This stunning collection presents locales ranging from Ireland to the Outer Hebrides, the Orkneys, the Shetland Islands, and the poet’s native Cape Cod. In line after line Brendan Galvin evokes the physical world with a naturalist’s eye, dazzlingly apparent in the brushstrokes by which he depicts a gull sliding “on a crawl of heat among exposed hummocks” or white birches standing “like hairline / faults of frost / driven through stone.”
In all this seething life, in this world of light and shadows, Galvin suggests a web of sensibility. Cemeteries, deserted villages, lost faces—such fragments Galvin transmutes into meditations on the blood-deep mysteries of death, desire, and the phylogeny of consciousness, all conjured with an instinct for the telling nuance of behavior and a delight in the language of everyday conversation.
Lying behind much of Sky and Island Light is the question of what is worthy of our passion; the answer, we learn in “A Cold Bell Ringing in the East,” comes most easily to the outsider:
What joy in having been at all,
in feeding the fire and knowing
that everything isn’t about us.
What joy indeed. Sky and Island Light is a superb collection by a remarkable poet, one who combines uncannily scrupulous habits of observation with astonishing stylistic grace.
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