In this collection of short, intense poems Eamon Grennan’s signature virtues of close attention to the natural world, his meticulous notations of landscape, animals, and weather — all given lyrical authority by his gift for muscular syntax and musical language — are augmented by vigorous responses to edgy emotional states, by a sharpened alertness to conditions of human solitude and human relationship.
The resulting work — without titles and intending no narrative plan or sequence — offers a refracted portrait of a consciousness responding to some of the transient ordinary features of the daily life it leads and is led by. In unusually long lines, braced by their steady cadences, each poem offers a palpable sense of the local moment and its fleeting but deeply textured, potentially universal nature.
Much of The Quick of It involves an attempt to capture not only the ephemeral but also the essential: the quidditas of what the poet experiences or observes. In a poem recording his own attentiveness to the attentiveness of a wren he notices in the bushes, Grennan actually discloses a source for this aesthetic in the example of Gerard Manley Hopkins. His strong-stressed lines inherently confluent with the sprung rhythms of Hopkins, Grennan appears to be acknowledging outright the influence on his poetic vision of Hopkins’ notions of “instress” and “inscape”: “It is that nib-specificfocus I’m seeing in the bird / And hearing in the music, the in-lit contingent presence things hold // In the moment to moment passage of their happening.”
Fully attuned to the natural world, Grennan at times even reflects a Hopkinsesque spiritual aspect. Glimpsing a robin on the wing, for example, “its burnt-orange / Breast, an emblem blown to brightness by the cloudy morning,” he responds: “I almost // Feel it as the quick blink of God’s one eye, the eureka-brisk surprise given / And taken, the echt unmanageable absolute of it in the moment passing.”
Dividing his year between Poughkeepsie, New York and Connemara in the western part of his native Ireland, Eamon Grennan is an altogether cosmopolitan poet. While some of his poems have recognizable Irish settings, the volume as a whole resonates with a capaciousness that transcends place specificity. The Quick of It is an altogether engaging and enriching book of lyric poetry.
— Thomas O’Grady, Irish Matters
Year Published: 2004
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 370 4
ISBN HBK: 978 1 85235 371 1