Poetry Dispatch No. 181 | August 7, 2007
It’s always a pleasure to introduce (dispatch) anew poet all the readers out there. I’ve been holding on to this writer for sometime, the book of his selected poems, FAMILIAR STRANGERS, I bought over a year ago. It’s almost 500 pages long and packed with poetry that shines, sings, settles in you– and most importantly, matters. Matters because it reminds you what a serious poet’s work is all about.
Brendan Kennelly is “one of Ireland’s most distinguished and best beloved poets as well as a renowned professor and cultural commentator.” He was born in Ballylongford, County Kerry, and has taught Modern Literature at Trinity College in Dublin for the past 30 years. (Retired in 2004).
I like what the editor-in-chief of the Sunday Times over there, Jim Farrelly, has to say about Brendan Kennelly. (And, pray-tell, where are these editors in what passes for American newspapers today?):
“Newspapers celebrate greatness, heroism, achievement and genius in our midst, but sometimes don’t pay sufficient attention to the real heroes who matter to us: the people who make a serious contribution to a nation’s mental and spiritual well-being. A giant in this area is Brendan Kennelly. He is the people’s poet. He spends his life wondering and thinking and daring to think and see differently. He also asks impossible questions and suggests unthinkable answers about the things that really matter. And he refuses to be precious or out of touch with the rest of us.”
A loud, “Hear! Hear!” and “Bottoms up,” to that last line, and the sad state of too much American poetry for too long a time.
A welcome to Brendan Kennelly on these pages. (How could you not love a poet who wrote a poem/a book of poems entitled: THE MAN MADE OF RAIN?) Norbert Blei
Her Laugh by Brendan Kennelly
It might have been something Hawley said
as they chatted together at the counter
where the grade weights and the white scales stood
monument to the notion of just measure
for decent people born suspicious
of everything that cannot be proved
but she laughed out of weariness into tears
and continued to laugh after Hawley left.
She was one of those folk who don’t laugh much,
whose reasons for silence remain their own
locked property of heart and mind.
Her laugh when it tumbled free was such
a soaring out of work and children
there was nobody she mightn’t leave behind.
from FAMILIAR STRANGERS, New and Selected Poems 1960-2004