GODHEAD by Thomas Kinsella


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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.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1999
ISBN: 1-901233-35-9
Page count: 24pp
Publisher: Dedalus
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1999