May wonders never cease: our poem today has been writ by a person who is yet alive! Thomas Kinsella (b.1928) is an Irish poet, known for writing with an edge of sarcasm and wit. His poems are atmospheric, dark and verbose. Stylistically, he is reminiscent of WH Auden and maybe Ezra Pound. He doesn’t even wear a cravat.
Despite niche acclaim from aficionados, his poems received an ambivalent response from the critics. In 1972 he founded his own publishing company, the Peppercanister Press, which allowed him to publish without relying on submissions to journals. Collections like Blood and Family (1988) were eventually compiled from Peppercanister pamphlet publications.
In an excessively enamoured Guardian review, David Wheatley writes:
If one theme can be said to predominate in Kinsella’s work it is that of process, the owlish vigil the poet keeps over the workings of the imagination and the care with which he shapes its productions. [...] if the Joycean mantle is anyone’s in Irish poetry, it is his.
Mirror in February
The day dawns, with scent of must and rain,
Of opened soil, dark trees, dry bedroom air.
Under the fading lamp, half dressed — my brain
Idling on some compulsive fantasy –
I towel my shaven jaw and stop, and stare,
Riveted by a dark exhausted eye,
A dry downturning mouth.
It seems again that it is time to learn,
In this untiring, crumbling place of growth
To which, for the time being, I return.
Now plainly in the mirror of my soul
I read that I have looked my last on youth
And little more; for they are not made whole
That reach the age of Christ.
Below my window the wakening trees,
Hacked clean for better bearing, stand defaced
Suffering their brute necessities;
And how should the flesh not quail, that span for span
Is mutilated more? In slow distaste
I fold my towel with what grace I can,
Not young, and not renewable, but man.