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Monthly Carcanet Books

This review is taken from PN Review 126, Volume 25 Number 4, March - April 1999.

ACROSS FROM FERN HILL BRENDAN KENNELLY, The Man Made of Rain (Bloodaxe) £7.95
JOHN KINSELLA, Poems 1980-1994 (Bloodaxe) £9.95

The Man Made of Rain is a book-length poem in 43 parts in which Brendan Kennelly tries to persuade 'Dayenglish' to confront and express the 'nighthappenings' recalled in his prefatory Note:

I had major heart surgery, a quadruple bypass, in October 1996. The day after the operation I had a number of visions... I saw a man made of rain. He was actually raining, all his parts were raining slant-wise and firmly in a decisive, contained way.

This man turns out to be a 'dear guide, friend, genial pisstaker'. He leads the poet through shifting, vertiginous landscapes that conflate past and present, real locations (Dublin, Dingle, New York) and fantastical ones emerging on and in the poet's own body ('the hill of blood'). The road 'that became a scar / that became a river / that became a line of poetry' is a typically fluid landmark.

On one telling occasion, however, landscape abandons the visionary flux and splits into opposing camps of sensibility:

yes, the fingers contain a garden
where love walks and meditates on all
that is not itself but yet may be part
of itself, I see a man
beautiful and blameless walking through
I papaveri, they are a revolution
against the grey conspiracies of swamps
oozing into the minds of men.

The rest of the poem - rambling, various, at times hallucinatory or violent - ...


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