Littlebody

Thomas Kinsella, Author
Thomas Kinsella, Author Peppercanister $24.95 (28p) ISBN 978-1-901233-71-1
Reviewed on: 05/01/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Hardcover - 27 pages - 978-1-85754-533-3
Paperback - 27 pages - 978-1-901233-70-4
Paperback - 27 pages - 978-1-85754-532-6
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Kinsella has spent several decades among Ireland's most difficult, strangest and most critically respected poets. The Dublin-based poet (no relation to Australia's John Kinsella) gained modest fame with elegant, if conventional, formal poems in the '50s and '60s; during the same years he translated many classic poems in the Irish language. After the ""Bloody Sunday"" killings of 1972, Kinsella responded with Butcher's Dozen, whose rough, angry couplets appeared as a pamphlet from Peppercanister Press, which Kinsella set up (with some help) himself. The death of an Irish composer prompted another poem and pamphlet; these in turn laid the foundation for the short, often bitter sequences each a brief volume from Peppercanister which have become Kinsella's life work. (The Collected Poems appeared from Oxford in 1996.) Some consider public events; others follow Kinsella on meditative walks through the Irish capital. Many pursue evasive memories or enunciate moral dicta ""Thou shalt not entertain,/ charm or impress,"" one new short poem begins. Much of Citizen of the World (number 22 in the series) reimagines the 18th-century writer Oliver Goldsmith; its concluding sequence evokes instead dangerous women, from mermaids to Mary ""The Virgin is rising/ to Her pale height,/ feeding on our needs."" Littlebody (number 23) becomes more contemporary and personal in one poem, Kinsella refuses the ""ghostly gold"" of a demonic leprechaun; ""I have all I need for the while I have left// without taking unnecessary risks."" (July) Forecast: Kinsella will certainly gain critical attention in America sooner or later, whether or not these volumes prompt it. His acerbic, allusive verse may never command a broad following; it may, however, appeal to sophisticated fans of Geoffrey Hill or Peter Reading, both of whom Kinsella's cadences can recall. Derval Tubridy's hefty monograph Thomas Kinsella: The Peppercanister Poems offers readers everything they could want to know about Kinsella, from his complex publishing history to his intellectual obsessions: its chapters divide the Peppercanister series volume by volume, interpreting almost every poem and making careful observations throughout. (Univ. College Dublin [Dufour, dist.] $69.95 274p ISBN 1-900621-52-5; $29.95 paper ISBN -53-3)
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