Thursday, 21 April 2011

Kavanagh Country

The perfect conjunction of genius has come together in this book: Patrick Kavanagh's poems and a little prose; a sensitive and learned introduction to Kavanagh and his work by PJ Browne, the photographs of David Maher, and the design of Syd Bluett.
David Maher is a sports photographer, whose pictures every week capture the moment of triumph of despair. But here, he photographs stillness: on the cover, Kavanagh's statue on a seat by the canal, deep in the meditation of composition. Or maybe terribly hungover.
Horses grazing in a mist-shrouded field, a postman wheeling his bicycle up Raglan Road, tufty grasses, a half-broken wooden farm gate, a statue of the Virgin railed off, a ladylike Grafton Street - the photographs in black-and-white enrich the poems without outsmarting them.
The introduction understands Kavanagh - his hunger for poetry, his small-farmer mentality, his acerbic Catholic Standard film reviews, his arrogance and kindess - without patronising him.
The layout is the best I've ever seen - utterly understated and graceful, the photographs perfectly chosen for each poem, the typeface exactly right to give the poems their voice, the titles - in large and small upper-case - gently exact.
And the poems... Raglan Road, The Great Hunger, Lines Written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin - to read them again is to learn them anew.
At the back are short notes on each poem - the place and circumstance of their writing, fascinating.
If you can get this book, snap it up. I hear there are a few copies left in Dubray.

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