Brendan Kennelly was one of Ireland’s most popular and prolific poets. Over five decades he wrote thousands of poems published in over 30 books of poetry, including three previous editions of Selected Poems. Published on his 75th birthday, this new selection presents just over a hundred of Kennelly’s most essential poems, with a QR code giving readers access to an online album of readings by Brendan Kennelly of many poems from the book. The e-book with audio edition incorporates the same recordings.
The Essential Brendan Kennelly has been edited by two lifelong admirers of his work. Like Kennelly, Terence Brown studied at Trinity College, Dublin, where he taught until 2009; he is now Fellow Emeritus of the college. Michael Longley, who also studied at Trinity College, went on to become one of Ireland’s leading poets and was Ireland Professor of Poetry in 2007-10.
Terence Brown & Michael Longley write (from their foreword): 'Brendan Kennelly is a poet of rare gifts, who at all stages of his career has written distinctive, memorable and powerful poems. We hope that this selection will allow readers to appreciate anew, or for the first time, a body of work that ranges from tender lyricism to the bleakest despair at the human condition, from bawdily comic narrative to the pleasingly epigrammatic squib, from mythic consciousness to social satire… Yet each literary mode – the lyrical and its obverse, a reductively satiric assault on "the poetic" – shares what has seemed the basis of all of Kennelly’s poetry: a quest for authenticity of emotion undertaken with high moral intent. In each, as Beckett said of the painter Jack Yeats, the poet "stakes his being".’
The audio selection draws on four classic recordings made by Brendan Kennelly in Dublin in 1982, 1998, 1999 and 2002 of 32 individual poems as well as four extracts from his book-length poem The Man Made of Rain.
‘Ten years ago Terence Brown and I edited for Bloodaxe Books a selection of his poems, The Essential Brendan Kennelly: a labour of love. We delighted in bringing into sharper focus the lyric grace of his genius, its rage and its rapture. To our relief Brendan gave our choices the thumbs-up. It remains for me one of the best things I’ve ever done. I loved and revered the man and his words.’ – Michael Longley, The Irish Times, paying tribute to Brendan Kennelly
'He was always a deeply serious poet, behind the humorous affability with which he greeted friends and strangers. In his work, he managed the feat of being a celebrant of light and an uplifting laureate of the unquenchable qualities of renewal and rebirth that lie in the human heart, while simultaneously being determined never to gloss over the darkness within the human condition as well. In his longer, almost monumental works, he allowed his voice to speak almost as a counsel for the defence of those seemingly indefensible fallen figures like Cromwell and Judas, so that the dark side of the human condition coexisted with the celebratory brightness of his early poems like Bread.’ – Dermot Bolger, The Sunday Business Post, paying tribute to Brendan Kennelly
'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.
‘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.
North America: Wake Forest University Press
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.
Ireland & EU: Click here to order from Books Upstairs in Dublin
USA: Click here to order the US edition from Wake Forest University Press