The opening line of this volume is writing reams of poetry in her head, on a Sunday morning lying in his bed; which sounds very much like the most golden of hours for any poet; the closing line of the collection is a friend suggested therapy (which I totally rejected). There is a narrative between these lines, a travel journal, but the time over which this Joycean journey tale place is unknown. It could be a lifetime, or a week or that hour.
Kiernan talks of his poetry as navigating a route to the bare self. His opening poem focuses very directly upon a physical nudity that is merely an illusion of true nakedness. Even in this most personal of spaces there is a lack of intimacy a lack of intimacy that is the source of anguish for the female voice in this poem. There is a constant theme throughout the collection of the poet’s questioning of a personal and societal reality and the poet’s role within the context of the values of a wider community or society.
I have never been
just my imagination
The title of the collection intrigued me. As a photographer I know only of the golden hour as that magical time just before sunset or just after sunrise when the light was perfect for the best images. Even in the most bucolic of Keirnan’s poems, A room with a view, Aftermath and Countryside there is no glorious light, the skies above these landscapes are heavy filed with clouds and greys. My research revealed another meaning for the golden hour or the period of time following a traumatic injury during which medical attention can redeem a life or without such treatment will result in inevitable death.
The second poem in the collection is have I died enough finishes with the existential question
You are dead
And now what?
Have I died enough
and this poem is juxtaposed with Peace at last, a tribute to the simplicity of death and the release from the torture of life and is reprised near the end of the collection in Free.
The removal of the passage of time from this narrative is captured in the two central poems in the volume, both figuratively and literally. Ghosts and At the museum are cleverly placed side by side and now we understand the golden hour is the poet’s personal purgatory.
At the museum is almost the greatest example of the influence of the beat poets in Kiernan’s work but it is superseded just two poems later by the homage On the Verandah, one of my personal favourites in the collection.
There is an obvious loneliness in this volume Given that nothing reads almost like a mature revision of There is alone.
If I leave my home then can I feel alone?
If I leave my town can one feel alone?
to become a sea on the street
that can be walked into to drown all thoughts
feel nothing, forget nothing
However, there are many moments of absolute joy and humour in this work. None more so than when the poet is taking an obvious enjoyment in his creative process. I cannot read On the verandah without actually hearing Bukowski’s voice gravelling at my inner ear. The enjoyment of melancholia in Yearning, the tortuous anticipation of pure ecstasy and celebration.
maybe in this
moment exactly this
I can only convey my appreciation of the poems I love best and I urge the reader to dip in and out of this collection. Please pull individual poems, stanzas and lines out of the book, redeem them from despair. Tides is one of the most beautiful poems I have read from this poet.
The rhythm the rhyme, assonance and consonance, the language and energy in Sitting on kitchen chairs is one of the most enjoyable displays of the poet’s love of “thought wordings” and gives me probably my favourite line (or question)
how does talk smell after a few days [?]
- Dominic Williams
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