Relations

Eamon Grennan, Author Graywolf Press $16 (228p) ISBN 978-1-55597-280-6

""To love the scrubbed exacitudes/ and the dimmer thing/ that shivers at the brink"" is Grennan's project, and this collection spanning 15 years demonstrates the Irish emigre's developing capacity for attending closely to physical experience. In ""Oasis,"" for example, we find ""the felt/ luxury of shadow, its way/ of slowing you down to know/ what flesh is again,"" or, as in ""Winter"" we learn to ""Pity the fox, the melacholy badger,/ the fieldmouse clean as a snowflake,/ shivering and praying in the flayed hedges."" Here, lessons of compassion arrive through the body, though a lover can still be ""cool as a handful of scallions,/ your only warm part the tongue/ in the live cave of your mouth."" Grennan's most marked influences are Seamus Heaney and the late Patrick Kavanagh, Irish poets whose works linger over daily life and the apparently mundane: parents, children, marriage--and over the natural world. Occasionally, Grennan expressly reaches further outward, as when addressing Northern Ireland's ""troubles"" in the remarkable ""Angel Looking Away"": ""On Pisano's pulpit the angel/ is turned away in sorrow/...and in the interrogation centre/ a man has turned/ away from the polished steel table/ on which a man--/calloused tallow soles/ stretched toward us--is twitching/ as a live wire/ wide as its own glitter/ kisses the eye of his penis."" In Grennan's best poems, and there are many in this collection, the precision of his observations renders the embodied lives of others with gripping lucidity. (Sept.)
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