Books by Brendan Kennelly

BEGIN by Brendan Kennelly
Released: June 19, 2000

"In these, even Kennelly's reliance on the expected is forgivable."
Kennelly opens his 11th collection with a lengthy essay explaining his poetic vision. His poems, he tells us, attempt "to give voices to people and phenomena that should not [otherwise] have voices in our culture." These "echoes" against "emptiness" are narrated by, or written about, a huge cast of individuals: St. Augustine, St. Sebastian, a madwoman, a schoolboy, a chair, and a bomb—to name a few. And Kennelly is as prolific as he is inclusive: his 98 poems are crowded onto 88 pages, sometimes two to a page. A few lend intensity to subjects rarely considered in poems, while many more voice truisms. "Cries at night, laughter in the morning, / gammy sleep between. / Why is one moment sacred? The next obscene?" Kennelly's verses often lack weight, in part because his language is hackneyed (breath "vanishes in the air," one reads "pain / on children's faces," grass "glitters in November sun") and his rhymes are predictable (cries/skies, still/kill/skill, bones/stones, height/light). Most successful are the poems that don't take themselves too seriously, but are meant as entertainments ("Getting Up Early") or as visually intense moments devoid of didactic intent ("Miss McKenna" or "Nineteen Forty-Two"). Read full book review >