Books by Thomas Kinsella

THE FAMILIAR by Thomas Kinsella
Released: Oct. 15, 1999

paper 1-901233-36-7 Kinsella continues in his introspective mode in this, the 20th volume of his Peppercanister Series (cf. Godhead, Peppercanister 21, below). The fluid presence of time by which the past continually invades the realities of Kinsella's narratives remains one of the author's hallmark virtues here and lends a chill to his perceptions—although those are, for the most part, simple recollections whose dramas are inherent rather than inescapable. The very notion of the —familiar— implies a presence out of the past, and a ghostly one at that, but in Kinsella's narration this emanation may—in the best Jamesian style—be nothing more than a powerful recollection of a past love. Not that that's any small thing, of course, especially in the employ of one who knows how to infuse the ordinary rhythms of daily regret (—Remembering / our last furious farewell / —face to face, studying each other / with a hardness like hate—) with an emotional intensity that seems to have its origin in another world. But in Kinsella's hands the haunting seems to go beyond the heartache of mortality into some strangely literal apparition of grief (—the demons over the door / that had watched over me / and my solitary shortcomings—) that is very nearly palpable, and undoubtedly real. The surpassing excellence of the method lies in its simplicity: Whether the ghost is there or not, we feel her clammy touch with as much dread and disbelief as the narrator does himself. A true but very small gem, with just enough facets to give off a few real dazzles. Read full book review >
GODHEAD by Thomas Kinsella
Released: Oct. 15, 1999

paper 1-901233-34-0 Kinsella's voice has always carried a preternaturally haunted inflection, and in this exceedingly tidy volume—number 21 in the author's Peppercannister series—his usual hauntings take on spiritual dimensions that carry them somewhere beyond the nameless dread we have come to expect of Irish poets generally without offering much in the way of either consummation or despair. The lay of the land is spelled out clearly in the choice of subject (—Trinity,— —Father,— —Son,— —Spirit—), but upon this metaphysical terrain Kinsella erects edifices that are purely naturalistic in their architecture and construction. Thus, the —Son— is portrayed from the perspective of the mother whose wonder at her own conception (—A Stranger fallen across her / in fierce relief, without love. / And the Adjustment in her body.—) conforms perfectly to the narrative of St. Luke, but could just as easily describe the meditations of any woman presented for the first time with the power of her own womb. Similarly, the —Spirit— is more of an ambiguous impulse (—A wind that passes and does not return—) than a divine force, but it is ambiguous enough (—Dust of our lastborn—) that we can't chalk it up to one side or the other. The shadings are all here, and Kinsella uses them with the mute skill of an oracle, forcing us to the heavy work of drawing out the consequences he's left lying on the table. Marvelous in its conception, very rich in its nuances: a work of rare subtlety and depth. Read full book review >