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Southward, by Greg Delanty, pp. 48, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992, $14.95 (cloth), $7.95 (paper) In “The Fuchsia Blaze,” the poem which prefaces this brilliant collection of poems, Greg Delanty introduces some of the themes, images, and symbols that preoccupy him in this book. Many are traditionally Irish—the leaving of home for America, the death of a father, an obsession with and yet ambivalence toward his hometown of Cork, and an attraction to but distance from his new home, in the United States. But what makes Southward notable is Delanty’s ability to breath fresh life into these ancient themes, making them appear new and unfamiliar. Delanty achieves this through a series of sparkling images and metaphors which appear and reappear throughout the book; by his ability to distill from his own life the most luminous and resonant experiences; and by his craftsmanship. Fuchsia is one such image, one which connects the Irish and American parameters of Delanty’s experience and which expresses the painful world existing inbetween . It is the poet’s way of establishing connections between these two worlds: Shipped from South America fuchsia ran amuck on English gardeners & wildfired the land becoming the spirit of Kerry’s Aztec, leathery-faced farmers. Instead of referring to the migration of people, as we might expect, Delanty focuses on the introduction of fuchsia into Ireland to emphasize the connection between the continents: often images from the natural world appear throughout the book. Also, he believes that the native peoples of Ireland and America possess parallel languages, that the Kerry farmers “speak a wilde English / that is still Irish / & as close to nature / as any American Indian tongue.” In Gaelic, fuchsia is “Deora De,” or “God’s tears.” These poems frequently express sorrow, particularly in Delanty’s elegies to his father and addresses to his mother from America. Furthermore, tears have been traditionally associated with exile. Delanty’s desire to produce a new kind of poetry to reflect his own new world is also introduced in “The Fuchsia Blaze”: . . . my fuchsia verse, struggling to escape the English garden & flourish in a wilder landscape. The result of this searching is the poetic tension which is most evident in the sonnets: the Irish sonnets seem perfectly suited to their subject matter, whereas the American ones, reflecting Delanty’s own loss of equilibrium, reveal form and conBOOK REVIEWS 184 tent in furious battle. But such is Delanty’s talent that not only is he able to convey his themes, but he is also able to make the tensions within the poems integral to the experience of the poems themselves. In many of the lyrics set in America, Delanty uses shorter lines and exults in the possibilities offered by a new language and more open forms: A Chevy of lovers passes with purpose & hangs a right down to the lake. As if they’re home, they hit the lights. We are at home now too: one with the sexual night. The experience is framed nicely within an open, but compressed, form, one which owes more to Paul Celan—a seminal influence on many contemporary Irish poets— than to W. C. Williams or Allen Ginsberg. In this and in other poems, Delanty’s interest is sparked by images from American life which most Americans would not consider interesting or important, such as the sun worshippers he describes in “Beach Times.” In this way he makes what is used up and clichéd important and strange again. This ability to focus on the ordinary aspects of America and to make art in the process, is one that Delanty shares with many contemporary European artists—from the painter David Hockney to the film-maker Wim Wenders. Some of the best poems in Southward are Delanty’s elegies for his father. But the father is not remembered in isolation; instead, his life and death are related to many of the larger themes in the book, among them the son’s calling as a writer. The title “The Master Printer” reveals the father’s profession and the speaker recalls how the skills a father had mastered garnered a child’s admiration, and sparked a latent desire to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1550-5162
Print ISSN
0013-2683
Pages
pp. 184-186
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-31
Open Access
No
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