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The Instruments of Art

John F. Deane

Cover Picture of The Instruments of Art
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Categories: 21st Century, Christianity, Irish
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Nov 2005)
£8.95 £8.05
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  • On the translation of power into love:
    there is no intervention once it has begun;
    and it has - begun. Fresh are the pastures, and above
    snow-drifts, crocus-fingers reach towards sun.

    from 'The Artist: I Condemned to Death'

       The Instruments of Art uses poetry to explore the lives and works of Edvard Munch, Vincent Van Gogh and others, the personal sacrifice involved, the singular vision and inspiration that set them in motion. God's creation, some argue, is a work of art, and Christ's life and death an expression of it. Deane follows this thread in a series of sonnets based on the Stations of the Cross. Another series of poems takes John the Evangelist, 'the one whom Christ loved', as the voice of a poet expressing the hard love and personal commitment demanded by Christ; Deane conducts this exploration experimentally, contrasting and complimenting it with his personal experience of faith through suffering and love. The Old Testament story of Jacob's search for meaning is retold through the poet's own memories of family and becomes an emblem of the universal search for truth and peace. This is a collection written by the light of faith yet shadowed by doubt; it develops an instinctive approach to art that offers an understanding in terms of the highest reaches of suffering humanity.
    Table of Contents

    I The Instruments of Art


        Heirs to a Different Century

        Late October Evening


        The Gift

        Rhododendron, Fuchsia, Thorn

        By the Banks of the Dodder

        The Visitors

        The Rowan Tree

        The Meadows of Asphodel

        Adagio Molto

        Three Rivers

        The Instruments of Art

    II The Artist

    III The Old Yellow House

        House at the Crossroads

        The Study


        The Monastery

        Sheltering Places

        The Mysteries

        The Ship

        The Siege

        The Old Yellow House

    IV According to John


        One for Sorrow


        The Jacaranda Tree

        The Divine Office

        Of Misery: The Other John

        Suffer the Children

        Master of the Feast


        Drinking the Spring

        In the Teeth of the Wolf

        The Gravity of Flesh

        Lazarus, and the Migration of Storks

        Carnival of the Animals

        The Aftertaste of Bitterness


        Report from a Far Place

        The Light of Dawn


    V An Exemplary Fiction

        The Red Gate


        The Big Men

        The Mother


        The Poem

        Spaces of Peace


        Age of Foolishness


        Patricia's Story

        Spaces before War

        The Marriage Settlement

        On Land and Sea

        The Dromedary Caravans

        By the River

        The Chaplet

    VI Seasons in Hell

        Holy Saturday

        The Artist in his Youth

        Boot-Prints in Snow

        Terre Cuite





    John F. Deane was born on Achill Island in 1943. He founded Poetry Ireland – the National Poetry Society – and The Poetry Ireland Review in 1978, and is the founder of The Dedalus Press, of which he was editor from 1985 until 2006. In 2008 he was visiting scholar in ... read more
    Awards won by John F. Deane Short-listed, 2016 Irish Times Poetry Now Award  (Semibreve) Winner, 2011 Golden Key of Smederevo award

    Praise for John F. Deane 'In Naming of the Bones, Deane has assembled poetry of the most sublime beauty, arising out of thought processes that are profoundly Catholic in their early formation, yet now embracing the widest possible Christian earthliness. He is unceasing, relentless, in his thinking quest for the incomprehensible heavens, for that sense of godliness between saffron light and full moon.'

    Thomas McCarthy, The Irish Catholic

    'The highest levels of poetic craft and persuasion... Naming of the Bones is not just a spiritual journey; it is a lyrical one, filled with sonic texturing at the level of song and original figurative language that is never ornamental but always essential.'

    Fred Dings, World Literature Today

     'Deane is a skilled observer-of-things and he has the gift of a silvery tongue, the true poet's flair with words...All this is the assured writing of someone who has spent a lifetime in the contemplation of such things.'

    Stuart Henson, London Grip

    'It is a long, grave, sober, deep-grounding book, as elegant and eloquent as it is fragile.'

    Michael Glover, The Tablet

    'Deane finds the embedded music of particular moments - the inscape of them - and understands their cosmic vitality... [he] draws us into deeper listening and invites us into sacred, transcendent encounter.'

    Michael P. Murphy, Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry 2019

    'John Deane invites all human beings, or pilgrims, whether Christian or not, to partake in his revelatory, redemptive collection... a true cosmic poetry for all of us, in all time.'

    Patricia McCarthy, Agenda: Ekphrastic Issue

    'Master-sonneteer, the Teilhard de Chardin of Irish poetry, Achill chronicler and gazer at the heavens, John F. Deane has created a real beauty of a collection in Dear Pilgrims.'

    Thomas McCarthy, Poetry Ireland Review  

      'These are words of a poet who lives history, who breathes at one with the world around him. Deane reminds the reader that we live only for a short while on this rock in space but that that time is precious and profound. We are all dear pilgrims - whether we realise it or not.'
    Dublin Review of Books
     'These poems are rich, evocative, replete with natural imagery, searching to know and express the unknowable.'
    Niamh Pattwell, The Furrow
    'Deane's work has always been distinguished by the wholeness of it's vision, and the poems of Dear Pilgrims are no exception: the joy and compassion of his responses to the natural world are of a piece with his spiritual preoccupations, and gesture towards his poetic forebears, in particular Hopkins and Kavanagh.'
    Caitriona O'Reilly, The Irish Times
      'Both these collections (Dear Pilgrims & The White Silhouette by James Harpur) 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

      'There is light and muscularity in these poems that sometimes unexpectedly recalls Ted Hughes'
    Stride Magazine
    'On a simple level, the poems in John F Deane's Semibreve (Carcanet) are elegies for the past and specifically for a lost brother. More profoundly, they teach us how bereavement, touched by a poet's tongue, can become a shared gift: "wonders of the flesh and spirit, a road-map for a shattered faith"'.
    The Guardian
      'Music, a stony, damp and deeply alive landscape (both Ireland and the Holy Land), a passionate and searching engagement with God -  specifically with the local and physical God that is the central figure of the gospels - these are poems with all of John Deane's familiar richness. A deeply welcome collection.'
    Rowan Williams
    'Deane is a true poet. I have not space here to do him justice'
    Helena Nelson, Ambit
    'Deane is an exemplary poet.'
    Gerard Smyth, Warwick Review
    '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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