In these short poems full of patient listening, looking, and responding, Eamon Grennan again presents a world of brilliantly excavated moments.
Whether watching a flight of oystercatchers off a Connemara strand, or the laden stall of a fish market in Manhattan; whether listening to the silence in an empty room, or the beat of his partner’s heart; whether pondering violence in the Middle East, or the tenuous, endangered nature of even ‘the fairest / order in the world’ — his implicitly philosophic gaze manages to allow the ordinary facts of life take on their own luminous, celebratory, elegiac glow.
It is the sort of light he, once again, finds in some of his favourite painters — Cézanne, Bonnard, Renoir, the Dutch masters — light that is inside things and which the painters draw out to our attention. In its melding of a measure of contentment in the moment with an acknowledgement of transience, Grennan’s title — There Now — might stand as an epigraph to all of his work.
The confident detail and concrete scenes and situations of Grennan’s poems have a curious double effect. While we can see the ravens, sky and birder and understand Grennan’s interest in turning our attention away from human and social concerns to a “bigger picture”, there is also a hovering sense that this poem is also concerned with something else, that it is suggesting a way of thinking about our human relationships.
If Grennan’s style is to sketch a scene as he goes along, he does occasionally offer something more “complete” without losing his characteristic freshness, as in a beautiful four-liner such as Gone:
The little house grows quiet now she’s gone from it —
so he’ll set small orange embers of montbretia in a vase
before the bedroom mirror although its petals can behold
no more than themselves in the coldtruth-telling glass.
And there is also, the clear sense that the process itself, the act of writing, opens the world in intimate, surprising and revealing ways: Things in the Vicinity asks why he makes poems at all, its closing image adroitly intermingling allusions (Cezanne, Keats) into a world Grennan both reads and writes for us:
or simply it’s the fact that one minute
in the life of the world this autumn morning
is as Cezanne says going by! Paint it as is!
that makes me bend again to the page
my live and accidental hand is shadowing.
— John McAuliffe, The Irish Times
Winner of the 2016 Pigott Poetry Prize for Best Collection
Published: July 2015
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 643 9