Much of Brendan Kennelly’s poetry gives voice to others and otherness. Whether through masks or personae, dramatic monologues or riddles, his poems inhabit other lives, other beings and other ways of being in the world.
The riddling poems of Reservoir Voices add a further dimension to these explorations, inspired by an autumn sojourn in America where he would sit by the edge of a reservoir, trying to cope with loneliness by contemplating black swans, blue waves, seagulls, trees and rocks:
‘It was in that state of fascinated dislocation, of almost mesmerised emptiness, that the voices came with suggestions, images, memories, delights, horrors, rhythms, insights and calm, irrefutable insistence that it was they who were speaking, not me. To surrender to loneliness is to admit new presences, new voices into that abject emptiness. So I wrote down what I heard the voices say and, at moments, sing.’
‘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, Sunday Press.
‘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: 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.
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.