The unconsidered human impulse is to wrap grief and pain in pious formulas, in slack received wisdom, in platitudes and worn-out phrases. Pain always threatens to become unbearable, and indeed it often is unbearable to anyone locked in the prison of the self.
We have songs and stories, poems, dance, painting and theatre to lift us out of that prison, to teach us that others have been through this before and survived, that others are going through it right now, that we are not alone. It takes a particular sensibility and a particular kind of courage to face into grief and sorrow and loss as Kieran Beville does in this collection of poems.
To venture on a book whose main themes touch on pain and grief is to risk a great deal. Mere autobiography will not save us from pain, any account of it must pass through the alchemy of art and craft if it is to speak to us with the comradely voice of a fellow human being. When Kieran writes:
“…starving time has devoured
all the we once savoured…”
it is not just that we all know that feeling — we are saved, somehow, by the felicity and accuracy of the words, the phrasing. When Kieran writes:
“…I do not see the music
though I can read the score…”
his careful wording allows us to share in the wisdom of understanding exactly what the words mean and can mean, to follow out the resonances of the thought.
If he did no more than offer accurate memories of grief and loss, an accurate honouring of many who have passed through the world and through his life, he would have done a great deal — after all, accuracy and clarity of expression is as rare as it is valued. Kieran does more than this, although he does it with grace and precision. For one thing, he pays us the compliment of sharing difficult, adult, truths, as when he says “…time erases and is cruel.” For another thing, though, and it is what gives this unsparing collection its redemptive heft and lift, he calls up for us the beauties of his world — the streets he walked, the games he played, the places he has been, his beloved mother and father — and offers us these places as refuges, the people as companions, family and friends.
“I rhyme”, said Seamus Heaney, “to set the darkness echoing.” It is an ancient and honourable duty of the poet. Kieran Beville writes poems “…to make the pain rhyme.” I put his book down for a moment when I read that line, all the rhymes for ‘pain’ echoing in the back of my mind, and I settled on the word ‘gain.’ There is much to be gained from reading these quiet, steady reflections on the grief and joy that goes inescapably with being human. Above all, perhaps, what the poet here so amply demonstrates: pain, if we’re able for it, can open the gate to acceptance and understanding of this one and only world we share — and poems can help you to save your own life.
— Theo Dorgan, Dublin 2021
Theo Dorgan is a poet, and also a non-fiction prose writer, novelist, editor, documentary screenwriter, essayist, librettist and translator. Among his recent publications are: JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (2014), a libretto commissioned by the Royal Albert Hall; LIBERTY WALKS NAKED (2015) and BAREFOOT SOULS (2015) translations from the French of the Syrian poet Maram al-Masri; FOUNDATION STONE: Towards a Constitution for a 21st Century Republic (2013, essays, editor) and the novel MAKING WAY (2013). His most recent collections of poems are NINE BRIGHT SHINERS — awarded the Irish Times/Poetry Now Prize for best collection in 2015 — and ORPHEUS, published in 2018, both from Dedalus Press. His translations of Lorca’s ROMANCERO GITANO into Irish, BAILÉID GIOFÓGACHA, was published by Coiscéim, Dublin in 2019.
He is a member of Aosdána.
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