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This review is taken from PN Review 161, Volume 31 Number 3, January - February 2005.

PRIVATE AND PUBLIC RICHARD KELL, Collected Poems 1962-1993, introduced by Fred Johnston (Lagan Press) £7.95
RICHARD KELL, Under the Rainbow (Lagan Press) £6.95

The poet Richard Kell is as invisible and unobtrusive as a Protestant family in the South of Ireland. He was born in Youghal, Co. Cork in 1927. His father was a Protestant clergyman from the North of Ireland, his mother was from the South. His father was posted to a ministry in Southern India where Kell spent five years of his childhood before he was sent back to Belfast Methodist School. These early years inform the poems of Kell, the crossover between the private and public, the clashing of cultures that under the skin are more the same than less, the interconnectedness of all, the search for the meaning of what it means to be alive. He has given his life to poetry, as his father and mother gave theirs to conventional religion. It is a shame that his poems are not more visible, more talked about and included in more anthologies of Irish poetry. He is the glider pilot in the last stanza of his poem 'Sky Poem':

... Sometimes, though the sky turns sulky,
         withdraws her lithe and buoyant air:
the flyer for all his art, can only droop
         to a field in the middle of nowhere.'

The poems break the ink barrier from the very first page in the little poem 'Fishing Harbour Towards Evening': 'the slapping silver turns/ to polished marble upon the deck'. Even poems that aren't completely successful often have memorable lines such as ...


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