Rather than ‘emotion recollected in tranquility’ many of these short poems encapsulate the aggravations of love untempered by any fireside philosophy. Unrealisable lusts of the eye, unrequited attachment, and moments of realised and imaginary passion are concentrated into cameos and carbuncles – ‘glimmering tokens of memory’.
A calmer but no less acquisitive eye is turned on manifestations of nature, while the taken-for-granted basics of our human background – day, night, and the elements – are imbued with beauty and mystery. A visceral hatred for the everyday world, for the eternal business of compromise and commerce is also apparent, flashing out with the same unashamed, unadorned and undiluted clarity as the miniature paeans to unrealisable love. Despite the sense of unreconstructed emotion the dominant tone is cool and mordant, tailing off into acceptance of the heart’s half self-inflicted torments.
John McKeown was born in Liverpool in 1959. He is an English/History graduate of John Moore’s University and an alumnus of the city’s seminal Dead Good Poets Society. He lived in Prague in the 1990s where he was part of the city’s expat literary scene. In 2000 he moved to Dublin, becoming a columnist for The Irish Examiner, and arts feature writer for In Dublin and The Irish Times. He was theatre critic for the Irish Daily Mail from 2006 to 2008, and since then has reviewed theatre for The Irish Independent. His poems have appeared in Orbis, The Frogmore Papers, Dreamcatcher, Other Poetry, Earth Love, Envoi, Borderlines, The London Magazine, Cyphers, The Shop, and Southword. This is his fourth collection.