Now is a fast and frenzied meditation on time, ageing, alienation and the pressures of living in the modern city. Each triplet in this book-length poetry sequence addresses the question: What is ‘now’?
With the brevity of a proverb, each three-liner offers a short, sharp perception which tries to capture or just grasp at the sliding identities of ‘now’, at the same time as it adds its quickfire nugget of wit or wisdom to the accumulating weight of the whole sequence.
By the end of the book, Kennelly has taken us on a journey not just through time but through a dark night of the soul, through his own head and the thoughts and feelings of all kinds of people struggling to survive and find meaning in their lives.
Now is published simultaneously with When Then Is Now, a trilogy of Kennelly’s modern versions of three Greek tragedies which dramatise timeless human dilemmas as relevant now as they were in ancient times. All three plays – Sophocles’ Antigone and Euripides’ Medea and The Trojan Women – focus on women whose lives are torn apart by war, family conflict and despotic regimes.
‘Kennelly’s capacity to strip himself and fight in naked combat with the giants that plague us, make him Ireland’s most endearing and reckless poet’ – Mark Patrick Hederman
‘His poems shine with the wisdom of somebody who has thought deeply about the paradoxical strangeness and familiarity and wonder of life’ – Sister Stanislaus Kennedy
‘He is the people’s poet. He spends his life wondering and thinking and daring to think and see differently. He also asks impossible questions and suggests unthinkable answers about the things that really matter. And he refuses to be precious or out of touch with the rest of us…a serious contribution to the nation’s mental and spiritual well-being’ – Jim Farrelly, Editor-in-Chief, Sunday Tribune
Brendan Kennelly reads five poems
In 2007, Brendan Kennelly had a fellowship at Boston College in the US. Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed him at his flat on Chestnut Hill on an extraordinarily hot day. The first poem, ‘Love Cry’ is from a sequence of sonnets with that title, and is followed by ‘I See You Dancing, Father’ and ‘Bread’. The next poem, ‘Raglan Lane’, is his response to Patrick Kavanagh’s ‘On Raglan Road’, and has been sung by Mary Black and others (to the tune of ‘The Dawning of the Day’). The last poem, ‘Begin’, was written on recovery from serious illness and widely circulated amongst Irish Americans in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. These five poems are all included in The Essential Brendan Kennelly. The film is from the DVD-anthology In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008).
Driving to work with Brendan Kennelly
Bloodaxe editor Neil Astley takes you on his morning commute through the Tarset Valley of Northumberland. He plays the CD which comes with The Essential Brendan Kennelly, and during the short journey, Brendan reads these five poems 'The Visitor', 'Poem from a Three Year Old', 'I See You Dancing, Father', 'My Dark Fathers' and 'Begin'. The additional footage of Brendan reading 'Begin' is from the DVD-book In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley.
Brendan Kennelly: Reservoir Voices
Brendan Kennelly talks about his recent collection Reservoir Voices and reads four poems from it, 'Hope', 'Lie', 'Proposal' and 'Peace', plus his classic 'Begin' (from The Essential Brendan Kennelly at the end. This is an excerpt from a film made by Pamela Robertson-Pearce of Kennelly's reading at the Abbey Theatre in the Dublin Writers' Festival on 7 June 2009.