Familiar Strangers is Brendan Kennelly’s own selection from over 20 poetry books written over five decades. This landmark volume replaces his earlier selections A Time for Voices, Breathing Spaces and Begin. But Kennelly has revisited his life work, re-scoring familiar and estranged pieces into new gatherings which reflect his preoccupations more powerfully, bringing together poems from different times – and adding many new, previously lost or uncollected poems – so that they speak in chorus like the generations of people they celebrate.
‘Newspapers celebrate greatness, heroism, achievement and genius in our midst, but sometimes don’t pay sufficient attention to the real heroes who matter to us; the people who make a serious contribution to a nation’s mental and spiritual well-being. A giant in this area is Brendan Kennelly. 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’ – Jim Farrelly, Editor-in-Chief, Sunday Tribune.
‘With considerable honesty and bravery Kennelly enters and becomes others in order to perceive, understand and suffer… always moving, probing and doubting, never willing or able to settle on any one certainty…There is clash and conflict, cruelty and irony, sardonic wit, passion’ – Aidan Murphy
‘He lets us watch as he stands bowlegged at a crossroads in time and culture, playing stretch with knives of fear and faith, irony and soul, the fist of vision, the hard-nose of reality’ – Bono
‘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
‘A very singular voice which owes nothing really to anybody, except to Kennelly’s spiritual and geographical origins and, of course, to his own people’ – John B. Keane
‘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
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.