In this collection, Kieran Beville’s exuberance and energy are refreshing and infectious. The range of emotions and occasions are many in its celebration of love and its grieving for loss of love and attendant loneliness. The tirade against Trump’s America and American colonialism, reminiscent of a poem by Allen Ginsberg in the way it addresses the country by name, is timely following on the death of George Floyd. There are a number of other topical poems, some dealing with our current pandemic, including the apocalyptic ‘Angel of Death’. There are bitter-sweet reminiscences, stories of boyhood escapades, such as the derring-do recounted in ‘Yellow Rock’ where
‘My wet feet darkened the sun-bleached stone / That made cowards of men.’
One feels there is capability of a vision of reality and the world nestling in Soul Songs, a vision wider than is the poetic norm these days; the collection is a locus where life not only ‘sings the body electric’, in Whitman’s phrase, but also reflects on itself and its actions, weighs up the pros and cons, and looks into the future.
And yet Beville is a true romantic, a sign perhaps of romanticism’s re-emergence in poetry, replacing once again an age of strict technique and careful sentiments. If the propensity for metaphor is the characteristic of the poet, Beville qualifies hands down, because his pages sparkle with lines such as: ‘When the verdant victory is declared in birdsong’, and brilliant images such as this in ‘Perspective’:
‘Dawn, tuning its strings / in the dim metallic light.
Heart, pounding in taut skin, / drummed with bone –
rhythm of the bodhrán.’
Lost love figures strongly here, as in ‘Simple Song’:
were the words you said.
that stilled the storm and stopped the dance.
And yet, the irrepressible remains irrepressible, as is evident in the title poem, ‘Soul Songs’:
‘At the end of the day my heart turns / unceasingly to the liturgy of love.’
Revival Press is doing a fine job in turning the tide of contemporary poetry from the head towards the heart. Kieran Beville is one of the chief conspirators in this upheaval.
I look forward very much to reading his next collection, which I believe is not far away.
Ciaran O’Drsicoll lives in Limerick. A member of Aosdána, he has published nine books of poetry, including Gog and Magog (1987), Moving On, Still There (2001), and Surreal Man (2006). His work has appeared in many anthologies, most recently in Seeds of Gravity (SurVision, 2020), and has been translated into many languages. Liverpool University Press published his childhood memoir, A Runner Among Falling Leaves (2001). His novel, A Year’s Midnight, was published by Pighog Press (2012). His awards include the James Joyce Prize and the Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry. His poem ‘Please Hold’ (featured in Forward’s anthology Poems of the Decade) has become a set text for A Level English Literature. His latest book of poetry is the chapbook The Speaking Trees (2018).
Excerpt from the Introduction, written by poet Brian Kirk
Soul Songs…places the poet and the reader very much in the moment at this particular point in history. But Beville understands that the present, and therefore any potential future, is shaped by what went on before, and for this reason memory plays a major part in how the poet addresses the current state of affairs, both private and public. Whether the mood is contemplative, yearning, hopeful, or humorous the poet fixes a clear eye on his subject and brings a finely honed measure to his craft. He is at home in the natural world as much as in the world of politics and social affairs. He has a keen eye for image and his ear is attuned to the rhythms of language. These poems are lyric poetry in the true sense of the word, heartfelt emotional outpourings of the poet’s soul. I encourage all poetry lovers to take some time to savour his Soul Songs. – Brian Kirk
Kieran Beville is a former teacher of English and History. He was also a tutor in the Irish History Department of UCC in the 1980s and lecturer in Masterclasses at the Intercultural Studies Department of Tyndale Theological seminary, Amsterdam, where he taught Hermeneutics and Postmodernism, 2011-2016. In addition he has lectured on leadership training programmes in Eastern Europe (Serbia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Macedonia), Jordan and India. He has been a conference speaker on Postmodernism in Ireland, the UK and India. Beville is author of Write Now – A Guide to Becoming a Writer (Limerick Writers’ Centre, 2019) and the novel, Bohemian Fire (pen-name Austen K. Blake, Bohemian Books, 2017). He has published sixteen non-fiction books. Kieran writes a weekly features column in the Limerick Leader called ‘Spotlight’ which focuses on local arts and entertainment. Furthermore, he has had a substantial number of articles published in various newspapers, journals and magazines as well as poetry in Cyphers, Crossways, A New Ulster, Ogham Stone, The Stony Thursday Book, The Sunday Tribune, The Galway Review, Live Encounters, Pandemic and The Phare Anthology, 2021. His collection of poetry, Fool’s Gold, was published by Revival Press (2019), with an introduction by poet John Liddy, cover design by artist John Shinnors and illustrations by artist Kate Hennessy. His book, Pulling Back the Clouds is a short biography of Mike Kelly, collector of the die-cast model aircraft display at Shannon Airport (LWC, 2020). His second volume of poetry, Soul Songs, was published by Revival Press (2020) with cover design by Syra Larkin and illustrations by Kathy Tiernan.