Results of the Griffin Poetry Prize in the year 2010.
The Sun-fish, a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, reinforces convictions that Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s transforming and transporting ways of seeing are like no other: silk scarves fly at her face ‘like a car wash’; there’s the ‘whisper of a cashmere sleeve’, the nuns’ ‘leathery kiss’ and a lighthouse ‘scraping the sea with its beam’.
By now familiar motifs—waves, tides, dividing lines, arches and doorways, journeys, a high tower and water, water everywhere, reprise previous effects and reach forward into new domains. Poems about men and the men in her family, a “woman’s story and the stories of women”, elegies, homages and her family’s history, are developed through mist or the gap in a tale. Other poems tease out the tricks of light, at dawn or dusk, to open the lock of language.
The title sequence is both alluring and hypnotic. Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s poetry is one of the marvels of our time.
When Valerie Rouzeau’s first poem sequence was published in France a decade ago under the title Pas Revoir, it met with immediate critical acclaim. These poems are an urgent, stammered lament for her dead father, a scrap-merchant, in which the poet’s adult voice and that of the little girl she used to be combine in an extraordinary blend of baby-talk, youthful slang, coinages and puns—a breathless delivery of tremendous power. The influential poet and critic Andre Velter has described Rouzeau’s poetry as ‘violent in its capacity to exalt and disturb’. This quality comes to the fore in Susan Wicks’ remarkable translation, the excellence and ingenuity of which, in Stephen Romer’s words at the conclusion of his introduction to this volume, ‘make good the transposition of this pure and singular voice into English’.
Though John Glenday has long been admired for his lyrically delicate and emotionally powerful poetry, he has remained something of a well-kept secret. His third collection, Grain, makes his singular talent available to a wider audience.
Sometimes Glenday’s poems are forcefully direct; sometimes they are so quiet they feel as if they were composed within a capacious listening, as a form of secular prayer. Glenday’s seamless lyric can also disguise some wild and surreal tales: the “Beauty and the Beast” told in reverse, a bizarre list of new saints, or a can of peaches waiting for the invention of the tin-opener. However, the lasting impression is of a genuinely spiritual poet, one with the ability to turn every earthly detail towards the same clear light.
Grain announces Glenday as an essential voice in contemporary poetry.
A Village Life, Louise Glück’s eleventh collection of poems, begins in the topography of a village, a Mediterranean world of no definite moment or place:
All the roads in the village unite at the fountain.
Avenue of Liberty, Avenue of the Acacia Trees—
The fountain rises at the center of the plaza;
on sunny days, rainbows in the piss of the cherub.
Around the fountain are concentric circles of figures, organized by age and in degrees of distance: fields, a river, and,…[more]