a contemporary voice that brings out as strongly and convincingly as does James Harpur's in the The White Silhouette the way in which spiritual wrestlings and traditions can live again in poetry.'

    Michael O'Neil, The London Magazine

     'Harpur handles language deftly to offer an incisive exploration of the role of the sacred in art. His poems take their place in the ancient quest: the artist seeking purpose, where does meaning begin and artifice or artefact end? It is also a celebration of the power of the imagination to shape out experience.'

    Niamh Patwell, The Furrow

    'The reader of James Harpur's most recent collection repeatedly encounters lines of startling beauty and great suggestiveness...'
    Glyn Pursglove, Acumen
    'The White Silhouette is a triumph of spiritual word-wielding...The rhythm of Harpur's lines are so masterfully controlled, one is borne along on his voice; calm, careful and always drifting...Holy or not, these poems are for the spirit.'

    Joe Darlington, the Manchester Review of Books

    'Both these collections (Harpur and Deane's Dear Pilgrims) give the lie to the idea that it is no longer possible to think and write creatively and freshly about religion in modern poetry: both Deane and Harpur look back for some of their insights, especially biographically, but their poetry remains conspicuously watching, tasting and touching today's world.'

    Stride Magazine

    'I found the fragile, minimal pieces very moving and convincing: like the fragments described, they carry a weight far beyond their size'

    Stride Magazine

    Praise for James Harpur   'There is a deceptive clarity, an almost translucent surface to the poems which belies their complexity and ambition. These are poems in search of -- and in response to --the numinous, the sacred, but they never settle for easy pieties or shortcuts.'
    Michael Symmons Roberts and Moniza Alvi, PBS Bulletin
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